The recipient of the AutoPacific Best in Class Vehicle Satisfaction award, the Maxima is a full-size car manufactured by Nissan that was introduced in 1976. Marketed as the ‘four-door sports car', the Maxima was originally an upscale version of the Bluebird that spun into its own line 1981 and had been made continuously since then. Prior to 2004, most Maximas were built in Oppama, Japan, they are now being assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee. In various markets the Maxima models are also known as Nissan Cefiro or Nissan Laurel.
One of the longest running mid-size sedans on the American automobile market, the Maxima is still considered to be one of the most affordable luxury models on the sales lot today. It wasn't until 1985 that the Maxima branched off into its own model and with a great number of changes and upgrades the Maxima has continued on in its own right. Beginning its run as a square two-door coupe, the Maxima has blossomed into a sinewy, sporty four-door sedan today that is not only eye catching, but economical.
Known in the U.S. as a trim level of the Datsun 810 from 1976 until 1979, the Maxima was known as a variant of the Bluebird to European consumers. The badge 'Maxima' was only known to the European Market. Nissan introduced the 810 Maxima to the United States in 1982 which featured a 2.4L I6 and the option of either a five-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission.
In 1981 the first car to wear the Maxima name was introduced and was basically a Japanese-maret Bluebird 910 with a 3.9 inch longer nose. This first year it was offered as the 810 Deluxe or 810 Maxima but the following all 810s became Maximas. The final year of the first generation Maxima in 1984, American Datsuns begn carrying the 'Nissan' badge also. Toyotas response to this was the introduction of an upmarket sibling, the Cressida.
The Maxima became a standalone badge in '85 equipped with a 157 hp 3.0L V6 engine. For both 1987 and 1988 model years a Maxima station wagon was available, but following '88 the Maxima's exterior was ‘tightened up' and listed as a compact sedan. The square exterior was smoothed into a sleeker more sinewy design for the 1989 model year. The Maxima also grew a few inches and re-established itself as a mid-size sedan in America. The vehicle sported a unique feature; a phonograph-based voice warning system that alerted the driver when a door was opened; etc and was relayed through the mini phonograph and played for the driver to hear. The 1981 models were the first ever ‘talking car' sold in the U.S. and at the time only offered one warning; ‘Please turn off the lights' in a female voice.
During the fall of 1984 the first ever front-wheel drive Maxima was introduced, available with a 154 hp 3.0 L VG30E V6 engine and either a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission.. This was the same engine in the naturally aspirated 300ZX and the Japanese market Nissan Gloria/Nissan Cedric, and the initial V6 engine to be mass produced in Japan. The final year for the station wagon was 1988 which had been available since the Datsun 810 days, and the second generation was assigned the compact status. The 1987 Maxima was debuted in late 1986 with a freshened exterior and interior that included automatic shoulder-belts on both wagons and sedans built after February 1987.
Trim levels were renamed GXE and SE, and featured digital touch entry system on the driver and passenger side door panel, power windows, locks, seats, remote trunk release, voice warning side, an optional Electronic package and an optional power sunroof. Standard on the Maxima were 15' alloy wheels and an exclusive option for '88 was the Sonar Suspension System that replaced the trip computer that was offered previously. Utilizing sonar waves to monitor the road conditions ahead and adjust the shocks accordingly this system ensured the most controlled ride.
The previously standard digital touch system offered on the GXE sedan became part of the Electronic package option as well in 1988 while the SE offered a five-speed manual transmission, dual power seats, 3-way shock adjust suspension, a factory-installed security system and front and rear windshield defroster. The SE featured a small rear spoiler, black side rear view mirrors, 4-wheel disc brakes and body molding. The main competition for the Maxima was the similar Toyota Cressida which remained rear wheel drive. The Maxima had a simple combination of both luxury and sport-like features, while the Cressida was seen as a luxury car.
The third generation of the Maxima was debuted in 1989 as the J30 model. The second Japanese sedan sold in the U.S. that was considered a 'mid-size', the Maxima featured bigger dimensions and was also the first Japanese car to exceed Japan's 67 inch width restriction. This made it very comfortable for three seat passengers, and surprisingly brought the overall weight down slightly from the previous generation. This new Maxima was dubbed a -4-Door Sports Car and was even given a '4DSC' window decal showing this.
Now the model featured a 160 hp 3.0 L V6, with a 190 hp VE30DE engine standard on the SE model starting in 1992. This engine was one that had been used in the previous Maxima along with the first generation Nissan 300ZX. The digital touch entry system on the GXE was a unique feature that allowed the windows to be lowered and the moonroof opened without the key in the ignition. All 1989-1994 GXE models and 1989-1991 SE models used the VG30E in the U.S. which featured a variable intake manifold on both automatic and manual transmission models. This third generation Maxima was fitted with an independent rear suspension.
Exclusively available on the 1992-1994 Maxima SE, the VE30DE engine showcased a variable intake manifold and variable intake valve timing, plus a limited-slip differential. Other differences between the SE and the GXE were found in the white-faced gauges, body-colored grille, twin-tip mufflers, twisted-spoke turbines, factory-tinted tail lights, firmer spot suspension, black trim replacing chrome and optional 5-speed manual transmission. A contemporary compact unit from Jatco, the automatic transmission on all GXE models featured ‘sport' and ‘comfort' modes that deviated at different points. The '92-'94 SE model received an optional automatic transmission that kept the 2 modes but had stronger internals. The GXE had body-color side mirrors while the SE sported a rear spoiler and black side mirrors. This was the first year that the Maxima was introduced to the European market, superseding the Laurel with the model range; 3.0, 3.0 S, and 3.0SE.
For 1990 the Maxima SE was showcased on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list. As an alternative to the automatic transmission standard in North America in Australia, versions sold in Japan, New Zealand and Europe had manual transmission option. All Australian models had automatic transmissions and the VG40E engine only. During this period until the introduction of the Nissan Bluebird U13 another Bluebird Maxima continued on as a Nissan Bluebird U12 and exclusively as a station wagon with the VG20ET engine. The Avenir replaced the Bluebird wagon.
The fourth generation of the Maxima was redesigned in 1995 as the A32. The only engine option available for the North American market was a new VQ30DE 190 hp, 205 lb/ft torque 3.0 L V6. This engine was placed at the top of Ward's 10 Best Engines List, and the VQ has now been found consecutively each year since its introduction. A lighter and less expensive torsion bar solid axle system replaced the independent rear suspension of the earlier generation. After 1992 model year the Toyota Cressida (Maxima's biggest competitor) was discontinued and replaced with the FWD Avalon; a stretched out version of the Camry in 1994.
For 1997 the exterior of the Maxima was updated with the addition of new 5-spoke alloy wheels, a moderately different front and rear fascia with newly designed taillights, plastic headlights instead of glass, a smoother trunk to match the taillights, redesigned badge designs and fog-lights. Body colored grille insert was added for SE models and a chrome grille insert for GLE's. On the inside the Maxima sported a new steering wheel and CD player along with front seat-mounted side impact airbags added as an option for '98 and '99 SE and GLE models. Enhancing crash worthiness for the '97 to '99 Maxima models were various structural modifications. On the inside the '99 Maxima also received some updates that included an Anti-Theft Engine Immobilizer using a chip in the ignition key along with minor body trims. This year was the only 4th generation offered with optional traction control.
The '99 SE was offered with a Limited Package which consisted of Titanium tinted SE-Limited emblems on the front doors, titanium tinted 16' alloy wheels and titanium tinted trunk emblems. On the inside the gauge cluster was also titanium tinted and optional leather seats were perforated and embossed with SE on the backrests as well as the front floor mats.
The 4th generation GLE Maxima featured a Bose Sound System which had a 6 speaker sound system or the option of a Clarion system instead. This generation gained many accolades for its roomy interior. For 1995 this generation was Motor Trend's Import Car of the Year, and once again the Maxima SE made Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for both '95 and '96.
The '95 VQ30DE engine produced 190 hp and 205 lb/ft of torque and with the manual transmission the Maxima could reach 0-60 mph in just 6.6 seconds. The top GLE with four-speed automatic transmission achieved 0-60 mph in just 7.6 seconds. One of the few 4-door V6 cars at the time with an option for a manual transmission, the Maxima fell into an elite category compared to the automatic-only Mazda Millenia, Dodge Intrepid, Chevy Lumina and Toyota Avalon.
This fourth generation was sold in Japan as the Nissan Cefiro A32 which had earlier been its own higher specification model with rear-wheel drive vehicle. A Cefiro-badged station wagon was offered for the Japanese market and one version of the Cefiro was sold in the US as the Infiniti I30 but there were slight differences that included different fog light arrangements, a few assorted engine options and one-piece headlights. In Europe and other parts of the world this generation was also sold as the Maxima QX and only had a few subtle trim differences from the Japanese Cefiro.
The fifth generation of the Maxima was designed in 2000 and was a refreshed version of the previous vehicle designed at La Jolla, a California design studio. Dubbed A33, this generation is often remembered for it being the fastest years of the Maxima. The engine was a 222 hp 3.0 L VQ30DE V6, and this variant was referred to the VQ30DE-K. This generation had three models; GXE, GLE and SE with the ‘GXE' being the base model and the GLE the 'luxury' model with 16 inch wheels.
The '01 Maxima is the special edition of the SE model which celebrates the 20th anniversary of this particular Nissan. This version has the Infiniti I30's engine in addition to the usual SE luxuries, unique side skirts all around the lower perimeter, and a few special touches to the interior. The model also had drilled metal 'brushed metallic' pedals, a 'brushed metallic' shifter, and stainless steel door sill plates with the name Nissan Maxima. The leather that was optional is perforated in contrast to the regular SE. The special edition model offered 'SE Comfort and Convenience Package' which includes 17' wheels, a sunroof and a few other things as standard.
The Maxima received a new engine throughout the whole lineup in 2002; a 3.5 L VQ35DE that produced 255 hp and 264 lb/ft of torque. The model also received an update that included a larger grille opening, a six-speed manual transmission with optional helical Torsen limited-slip differential, headlamps with high-intensity discharge low beams, updated 17' six-spoke wheels on the SE models, new 17' seven spoke wheels on the GLE models, and clear taillights.
A special Titanium Edition package was debuted in 2003 that featured special wheels and interior treatment along with a Meridian Edition package that came with heated seats and steering wheel and a GPS navigation system. This Edition was available in a variety of colors but a new car was only available with the Titanium Edition; Polished Titanium. The final generation Maxima was the inspiration for the Infiniti I35. The Maxima is sold as the Nissan Maxima QX in Russia and Europe.
The sixth generation of the Maxima was introduced in 2004 and was assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee. Dubbed the A34, this version was only available for purchase in the United States, Mexico and Canada. The U.S. version came with the time-worn VQ35DE, a DOHC V6 engine that was capable of 265 hp at 5,800 rpm and 255 lb/ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. It also featured a standard SkyView fixed glass paneled roof that coursed down the center of the room from front to back, or a traditional style moonroof option.
This generation was sold in two trim levels; the sporty SE which came standard with 18' alloy wheels, stiffer suspension, rear spoiler, P245/45R18 V-rated tired and an optional 6-seed manual transmission and the lush SL that came standard with 17' alloy wheels, wood interior trim, 6-disc CD changer, leather seats, Bose stereo, HID headlights and P225/55R17 H-rated tires. The suspension in the SL model was tuned for a softer ride and manual transmission was never offered on this vehicle. The rear independent suspension returned to the lineup for all models, and this time it utilized a multilink setup similar to the Altima.
The Maxima was offered with a standard Xtronic CVT, similar to the CVT found in the Murano, as the only transmission option for 2007. Manual transmission was taken off the table completely, though the CVT did feature a manual mode. This year the Maxima now sported a fresh front fascia minus the center block, and a new grille that was very similar to the Altima of the same year. Around the edges the headlights were now more squared. On the inside the '07 Altima received a new center console, it now featured an Intelligent Key system with integrated ignition tab, and new white-and-orange gauges as opposed to the older plain orange ones.
The following year the fuel economy in the Maxima dropped from 21/28 to 19/25 because of new EPA measurement methods. Also new this year was a Platinum Edition package of convenience added on both SL and SE trim levels.
The Australian Maxima, dubbed J31 continued on with the same engine, but the maximum power was set to only 228 hp and shared the VQ engine. Originally it only came with a four-speed automatic transmission, and had quite obvious style differences to the North American version and was instead based on the Nissan Teana. For 2007 this version received an all new CVT automatic transmission and underwent a minor facelift.
For 2009 Maxima rolled out the Seventh Generation of the Maxima with a debut at the 2008 New York International Auto Show newly redesigned. This newest generation was built on the Nissan D platform shared with the fourth generation Nissan Altima and second generation Murano. Similar in design both on the outside and inside, the Maxima resembled the Infiniti G and Infiniti M with an optional USB interface system that works with the main console monitor and steering wheel controls and updated navigation interface.
A revised variation of the VQ35DE engine was fitted in the '09 Maxima capable of producing 290 horsepower and 261 lb/ft of torque. The only transmission offered was the updated version of Nissan's Xtronic CVT with paddle shifting. This generation was offered in S and SV trims with various premium and technology packages. Today the Maxima's design is all sleek futuristic style and curves rather than height and length, though the width has been increased slightly. This newest model uses a high-tech push button to start and stop the engine. Nissan aims this newest generation of Maxima to the younger consumer with its innovative redesign.By Jessica Donaldson