Before Infiniti existed, the Maxima in effect served as Nissan's flagship sedan. I know people who happily traded in Cadillacs for the Four Door Sports Car in the 1980s. Now, of course, Infiniti not only exists, but has blossomed into a full-line brand with very serious offerings starting as low as $31,000 (for a G25). This puts the Maxima in a very awkward spot. Our particular test car costs as much as a very well equipped G35 sedan, but is closer mechanically to an Altima. And though it certainly doesn't drive badly, nothing about it, except for the voluptuous sheetmetal, says "sports car."
I'd like to see the Maxima restored to its former glory. If Nissan can justify selling an $90,000 supercar, surely it can make room in its model hierarchy for a true sport sedan along the lines of a Chrysler 300C. To my mind, that means rear-wheel drive and a better transmission -- as in the G35's seven-speed automatic. Would such a car steal a few sales from Infiniti? Perhaps. But it would also bring some luster and prestige to the Nissan showroom and reclaim one of the company's oldest and most important nameplates.
- David Zenlea, Assistant Editor