This is a frustrating car – and a frustrating road test to write. Why? Well,
the basic design of the all-new Nissan Maxima is very impressive but on several
occasions we had to shake our heads and wonder why the package has been
needlessly let down. This could be an fantastic car.
Using the latest design technology, the new Maxima body is rigid, lightweight
and crashworthy. It also offers excellent overall interior space along with an
attractive silhouette. But there is a trade-off. To achieve that streamlined
appearance there’s been a noticeable sacrifice in rear headroom and the boot
opening has been reduced to something barely useable. Good luck trying to fit
bulky cargo into the boot...
The Maxima’s V6 engine is a humdinger delivering an excellent combination of
usable torque, power, economy and NVH. But it’s a pity the electronic throttle
control strategy is so aggressive in urban situations. Precise throttle control
has gone out the window in the quest for sporty feel - it’s impressive at first
but it soon wears thin.
And then there’s the spacious and comfortable interior that’s been polluted
with dubious switchgear ergonomics, light-flared instruments and peculiar design
simply for the sake of it. Ohhh, dear...
Thankfully, there’s also a whole lot of praise to be heaped onto the new
The Maxima is a big car but that doesn’t take anything away from its
achieving of excellent overall cabin space. Rear knee and foot space are very impressive, even
when you’re seated behind a tall front occupant. There’s also enough cabin width
to give the Maxima genuine five-seater capacity. However, if you’re taller than
about 185cm, you’ll find your hair constantly brushing against the rear roof
lining. The Maxima Ti’s standard sunroof also eats into front headroom, but not
enough to concern most drivers.
Poor load access aside, the Maxima boot is easily big enough to carry several
large suitcases. There’s also a ski-port through to the cabin and a full-size
alloy spare wheel lurking beneath the lift-up false floor. Oh and, unlike the
previous Maxima, the boot floor is perfectly flat.
NVH levels are impressive in almost all situations, except for the presence
of some tyre noise over coarse bitumen. The engine is also a bit throaty when
working at high rpm and load – we’re not sure if this is an intentional design
‘feature’ or not. We initially found the Maxima Ti’s leather-lined seats
relatively flat across the bottom but you soon sink in and get comfortable.
Unlike the previous generation, the new Maxima Ti is no longer
top-of-the-range – the Ti-L (which gets rear seat entertainment system and park
assist) takes over that role. The middle-of-the-range Ti - as tested - is
equipped with dual-zone climate control (including rear outlets), central
locking with remote keyless entry, immobiliser, cruise control (with steering
wheel controls), trip computer, generous interior lighting, active front head
restraints, dual front and side airbags and curtain airbags. There’s also a
leather steering wheel and selector knob, 8-way electric adjustable driver’s
seat, 4-way adjustable front passenger seat, auto-locking doors and an electric
tilt/slide sunroof. Trip computer and many other functions are displayed on a
large central LCD screen. Instruments are backlit and, despite not having
enough protection against direct sunlight, they offer enough contrast to scape
by. There’s a tacho, speedo and fuel level gauge but only a warning light for coolant temperature.
The Ti model also comes with a CD/tuner complemented by a separate 6-stacker
in the glovebox, but sound quality is nothing to write home about. Of course,
you also score power windows and mirrors (which are also retractable) but there
are no features that really stand out.
Unfortunately, the controls for
the climate control and audio system have poor ergonomic design, the dual vanity
mirrors aren’t illuminated and there are no steering wheel controls for the
audio system – it’s just as well the rotary volume knob falls close to hand.
Furthermore, the levers for the fuel filler and boot release are aimed at the
floor and needlessly out of the driver’s line of sight. The fake woodgrain trim
throughout the cabin is also ghastly – something like you’d see on a cheapo
assemble-it-yourself computer desk...
But the V6 motor is a ripper.
The Maxima boasts one of the
most torquey and powerful front-wheel-drive engines available in Australia. The
all-alloy VQ35DE engine (a detuned version of the 350Z’s) features DOHC,
24-valve breathing, continuously variable inlet valve timing, variable induction
system, direct-fire ignition and a 10.3:1 compression ratio. Slogging out 170kW
at 5600 rpm and 333Nm at a very low 2800 rpm, the Maxima laughs in the face of
the Magna/Verada and Camry/Avalon – but not the 177kW/287Nm Honda Accord V6.
Note that all Maximas are equipped with a gated 4-speed auto transmission,
not a 5-speed like some of the competition. The trans is nicely adaptive to
changing driving patterns and is commendably smooth but the lack of a sequential
shift mechanism is disappointing.
Squeeze the accelerator pedal just a few millimetres and the 1480kg (tare
weight) Maxima Ti lunges forward with often-unexpected urgency. We can’t
understand why Nissan has used such aggressive throttle control strategies,
especially since their wonderful V6 already makes ample torque. Top-end
performance is also strong – we hand-timed 0 – 100 km/h acceleration in less
than 8-seconds. Not hanging around!
Fuel consumption during test was an impressive 11.1-litres per 100km, so the
70-litre tank is ample for most applications. Note that 95RON unleaded fuel is
recommended for optimal performance – the extra cost of premium-grade fuel
largely offsets the fuel consumption benefits.
The MacPherson strut/multi-link IRS chassis is better balanced than say, a
Mitsubishi Verada and you can certainly feel some activity from the rear-end
when it’s provoked. There’s also the tendency to spin an inside front wheel in
tight corners, but the VDC/traction control system stops things getting too
ugly. The ride is firmly damped in urban conditions but becomes softer as road
The power-assisted rack-and-pinion steering arrangement is quite light and
lacks feel around centre but it’s okay overall – it certainly has the
on-centre response that’s lacking in many large sedans. Interestingly, there is
some torque reaction through the wheel during wide-open throttle low-speed
Braking performance was up to standard during our test. Using
four-wheel-discs (ventilated at the front) the Maxima pulls up quickly and
controllably thanks to its well sorted ABS and EBD. Emergency brake assist is
The Maxima’s appearance seems to be a love-it or hate-it proposition. The
overall shape and the relatively high waistline of the new Maxima have a strong
European flavour, but the fussy chrome grille and awkward lights don’t gel. On
the upside, the Ti’s 8-spoke 17 x 7-inch alloys are an attractive, fresh design
that suits the car.
Our test car had no major quality issues but there a few reminders that this
is an affordable luxury car – not a prestige car. The roof-mounted sunglass
holder and centre console lids feel cheap and the driver’s seat in our test car
was loose. On the other hand, we were very impressed by the standard of panel
fit and paint finish.
The Nissan Maxima is the latest entry into the front-wheel-drive luxury
market and it’s priced to cause a shake-up. At AUD$45,990 (plus ORCs) the Maxima
Ti is cheaper than the superseded model and easily undercuts the Mitsubishi
Verada Xi (at over 50k) and Toyota Camry Azura (at just under 49k). It’s also
much cheaper than any of the large European front-wheel-drives on the market.
The only real challenge is the purring Honda Accord V6 Luxury at AUD$45,240 (see
New Car Test - Honda Accord V6 Luxury.
As it stands, the Nissan Maxima Ti is arguably the best vehicle in its class
– but it doesn’t reach its potential.
Why You Would
- Large cabin with excellent rear knee and foot space
- Torquey and powerful engine gives excellent performance
- Good fuel economy
- Up-to-the-minute styling
- Very competitively priced
Why You Wouldn’t
- Roofline slopes away and limits rear headroom
- Poor load access to the boot
- Overly aggressive electronic throttle control strategy
- No sequential shifter
- Some poor interior ergonomics
The Nissan Maxima Ti was provided for this test by Nissan