Nissan Maxima SE Test Drive.
The new Maxima is one of my favorite sedan.
I think it is one of the best looking and modern car out there, with an interior that makes almost anything else look old fashioned.
But how does it drive???
The very first impression I had in the car was about the seat. I guess, that’s just because it’s the 1st thing you encounter
You sit pretty high. Even at the lowest setting, the seat was much higher than what I’m used to in most cars. That and the fact that the dashboard is very, very low. I made me feel like a giant. And the seat has, to me, a weird kind of over padding in the back, that makes you feel like it’s pushing you forward.
That made it very hard to find a good position. Especially for a car labeled as a sport sedan, where you want to feel more “integrated” into the seat.
Inside, it is modern. But kind of cold. Maybe the light gray color didn’t help. And maybe the LE’s wood trim here and there does. Or the leather option. About that. Even it you order leather, the door panels are still covered in the same material as the cloth interior. Usually they use a matching vinyl on doors in cars with leather.
Overall, the interior quality isn’t better than the “redesigned for 2005” new Altima interior. So there is no step up really, from a cheaper and almost as roomy, lesser model.
For not that much more, the Acura TL interior is much more upscale. And still very modern.
I had heard complains about the SE “sport” suspension being too harsh. I didn’t experience that at all. It seems to be always smooth. Firm but pretty smooth. The LE’s smaller 17 inch wheels should be even more comfortable.
The steering felt much nicer than the Altima’s. The Altima has a weird “video game steering” feel. I see that more and more in modern cars. The Maxima still has it a bit, but it is much less pronounced. But it is very, very light. Almost like an old fashion American cars from years ago. Except more precise. But it doesn’t “turn on a dime” that’s for sure…It’s quite a large car with 18inch wheels, and you do realize it everytime you try to maneuver in small spaces…
I could feel quite a bit of vibrations through the steering wheels when driving over bad roads. (or getting out of driveways). Even some disturbing shakes when the road gets worse. Nothing like a European sport sedan. And frankly, a bit disappointing in any modern car.
In fact, the car doesn’t feel as solid as most other new cars I’ve driven. Including Nissan’s own Altima. I’m not sure why but I guess the structure isn’t that strong. That’s how the whole thing feels. As a matter of fact, the latest side impact crash test have been pretty bad news for the Maxima. I think there might be a connection there…
The engine has to be one of the best at any price. This is where Japanese cars shine. If it’s good enough for a $45 000 Infinity, it is great in the sub $30 000 Maxima. It is a real treat.
You almost never hear it. But feel it’s power all the time. The transmission is also pretty invisible. But still a bit slow to react when you really want to push it. Like most automatics these days…
Gas mileage is nothing to write home about. In a very relaxed driving, I could only average around 18 to 19 mpg. With a bout 40% freeway dring.Strictly around town I could never get over 16 mpg. At $3 a gallon for gas, it does get pretty scary.
(although it should get better. My car was brand new).
Another thing.. Car magazines always complain about “torque steer” on this car. They claim that when you really push it, you have to fight the steering because too much power goes to the front wheels.
Well… I’ve driven the car for a week, on back roads, streets, freeways etc…
And I never encountered that problem.
But maybe that’s because I drive like a normal human being, not an F1 race car driver.
Car magazines always test these cars on the track. I don’t care about the track. All I care about is how the car perform in normal conditions. Where people actually drive when they go to work, take their kids to school etc…
What I like:
-The great engine and transmission combo.
-The comfortable, yet firm, suspension.
-The almost futuristic interior.
-The very modern design
What I don’t like:
-The seating position.
-The armrest which is to short in the low position, and rattles in the up position.
-The less than upscale ambiance. (That might change in the LE model)
-The almost useless double glass roof . The glass part is way too small to provide any real “glass roof” feel.
A nice idea, but it needs to be much larger.
-The “dead” steering feel.
-The shaky, sometimes rattly feeling of the body when driving on anything but super smooth roads.
-The radio/climate control buttons. All the same size, right next to each others. And LOTS of them!
I must say I was a bit disappointed by the Maxima.
The shaky feel of it being my main concern. I just drove a bunch of cars including the Mazda6, and even the Dodge Dakota. And both of these felt like a solid peace of rock next to the Nissan.
Maybe they just stretched the platform out too much from the Altima? Who knows…
It is still a pretty well made, roomy, quiet, comfortable, easy to drive and very powerful car for most people. But I would advise to keep the price well under $30 000. If you get past that, you might consider the Acura TL. Which is almost as roomy, but feels much more upscale than the Nissan. And it has a 4 year warranty.
In a lower price range, I would check out the Ford 500 and the 2006 Chevrolet Impala. Both seem well made and at least as roomy as the Maxima.
The whole car isn’t really that much of a step up from the Altima. Like the Avalon is from the Camry.
The next one needs to be “something else” to survive.
It’s time to rethink the whole thing.