I bought this 1997 Maxima SE automatic three years ago from the original owner when she bought a new one - which told me a lot about the car. She had totally upgraded it to the max (leather, tinted windows, etc) and babied it with regular visits to the dealership and a garage overhead to protect the paint (Rosewood, a maroon colour I actually like with the goldish undertone), so it looked like new when I bought it.
More on the clock, it does work - just when it wants to. The only time I've ever seen it is after a long road trip (in Canada, are there any other kinds?) and when I was nearing my destination, the clock was working. I set it and was happy, but when I got back to the car, no more clock. It hasn't worked since either.
The starting issue is fixed for me by turning the key to the off position, then pushing the shifter forward and turning the key. It never fails to start after I've done this routine.
The car runs quiet, and the ride is smooth on most roads, but the sports suspension doesn't care for potholes much. As the ground clearance is lower than the average North America sedan, it can make for some fun moments trying to negotiate obstacles such as snow banks that have frozen into ice hills or ruts in the back alley. But the 'stick to the road' driving feeling and the amazing responsiveness of the car more than make up for this issue. This is simply the best car in its class I've had the pleasure of driving.
The interior is very roomy and well laid out, though the armrest between the front seats feels short after driving North American cars. I usually have a to go cup in the front cupholder to rest my hand on. It really is a luxury vehicle, and all the upgrades that went into the one I own make it a joy to drive and be seen in.
This car is everything that I want out of a vehicle. I know some people have criticized it for looking boring, but boring is fine by me. Boring means my Max is going to be where I left it in the parking lot, while some one else's tricked up car has gone joyriding. It looks innocuous in the parking lot, but when you need it, you can put your foot down and go, which was something I had to learn, because I haven't owned a car with this much pick-up before.
The Bose sound system is stock, but it sounds so good, no one ever believes me. The leather interior has held up to the wear and tear, and there is ample leg and headroom, even with the moonroof, for a tall guy like me.
The Max is fairly decent on gas, though with the price of premium nowadays, a fill-up still hurts the wallet a bit. I do fill up with premium gasoline, as it DOES make a huge difference in the way the car runs, which I learned in the first month after I purchased it. We go in for regular checkups at the mechanics to keep everything in tip top shape, but this too is just the cost of owning a vehicle.
As long as you get one that hasn't been abused by its previous owner, you can't go wrong spending money on a used Maxima... and this comes from a guy who only ever owned American cars before falling in lust with the deceptively boring looking sedan with the heart of a sports car under the hood. It was lust at first sight, and love after the test drive, and the best parts of my day are getting behind the wheel and turning on the ignition.
When Mr. 97 Max decides to shuffle this mortal coil, you can bet your bippy I'll be heading off to the Nissan dealership to look at a new Maxima.