For years, the Maxima was a car to aspire to for those legions of young buyers whose early automotive experience was with basic but reliable Nissan (or, before that, Datsun) stalwarts like the Sentra and the 210. Plush, powerful, and roomy, the Maxima was a logical and luxurious step up. The formula started to get muddied when the Altima began to encroach on the Maxima's turf, and the Maxima resorted to somewhat garish styling and gimmicky features to set itself apart from its sibling.
The current-generation Maxima looks good again-with styling that won't have it confused with the Altima -- but one problem remains. As cars -- all cars -- have gotten bigger and heavier, it has become more difficult to make a sporty, front-wheel-drive car, because you need to send so much power through the front wheels that torque steer is the inevitable result. Such is the case here. The answer for the Maxima would be to at least offer the option of all-wheel drive (as Acura does with the TL). Nissan would have to adjust the pricing of the Maxima a bit, however; this example already exceeds $38,000, and with all-wheel-drive it might hit $40,000. That's too much for a Nissan-brand sedan. But if Nissan could stir in AWD and keep the price in the mid-high $30s, the Maxima could recapture some of its former glory.
- Joe Lorio, Senior Editor