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Z-MAXIMUM DRIVING EXPERIENCE

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Published on Sat, Oct 18, 2003

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

 

Z-MAXIMUM DRIVING EXPERIENCE

By HARVEY SCHWARTZ All Photos & © by Harvey Schwartz

If you put last year’s Nissan Maxima and the all-new 2004 Nissan Maxima side by side, you would be looking at two very different sedans. Nissan engineers and stylists started with a clean sheet of paper when designing and engineering this new and exciting mid-size sport sedan.

Even though the Maxima is a four-door sedan, it shares many shapes and mechanicals from the new Nissan 350Z. Check out the smooth jaw of the front end, the bell curve of the roofline, the flared fenders, the headlamp banks integrated into the front fenders, (also similar to the new Infiniti G-Series), 3.5liter V6 engine, and the 18in. cast aluminum wheels and tires. The rear sports a short and high rear lid cover, triangular taillights, and 4-2in. round, stainless steel exhaust tips. The new Maxima isn’t a clone of the 350Z, but there is an unmistakable family resemblance, and why not? Like the 350Z, the new Maxima is aggressively styled with the power and performance to back it up. This all-new flagship Nissan model is one of the best of the new, near-luxury sport sedans giving the consumer a lot for the money, but the amount of money now needed for a base-priced Maxima 3.5 SE is $27,490.00, about $5,000.00 more than the average price for a sedan in the U.S in 2003. As they say, “you get what you pay for.” The all-new Maxima is almost 3in. longer in wheelbase and a couple inches wider than last year’s model, which you will notice on the inside with more room all-around.

The smooth and powerful 3.5liter DOHC V6 engine is the new workhorse of the Nissan car line and is tuned for the Maxima at 265hp and 255lb.ft. of torque. Mated to a smooth shifting, 6-speed, short-throw, manual transmission, the Maxima really takes off. In fact 0-60mph in a very quick 6.3sec., with the quarter mile coming in just 14.8sec. at 97mph. When you do blast off from a standstill be sure to keep both of your hands on the wheel because all that power and torque turning the front wheels makes for a mighty amount of torque steer shake. A helical limited-slip differential, that is optional, can help take some of the shake out and put torque on the road. The all-new Maxima now comes with a much stiffer and torsional steel unitized steel body that is underpinned with a fully independent suspension, finally. Up front are MacPherson struts, lower control arms, and an anti-roll bar. The rear features a multi-link setup with coil springs, gas-charged shocks and an anti-roll bar. The power, rack & pinion steering system offers quick turn-in with excellent on-center feel and feedback from the road.

The Maxima safely and quickly stops from speed with big steel disc brakes at all 4-corners, including the latest ABS system and electronic brake force distribution. Up front are 12.6in. vented rotors with a twin piston caliper, while the rear solid discs measure 11.5in. clamped with a single piston caliper. The Maxima stops from 60mph in just 129 feet. Enhancing traction are big Goodyear P245/45R18in. Eagle RS-A radial tires wrapped by 18X7.5in. cast aluminum wheels. The Maxima SE gets through the 600ft. slalom in a respectable 62.3mph. That’s plenty of performance for any enthusiast wanting to spend less than $30,000.00 for a sport-inspired, mid-size sedan. But wait, there is more on the inside. All four doors swing open wide for easy entry and exit. There is plenty of room for 5-adults or you can option for the Elite Package that replaces the rear bench seat with two sporty bucket seats and a large, fixed, center console with storage and dual cup-holders. If you do option for this you won’t be able to expand the cargo capacity since these are fixed seats. The standard bench seats are very comfortable with a flip-down center console and dual cupholders with the ability to push forward the bench-back to enable you to load large and long cargo into the trunk. It is your choice and money. The front bucket seats are very comfortable and supportive.

The dashboard is laid out in a T-shape with the instrument cluster straight-ahead and easy to see. You get a big 160mph speedo in the center with a large 8,000rpm tach to the right, and fuel/engine temperature gauges to the left. Bright LED readouts around the cluster warn you of safety or system failure. The beefy, leather wrapped steering wheel features both tilt and telescoping adjustments for the perfect position plus buttons for the audio and electronic cruise control. The center stack features easy to use buttons for the dual-zone electronic climate control and just below, controls for the powerful AM-FM stereo radio with both 6-indash CD player and cassette tape player. The sounds come from 8-powerful stereo speakers. On top is a 7in. screen that gives you all pertinent information about audio/climate/fuel plus you can option for the color navigation system if you like. All buttons, dials and levers are within easy reach of your fingers. The center console features a deep and wide storage bin with dual cupholders in front and the tall, leather topped stick shifter within a circular bezel. The handbrake is mounted on the left side but I would rather see it placed on the right side, out of the way. You will find more storage in each door and in the deep glove box. The trunk is very big and useful to store cargo with a capacity of 15.5cu.ft. and comes with a handy cargo net.

The Maxima also comes standard with the industry’s first ‘skylight’. Look down from the top and you’ll see a long, narrow strip of glass running from the front to the rear of the roof. Inside the front and rear is divided into sections with an easy to use shade to cover the sun when you don’t want extra light coming into the car. You can option for an electric sunroof that negates the standard skylight. It is a neat idea but who is going to read during the day when you are driving at triple-digit speeds and quickening your heartbeat on twisting, curving roads? Keeping you and your passengers safe is a long list of safety features, such as dual stage driver & front passenger airbags, front seat side & curtain side-impact airbags, front active head restraints, front seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters, 3-point rear seat belts for all occupants, child safety rear door locks, energy absorbing steering column, front/rear crush zones, steel impact beams in each door, emergency trunk release and vehicle security system.

Standard comfort and convenience features include dual-zone automatic temperature control, microfilter ventilation, metallic tone accents, power windows/door locks, remote keyless entry, 8-way power driver’s seat, 8-speaker stereo system, electro-chromic self-dimming rearview mirror, Homelink Universal transceiver, remote trunk, fuel-filler door and hood releases, speed sensitive variable speed wipers, battery saver feature and a 20-gallon fuel tank. This new Nissan has it all, comfortable seating for up to 5-adults, plenty of power, excellent handling, luxury, convenience and safety features found only on more expensive sedans. Looking at the competition, the Maxima, in my opinion, only has the lower priced Altima and Pontiac Grand Prix GTP as real competitors when horsepower and price are considered.

The all-new 2004 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SE is a big step up from last year’s model. COPYRIGHT:2003:HARVEY SCHWARTZ More photos from Harvey Schwartz can be found at www.autofotos.com

SPECIFICATIONS Price: $26,950.00 as tested: $27,490.00 Engine type: 60-degree, V6, aluminum block/heads, DOHC Horsepower: 265 at 5,800rpm Torque: 255lb.ft. at 4,400rpm Drive configuration: front engine/front-wheel-drive Transmission type: 6-speed manual Suspension: Front - MacPherson struts, lower control arms, anti-roll bar Rear - multi-link, coil springs, gas-charged shocks, anti-roll bar Wheels/tires: 18X7.5in. cast aluminum wheels/P245/45R18in. Goodyear Eagle RS-A Brakes: front-12.6in. vented disc with twin piston caliper rear-11.5in. solid disc with single piston caliper Overall length: 193.5in. Overall width: 71.7in. Overall height: 58.3in. Curb weight: 3,432lbs. EPA mileage: 20mpg/city, 29mpg/highway 0-60mph: 6.3sec. 0-100mph: 15.9sec. 60mph-0: 129ft.

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