1997 Nissan Maxima SE 3.0 gasoline V6 from North America
Quick, comfortable, and reliable; dull styling
Slow leak in clutch line - replaced.
Rear bearing growl - replaced.
Front suspension squeak in cold weather - haven't figured this one out yet.
A deceptively entertaining car to drive. Quick with the five-speed manual (most magazines quote 0-60 in about 6.5 when it was new) ; no slouch with the automatic. The VQ30 engine sounds fantastic. Handling is better than most contemporary midsize sedans, though it tends to understeer when pushed.
On the practical side, the car is comfortable and quiet around town and on the highway. A Maxima with leather trim is a cut above a similarly-equipped Camry or Accord from the same period: it feels more like a fifteen-year-old luxury car, rather than a fifteen-year-old econobox with leather. You will be aware that it's outdated, but it still feels good to ride in. The optional Bose radio has good bass but could have more definition on the high end.
Legroom front and rear is good and trunk space is more than adequate. The rear seats do not fold down, but there is a pass-through for skis and limited trunk access. The glovebox is too small, but there is a nice compartment in the center console armrest that is bigger than any glovebox I've seen; mine is quickly filling with garbage. Two cupholders are enough for me, but you may be a thirstier individual than I. The pop-out ashtray is the perfect size to hold my cell phone.
Fuel economy is quite good for a V6. In my mixed driving routine, I consistently get 25mpg; highway only, I get a solid 28. This is with the manual transmission, which has too short a top gear and consequently turns just under 3000rpm at my usual 70-75mph; the automatic has a taller top gear, and returns better mileage.
Very few things have gone wrong during my short ownership: the clutch line was slowly leaking fluid and had to be refilled periodically. I replaced this for about $40 and an hour's work. The rear hub/bearing assembly was bad when I purchased the car, making a loud growl at any speed over 20mph. Nissan dealerships charge $80-120 for the part. I replaced this assembly with one from the junkyard for $20 after driving on it for several thousand miles; the car was transformed. I never realized what a terrible nuisance that noise was until it was gone.
My main complaint is that it's boring to look at. Certainly it's not bad-looking, but the previous Maxima was a handsome car, and the next Maxima, while ugly to my eyes, at least had some personality. This car is all go and no show; my beige example is invisible to police officers (which may explain why my liability - only insurance is $160/6mo), but you could lose it in a parking lot. The interior layout is sensible and ergonomically sound, but looks like that of every Japanese car made between 1988 and 2002. Perhaps it's a frivolity, but I like cars to be beautiful, and this one is merely inoffensive.
Would you buy another car from this manufacturer? Yes
Review Date: 4th December, 2010