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Nissan Maxima 2009 review

Will cardigans ever make a comeback now that the Mitsubishi 380 is gone? It's possible thanks to the existence of rival carmakers who indulge in the ordinary. Nissan is one. The Maxima has, since birth, been a smartly-engineered sedan whose potential appeal was shot because of bland styling.

The second generation model, the one that ended early this year, was marginally better and clearly appeased those buyers itching for the return of the wool cardigan. Now there's a new, bolder Maxima. One with a more aggressive snout and stylishly thin side glass. And yet, gauging from the cabin, it is still a cardigan car.

Interior and fit-out

The pleated leather seats suit the Maxima's conservative overtones, appealing to part-time lounge room retirees who like space, comfort and the slightly sanitised smell of fallen steers.

Indeed, this is a car that my father would like to drive and in which my mother would like to be driven. It's not a young man's car, despite marketing efforts that may imply it's the older brother of the 350Z coupe. They share an engine block, dearest, not a heart.

Against rivals such as the Holden Berlina V6 (which is in the throes of a major drivetrain upgrade), the Falcon 6GE (one of the best-value large cars around), the Honda Accord V6, Skoda Superb 1.8 (gasp! Truly, 1800cc) and the impressive Toyota Aurion Presara, the Maxima hits hard but the return punches are harder.

While this new Maxima is a step above its predecessor — particularly in its much-needed new look — it doesn't reflect value. I like the simplicity of the body style and the cabin but most people still think it's stark. It has all the features and more of its rivals, it just doesn't make a show of them.

Everything works perfectly, though I still can't see the benefit of foot-operated park brakes when there's room for a conventional handbrake in the centre console and even technology around for an electronic version that takes up the space of a postage stamp.

The keyless entry and start suits the car and, dare I say, the more mature motorist who is inclined to forget the keys. I speak from personal experience. The Maxima Ti version tested wants for nothing and, at $46,990, is good value for money.


Most of the attention will centre on the car's roominess — it's generous, especially the boot — and its comfort. There is much to praise about the ride comfort which gently absorbs life's irregularities and does the whole motoring thing in a quiet, unfussed manner. As I said, a cardigan.

The spark of life comes in the form of the engine which is a retuned version of the previous model's 3.5-litre V6 and not the 370Z's 3.7-litre unit. It feels sharper, more responsive and delivers its liveliness with a guttural tone. Though the continuously-variable transmission — an automatic gearbox without traditional cogs — is effective and smooth, it softens the engine's delivery and at times feels like the right pedal is being cushioned by a big marshmallow. Egg the Maxima along and it'll put up a good show — especially when you select the transmission's manual mode — but its preference is to cruise.

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Range and Specs

250 ST-L 2.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO $8,995 – 10,980 2009 Nissan Maxima 2009 250 ST-L Pricing and Specs
350 ST-S 3.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO $8,990 – 9,990 2009 Nissan Maxima 2009 350 ST-S Pricing and Specs
350 Ti 3.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO $9,300 – 11,990 2009 Nissan Maxima 2009 350 Ti Pricing and Specs
ST-L 3.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO $6,160 – 8,690 2009 Nissan Maxima 2009 ST-L Pricing and Specs
Neil Dowling
Contributing Journalist


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