In 2007, the Nissan Maxima was like a body builder who had suddenly been deprived of steroids. Sure it still packed some muscle, the power of 255 horses to be exact, but it was nevertheless a decrease of 10 horsepower over the previous year. To further hamper the Maxima’s appeal to sports sedan enthusiasts, Nissan scrapped the six-speed manual transmission in favor of the X-tronic CVT. Although this transmission has performed quite well for a CVT in other models like the Nissan Murano, it lacked a sport shift mode which had the effect of completely draining the Nissan Maxima of its sporting character.
For 2009, Nissan has injected its newly designed Maxima with another dose of steroids. Fortunately it was enough to bump power output up to 290 horsepower at 6,400 rpm while at the same time creating a slight edge in fuel economy over last year’s model (26 mpg hwy vs. 25 mpg hwy). To add to this, Nissan also installed a new X-tronic CVT transmission with both a sport mode and a manual mode. As an option, there are even steering wheel mounted paddle shifters available.
The new exterior design is meant to impart a feeling of what Nissan designers are referring to as “liquid motion.” While this catch phrase is primarily directed at the Maxima’s somewhat unorthodox headlight treatment, the rest of the vehicle is equally fluid. Rather than the previous car’s gently angled front fascia, this car sports a much more aggressive snout that is more reminiscent of a Nissan GT-R’s front end. Working your way rearward, you’ll notice the roofline still sports the traditional New Millennium Maxima arch and the trunk lid is still elegantly tapered. New 18” U-Spoke wheels are now standard while sharper 19” V-Spoke rims are available as an option on Maxima 3.5 SVs. While there is a nicely formed bobtail pinched into the standard Maxima’s deck lid, the SV goes a step further with a larger integrated spoiler.
Getting behind the wheel reveals an even more drastic overhaul. While the instrument cluster and center stack bring the Maxima nicely inline with other recently updated Nissans, such as the Murano, there are a few sporty ergonomic touches that make the Maxima a true driver’s car. The first one you notice is the brand new three spoke steering wheel. Its flying saucer shaped hub and prism spokes, are a refreshing replacement to the more conservative two-dimensional design of its predecessor. Gripping the rim you will notice there are sections of perforated leather for you to grip when you want to keep your palms from sweating profusely when your right foot gets heavy.
The second welcome improvement involves the X-tronic’s shift lever. Not only is it placed closer to the driver than in previous Maximas, but instead of pushing the lever away from you for manual mode, you pull it towards you, putting the leather wrapped shifter within perfect reach for quick shifting situations. When you do decide to kick things up a notch, you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the third sport-minded cockpit feature.
Maxima SVs not only come with 8-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, but with a segment first, adjustable thigh support for the driver. While previously exclusive to luxury sports sedans like BMWs and Infinitis, this feature brings the Maxima to the attention of a whole new demographic of driving enthusiasts.
There is little doubt the 2009 Nissan Maxima will retake the title of Sportiest Car In Its Class. Not only does it offer the driving environment and optional features to cater to a more excitement-minded driver, but it will also supply potential consumers with the most horsepower in its class.
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