We replaced my wife's '99 Camry with the '03 Max. She was a die-hard Toyota fan having owned a Corolla also. After owning the Max for almost a year, she now loves it!
I had some input in the buying decision. I often drive her car so I was really tired of the 4-cyl Camry performance and city mpg of around 20. The Max has nearly double the horsepower (255 vs 133) and gets about a mile less per gallon! That, for me, was a big selling point. Aside from the aforementioned issues, other dislikes are:
- Nissan's tendency towards narrow & bizarre rear-end styling is alive and well on this model.
- Auto-dimming mirror, which if it works at all, has a big delay (thanks mirror, I'm already blind).
- Transmission that doesn't always want to play, hesitates downshifting into first. Up-shifts too early on anything less than full-throttle.
- Pretty jarring ride over less-than perfect roads... GLE where are you?
- Despite its appearance, rear-seat room is marginal.
- Engine pinging, which people (Nissan included) say is normal even with 93 octane, is still annoying.
- Lacks the Altima's independent rear suspension.
- What's with the turning radius Nissan?
Now for the goodies:
- Big-time power, best bang-for-buck Japanese sedan IMO.
I never tire of the dorky looks from some ill-informed 3-series Bimmer & Mustang owners who can't get by me!
- Since the car is a sleeper, no unwanted attention.
- Runs very smoothly and quietly, but still has a nice, aggressive sound under throttle.
- Resale value lags behind Honda and Toyota, making it a great used-car buy.
- Great interior design and quality of materials, much better than on the newer models.
- Nice front and side styling.
- Six spoke wheels are easy to clean.
- Being FWD, torque-steer isn't that pronounced. Acura TL is a joke in this respect. I can see the hate-mail coming now. I've driven both and I know what I'm talking about. (yes, the TL was automatic)
- Notice I didn't rate "Dealer Service Marks"... hint, hint! (my particle board desk is hurting my knuckles)
- 2003 was the last year Max was built in Japan. Compare reliability with '04 and newer models.
My goal with this review was to convince anyone looking for an inexpensive, reliable, fast, comfortable sedan to look no further than this car in this model year. GOOD LUCK!