Stealthy Maxima still Nissan’s top offering

Nissan Maxima

I once thought Nissan should drop the Maxima. What’s the point? The Altima is nearly the same size, is cheaper and is nearly identical in look.

So I thought.

I changed my mind when I drove a Maxima recently. The Altima is a very good family sedan. The Maxima is a nearly great four door sports car.

Nissan still markets the Maxima as such. The 4DSC stickers are still on the rear windows, nearly hidden though. I guess to keep the car’s stealth demeanor.

Once you press the gas pedal the stealth attitude disappears. The Maxima snaps to life with brisk take off and just a hint of torque steer. The steering is light and precise and the chassis seems willing to take whatever you want to give.

Take it on the highway and the car is whisper quiet. It will eat up a great deal of pavement quickly. You can get to 60 mph in a scant 6.2 seconds, which will just about dust every entry level luxury sedan out there. Those 290 horses are ready to run. Find stretches of road which switch from straight to curvy and the Maxima will put a big grin on your face. Braking, steering, accelerating – the Maxima does all this adroitly while delivering 19 mpg in the city and 26 on the highway.

Not bad for something that passes itself off as a near luxury sedan. Heck, It would be easy to throw the Maxima into the Infiniti mix were it not for the delicious G37. It’s about the size of a Maxima but is built better, is driven by its rear wheels and has a longer warranty.

This may be the Maxima’s biggest problem – its identity. What is it, really? Should it be an Infiniti or should it stay Nissan’s top offering? It certainly seems it could handle both.

OK, back to reality. This is a Nissan, no question. Infiniti has what it needs. Nissan needs this comely sedan, if nothing else to remind us why so many people bought Nissans in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Maxima’s and Z cars gave the company its heritage as well as those fuel-frugal Sentras. The Maxima is fine where it is.

Spacious interior a plus for Maxima

It’s still a looker. The wide body and sculpted fenders make the car look fast. The interior is tasteful and offers luxury car touches. The top Maxima, the SV, starts at $34,450. There is a plethora of standard equipment, including the venerable 3.5-liter V6, but my test car was loaded to the gills with extra stuff. The Monitor package gives you a lovely 7-inch color touch screen with a backup camera and iPod connectivity. The Sports package adds the 19-inch smoke grey wheels, firmer suspension, rear bucket seats, driver’s side seat memory, heated leather steering wheel, paddle shifters and heated leather seats. The Sport Technology package adds voice activated navigation and XM radio with data services.

Throw all that into your calculator and you get an as-tested price of $40,055. You can get into many entry level cars from almost every big luxury name plate at that price. True, but that’s not stopping the Maxima from being worth this cash if that’s what you are looking for.

 cross@alldaytech

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