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Nissan Maxima 2009 review

Nissan's flagship Maxima sedan is modern in appearance without going over the top.

Nissan's Maxima has always been renowned for providing value for money, but now the new Maxima 250 ST-L sets new standards in this important aspect of car purchase and gives you a lot of car for not a lot of a financial outlay. The flagship of the Nissan fleet has a starting price of just $33,990, plus on-road charges, which is minimal compared to the larger-engined, better-equipped Maxima 350 ST-S and Maxima Ti models. The 350 ST-S will set you back $37,990 while the Ti ups the ante to $46,990.

We have just enjoyed a pleasant week behind the wheel of this fully imported Nissan passenger sedan. A week’s road test in which we covered a lot of different terrain. More details about that in a moment.

The major difference between the Maxima models is under the bonnet: the 250 has a 2.5-litre variant of the V6 VQ engine compared to the 3.5 V6 in the ST-S and Ti. All models use a CVT (continuously variable transmission). So the cheapest Maxima has the lowest fuel consumption and does away with some of the bling that is added to the two 350 Maximas.

So what does the Maxima 250 ST-L do without to keep its price down? Not a lot; the 350 ST-L gets the bigger engine, rear parking sensors, a boot spoiler, intelligent keyless entry and heated front seats. Whereas the Maxima Ti adds DVD satellite navigation with 3D mapping, a 7-inch full-colour touch screen, DVD player, reversing camera with predictive path technology, 11 speaker Bose sound system with auxiliary MP3 player input. Bluetooth hands-free telephone technology is included as is a power sunroof. In the 250 ST-L the seven-inch screen is used, but not in full colour, gives basic audio information.

2009 Nissan Maxima Interior. 2009 Nissan Maxima Interior.

While Nissan has restricted some of the goodies to the upmarket Maxima models, that does not mean the Maxima 250 ST-L has a poverty pack. For starters there is leather upholstery. Then there's dual-zone air-conditioning, plus an audio system with a six-disc CD player and aux-in and MP3 compatibility.

In the key area of safety the entry level Maxima has exactly the same package as the topline Ti. That is six airbags, active front headrests, as well as ABS brakes with dynamic stability control.

This latest Nissan Maxima continues the marque's style ethic of being elegant, but is perhaps the sportiest looking Maxima so far, and could even be mistaken for a European brand.

Our road test covered more than 900 kilometres including a two-day trip south of the Gold Coast to the northern rivers of NSW: Yamba, MacLean and Grafton, and returning via Casino and Lismore. So there was lots of open road driving. Our fuel economy for the trip was a meagre 8.7 litres/100 km which is pretty good for a medium-large petrol-powered car that has seating for five and a boot with a good capacity. Around town the consumption moved up to 9.1 litres/100 km, which is still pretty good.

A sports car it's not. So if you drive a Nissan Maxima forget about tar-hugging cornering, blistering acceleration and superb handling. It is transport. And it provides really good transport, at that. The cabin is well laid out and the rear seat has good head and leg-room for three adults, though the width means it's better suited to two and a child. The driver's seat is height adjustable and the front seating positions are power operated. 

There are a couple of things we did not like: the hand brake is a push-on-push-off pedal that is awkward to use and requires a lot of juggling of the feet if you prefer the added safety provided by left foot braking. The push-button start/stop button may be good for sports cars where drivers expect gadgetry, but of doubtful value to a Maxima owner who is more likely to prefer the simple act of turning a key.

2009 Nissan Maxima. 2009 Nissan Maxima.

For those unaccustomed to CVTs Maxima has one of the better ones. At no stage did we feel like the engine was over-revving or that the clutch was slipping. In fact the CVT seems to get every drop of torque out of the small V6. Unless you plant the right boot, the CVT is seamless and silent. There's also a six-speed manual option on the CVT should you find the need to undertake the gear changes. 

At low speed the Maxima 250 lacks the punch of its 3.5-litre sibling. That's to be expected. Where we were surprised was in the critical passing speeds of 80 km/h to 120 km/h where the CVT and engine combined beautifully for fast, safe overtaking with a minimum of fuss. Inside the cabin there's little NVH to complain of. 

On long sweeping bends the car seemed right at home, but displayed some understeer in the faster, tighter corners. Where Maxima exceeds expectations is in comfort. Recent Nissan TV commercials have highlighted that the car is ideal when caught in city traffic. Well, we'd like to add it's not really bad either if you do happen to travel a lot of long distances. The seats conform but support you and the suspension is compliant for those rougher stretches of Australian roads. The steering offers good feedback.

Price Guide

Maxima 250 ST-L 2.5-litre four-door sedan: $33,990 
Maxima 350 ST-S 3.5-litre four-door sedan: $37,990
Maxima 350 Ti 3.5-litre four-door sedan: $46,99

Pricing Guides

Based on 18 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
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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
Pricing Guide


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