1998 Nissan Maxima


2001 Nissan Maxima

This 2001 review is representative of model years 1995 to 2003.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 7

Bottom Line:

Long one of the top midsize sedans, although still often overlooked.
  • Potent V6
  • Roomy
  • Refined
  • Manual-transmission availability
  • Anniversary model
  • Mostly ordinary styling
  • Small trunk pass-through area
  • Manual trunk-lid hinges

The 2001 Nissan Maxima is one of those above-average cars that is overlooked a lot.

So what's wrong here? After all, the front-drive Maxima has been around long enough to let Nissan introduce a 20th anniversary model for the 2001 model year. And the Maxima has been the best-selling imported V6 sedan since it got a V6 in 1984.

But, even though more than 1.8 million Maximas have been bought in this country, sales of this sedan have lagged far behind the top-selling midsize Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, which mostly are bought with 4-cylinder engines.

The Maxima drew more attention for the 2000 model year, when it was made bigger, roomier, smoother, quieter and faster. While it also was given more-aggressive styling for a family car market that favors bland styling, Maxima styling remains conservative except for a controversial-looking rear end.

Muddled Marketing
One problem is muddled marketing. The Maxima's sporty image has left many potential buyers feeling that the car is too edgy for a family sedan. For one thing, all models except the top-line GLE come with a standard 5-speed manual transmission. Thus, those buyers have bought "safer" cars such as the Camry, Accord and Ford Taurus in the huge midsize market.

And some folks haven't stopped to figure out that Maxima prices are a few thousand dollars higher than those of rivals because this car is loaded with standard items that cost extra on other sedans. Maybe an "entry level" model with less equipment for under $20,000 might help.

Very Well Equipped
But even the base 2001 Maxima GXE has a $21,249 base price—although it has standard items such as air conditioning, cruise control, AM/FM/Cassette, remote keyless entry, anti-lock brakes, tilt steering column, split-folding back seat, rear defroster, and power windows, door locks and mirrors.

But things are looking up for the Maxima—and Nissan in general. The automaker's popular new Xterra sport-utility vehicle and Frontier Crew Cab pickup are drawing a lot more people to Nissan showrooms, where Maximas sit itching for test drives.

While all Maximas are sporty, the sportiest model is the midrange $23,849 SE. It has a stiffer suspension, wider tires on alloy wheels, rear spoiler, titanium-colored gauges, leather-wrapped steering wheel, premium sound system with a cassette player, and fog lights.

The top-line GLE lists at $26,449 with such things as a leather—and simulated leather—interior.

New Anniversary Model
The new anniversary model? It's the $27,149 SE 20th Anniversary Edition. One of its most touted features is a 227-horsepower V6 from Nissan's upscale Infiniti I30. Other Maximas have a 222-horsepower version of that 3.0-liter DOHC 24-valve engine.

Rapid Acceleration
Frankly, you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference in performance between the 222- and 227-horsepower engines. Both are smooth and deliver neck-snapping acceleration, along with pretty good fuel economy. You hit 60 mph in only about 7.0 seconds with the manual transmission. And a Maxima with the responsive 4-speed automatic isn't all that much slower at 7.7 seconds.

Anyway, the anniversary model also has a bunch of other stuff, including a power sunroof, 8-way power driver's seat, simulated brushed-metal interior trim, drilled metal pedals, anniversary badging, brushed metal-look shift knob, bronze-colored headlight lenses, and 17-inch wheels.

That special model also provides a body spoiler package and viscous limited-slip differential. Buyers get perforated leather if they order the Maxima's optional leather trim package. And unique, highly chromatic Dark Blue paint is available. You even get a special large engine cover with the Nissan logo.

Solid Family Car
No matter what model, the Maxima qualifies as a solid family car, easily matching the roominess, comfort and durability of its rivals. Its quiet, spacious interior is filled with top-quality materials, although the GXE plastic inside door handles look cheap.

There is good room for four big, tall adults, although the center of the rear seat is too stiff for comfort, even on short trips. And the rear center armrest doesn't sit flat enough. Front seats are highly supportive, instruments can be read quickly, cupholders are sturdy, and the nicely placed controls work smoothly.

The sound system controls are large enough for a driver to safely use once underway—and are a welcome relief from the generally tiny controls in too many cars.

There's a conveniently low opening for the big trunk, although the opening could be larger. Manual trunk-lid hinges eat into cargo space, and the pass-through area from the trunk should be larger.

Fun to Drive
All Maximas are fun to drive. Steering is quick. And there is above-average handling, although the SE has slightly crisper handling and less body sway when driven fast on winding roads. However, the lack of an independent rear suspension allows the rear end of all models to hop a little on bumpy curves. The brake pedal is a bit sensitive, but braking deserves an above-average rating.

The fact that Nissan is working especially hard to change its image in this country should allow the Maxima to be discovered by more people. What's wrong with a family sedan that has a sporty edge?


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BB04 - 9/18/2014 11:13:23 AM