- Much larger inside and out.
- Should represent a good entry-level luxury value.
- Powered by the powerful VQ35DE V6 engine.
- Standard Skyview glass roof panel.
- Upscale styling.
- Controversial styling.
- Price increase with move upscale.
- Increased weight.
- Tons of torque steer.
- Move upscale may upset Maxima purists.
Press Coverage :
The front fascia is sharp and cleanly sculpted and features a distinctive Nissan signature grille with a unique, rounded-rectangle shape pattern accentuated by a dark chrome finish, along with a deeply sculpted combination headlight cluster with optional xenon bulbs (standard on 3.5 SL). The pronounced rear fascia is elegant and leaves a strong impression, accented with the unique design of the body panel that surrounds the rear taillights. The combination of oversized wheels with boldly sculpted fender openings and double dual exhaust mufflers with chromed tips give Maxima a very powerful and dominating stance that evokes a feeling of high performance.
Standard on all models is a segment-first Skyview Roof, which creates an open environment for front and rear passengers while maintaining a solid roof structure. The Skyview Roof is a single elongated rectangular-shaped glass panels that stretch from the front of the roof to the back. It comes equipped with sliding sunshades to block out the sunlight when desired. The long openings in the arched roofline increase the perceptual interior volume, which leaves a unique and memorable impression.
Thanks to the 2004 Maxima's adoption of Nissan's FF-L (for Front engine, Front-wheel drive, Large) platform, the cabin offers increases in all major interior dimensions from the previous generation Maxima, including a 2.9-inch longer wheelbase (increased from 108.3 to 111.2) and vehicle width increased 1.4 inches (increase from 70.3 to 71.7). Trunk space also increases 0.4 cubic feet, from 15.1 to 15.5.
An optional Elite Package 4-seat layout gives the interior a distinctive sports car-like design, further separating Maxima from its competitors. With the Elite Package, the traditional bench style rear seat is replaced with two independent bucket seats. The design of the rear seats resembles the front seats and the 4-seat layout further strengthens both the sporty and luxury aspects of Maxima’s interior. An Elite Package-exclusive Burnt Orange with Black interior color combination is also available, in addition to the standard Maxima Café Latte, Frost and Black interior colors.
From a safety standpoint, Maxima features Zone Body construction with front and rear crushable zones and occupant zone, standard dual-stage supplemental front air bags with seat belt sensors, front-seat side-impact supplemental air bags and curtain side-impact supplemental air bags. Also standard are 3-point front seat belts with adjustable upper anchors with pretensioners and load limiters, front-seat active head restraints, an emergency inside trunk release and the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) child seat anchors and tether system.
All 2004 Maxima 3.5 SL models come equipped with a standard 4-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission, with a gated shifter for better transmission control. The 3.5 SE Model features a standard 5-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission with manual shift mode and gated shifter. New to the 2004 Maxima is Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with Traction Control System (TCS), which is optional on all A/T models.
For the serious driving enthusiast, a 6-speed close-ratio manual is optional on 3.5 SE models. This transmission optimizes the powerband of the 3.5-liter engine and gives the driver the ultimate sports car feel. A helical limited-slip differential is optional on manual transmission equipped Maximas. This mechanical differential is torque sensitive and provides instantaneous locking for increased traction and performance.
It consists of an innovative rear multi-link independent suspension, which offers outstanding stability by minimizing camber change during cornering. The rear shocks and springs are separated for reduced friction and the shock is in line with the center of the rear wheels, providing better damping and less harshness. Maxima 3.5 SE models feature a special performance-tuned suspension for maximum handling prowess, while the 3.5 SL models feature a luxury-tuned suspension providing a supple ride and smooth and secure handling feeling.
Braking is provided by standard 4-wheel disc brakes with a 4-channel, 4-sensor, 4-wheel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS). Front rotors are class-leading at 320mm in size. Also standard is Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), which optimizes brake force depending on load condition (passenger and cargo) and Brake Assist (BA), which senses hard or panic pedal application and helps provide maximum braking capacity.
The 3.5 SE model offers large 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and V-rated P245/45R18 tires. 3.5 SL features 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with H-rated P225/55R17 tires.
The 2004 Maxima is available in two models: the sporty 3.5 SE and the luxurious 3.5 SL. A number of options and packages are available on Maxima, including a Premium Audio Package, with an 8-speaker 320-watt Bose® audio system with AM/FM/6CD, RDS and speed sensitive volume control; Sensory Package which includes the Premium Audio Package, plus leather-appointed seats, 4-way power passenger seat, heated front seats and mirrors and compass. Also offered are the Driver Preferred Package (3.5 SE) with Sensory Package contents, plus rear spoiler (SE only), memory drivers seat, power tilt/telescopic steering wheel with memory, memory outside mirrors that can also be folded electronically, xenon headlights (SE), driver seat power lumbar support, power entry/exit seat and heated steering wheel. The Maxima Journey Package includes Driver Preferred Package equipment, plus DVD navigation system with 7-inch color display and compass in navigation display (deleted from rear view mirror). The Elite Package offers all of the Journey Package features, plus 2-passenger rear seating, rear center console, auto up/down rear windows, rear power sunshade with front and rear controls, heated rear seats and rear 12V power point. Available options include a Power Glass Sunroof (replaces Skyview Roof), Helical Limited-Slip Differential (HLSD), Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), full-size spare with alloy wheel and satellite radio capacity.
The engine is an absolute joy to use and defines the term "silky smooth." Instant power is available in any gear at any rpm — no waiting. The clutch is light and it's easy to find its engagement point with the optional 6-speed manual transmission. Nissan improved the linkage over last year's version, making the gates easier to find, though some editors complained of finding 5th instead of 3rd when shifting really quickly and of a less-than-firm feel to the linkage, especially when the gearbox was cold. A 5-speed automatic with manual shifting ability comes standard on the SE and a 4-speed automatic is the only transmission for the uplevel SL.
The chassis is basically straight from the Altima and the cars even share similar suspension tuning; the main difference between them is higher-rate damping on the Maxima's shocks. The front suspension has MacPherson struts, coil springs and tube shocks, but instead of a twist beam with lateral locating links at the rear like the old Maxima, it now utilizes a multilink independent setup — with extensive use of aluminum to reduce weight.
Nissan sees the new Maxima moving even further away from the Accord and Camry and more into the realm of European sports sedans. At the test track we found that, in fact, it leans more toward family hauler than back-road burner. It offers a supple highway ride and has an easygoing nature around town, but start to drive it aggressively and the car's 3540-lb. curb weight and soft suspension settings make it feel even larger than it is. Despite the wide tires, lateral acceleration was sub-par for a sports sedan — only 0.81g, but it slithered through our slalom at a respectable 62.1 mph.
Numbers are fine, but how does she drive? For a family sedan, quite nicely; for a sports sedan, only adequate; and for the 4-door sports car reincarnate — we were left a bit disappointed. Accelerating with verve from a stop, the transfer of weight rearward causes the front tires to spin excessively, and when accelerating out of slow corners there is a significant (and annoying) tug at the steering wheel. Call it asking the front tires to do too many things — namely steer the car and try to put 255 lb.-ft. of torque to the road. Not an easy task.
While back-road burning may not be this car's strong suit, the interior of the car redefines the Maxima with a quality feel we simply haven't seen in Nissans before.
2002-2003 Nissan Maxima SE
3,500 cc / 255 hp / 246 lb-ft / 3224-3261 lbs / 0-60 mph 6.0 sec.