Nissan Maxima is First Produced

The Nissan Maxima is a full-size car manufactured by Nissan, marketed as the "four-door sports car". The Maxima debuted in 1976 as an upscale version of the Bluebird and was spun into its own line in 1980, having been made continuously since then.

Most pre-2004 Maximas were built in Oppama, Japan, until the current North American Maximas started being assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee.

The Maxima models are also known as Nissan Cefiro or Nissan Laurel in various markets.

The Maxima model line began with the Nissan Bluebird Maxima, which was available in the US as Datsun 810 from February 1977. It was powered by two versions of the SOHC L-series I6 engine, a 2.0 L displacement for the Japanese market and a 2.4 L (as found in the Datsun 240Z) for the US market. The Bluebird Maxima used a carburetor for the base model and fuel injection for the sporty version. The 2.0 L engine was good for 122 PS JIS (90 kW), while the bigger American engine could reach 125 hp SAE (93 kW). The sporty version channeled power through a four speed manual transmission. These cars were rear-wheel drive and had a semi-trailing arm rear suspension. The station wagon variant had the rear live axle for load carrying reasons.

The 2-door coupe version was introduced in 1979 along with an exterior refresh, and was available in the Maxima lineup in the Datsun 810 only. The new Datsun 280ZX shared the 810's chassis, though the 810 did not get that car's larger 2.8 L engine.

For much of the 1990s, our editors considered new family sedans from Japan and America to be quite practical for everyday use but rather feckless in terms of generating excitement or pride of ownership. There was, however, a recommended alternative for the car enthusiast weighed down by the grim reality of family life -- the Nissan Maxima.

During this period, the Maxima, with its powerful V6, upscale interior and catchy "Four-Door Sports Car" marketing tagline, was ideally positioned as a bridge between those midsize snoozers and out-of-reach European sport sedans. These traits, along with continual improvements made by Nissan, ensured a loyal following and strong name recognition.

Since that time, other automakers have targeted the Maxima's niche and brought out excellent competing models. The previous-generation Maxima, in particular, had little to offer to justify its extra price. However, a new Maxima has recently debuted, and it's again a compelling choice for a sedan that provides both performance and luxury. Used Nissan Maximas can also be very worthy, though certain model years are better than others, so some extra research will likely be required.

Current Nissan Maxima

The current Maxima represents the car's seventh generation, and debuted for the 2009 model year. It's a front-wheel-drive midsize sedan that packs a 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine. Sending the engine's power to the front wheels is a continuously variable transmission (CVT). In terms of size, it's actually a bit shorter than earlier Maximas; Nissan made this change in hopes of improving the car's handling and making it more distinctive.

There are two available trim levels: 3.5 S and 3.5 SV. The base-model S is pretty well equipped, with a standard features list that includes amenities like keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control and a full complement of safety features. SV models pump up the luxury with features like leather upholstery and a premium nine-speaker Bose stereo. Numerous packages are available that give you the chance to upgrade with options like a voice-activated navigation system, iPod integration and a rearview camera.

Our editors have praised the current Nissan Maxima for its powerful V6 engine and well-sorted suspension tuning. It also offers a high-quality interior and a high number of high-tech features. On the downside, Nissan packages much of that high-tech equipment into expensive packages, meaning the car's price might rise higher than you would expect. Additionally, that high price puts the Maxima in competition with some luxury-branded models. But if you can live without "oohs" and "ahs" from the neighbors, the current Nissan Maxima should be on your must-look list for a premium sedan.

Used Nissan Maximas

In terms of finding a used late-model Maxima, you'll likely encounter the sixth-generation model that spanned 2004-'08. This Maxima was longer, wider and more powerful than earlier models, though it struggled to stand out against the competition.

Two trim levels were offered during this generation: SE and SL. With a slightly stiffer suspension, the SE was designed to be the sportier of the two. Standard features on this trim included 18-inch wheels, an eight-speaker CD stereo, keyless entry, and one-touch up-down front windows. The more luxury-oriented SL offered 17-inch wheels, softer tuning, wood interior trim, heated leather seats, HID headlights and a 320-watt Bose audio system.

Changes were minimal throughout this model's run, so interested shoppers needn't fixate on a particular year. There was a transmission change, however. Maximas from 2007 and 2008 featured a CVT, while earlier models came with either a five-speed automatic transmission or a six-speed manual. Though earlier Nissan CVTs used on other models were disappointing, the Maxima's CVT worked quite well. You'll also note that the V6 offered by the more recent models in this generation boasts 255 hp, while older models list a higher rating (265). This is the result of a new power rating procedure enacted in 2007. Actual engine performance was unchanged.

In our reviews, we determined that the sixth-generation Nissan Maxima held advantages in terms of power, comfort and interior space when compared to some other V6-powered, front-drive midsize sedans. Driving dynamics offered by Maximas from this generation weren't quite as impressive as those offered by some competitors, though. Fit and finish and materials quality were also hit and miss. If you're shopping for a used car in this age range, the Maxima might be worth a look, but you'd do well to consider cars like the Acura TSX and VW Passat as well.

Fifth-generation Nissan Maximas were available from 2000-'03. Key improvements over earlier models were a smooth-revving 222 hp from the standard 3.0-liter V6, a boost in rear-seat legroom and an available 200-watt Bose audio system. At the time, our editors were still impressed with the car's power and interior room but were increasingly skeptical of its value. Further upgrades were made in 2002, including a bump in displacement (3.5 liters) and power (255 hp) to help keep the Maxima at least marginally ahead of Nissan's V6-powered Altima sedan.

Cars built for the 1995-'99 model years constitute the fourth generation. For this Maxima, Nissan added length, improved the quality of the interior and introduced a new 190-hp all-aluminum V6 for all trim levels, which was arguably the gold standard in its day for responsiveness and refinement. In terms of handling, it wasn't quite as responsive as the previous version, and its styling wasn't very well received, but it was still very popular given its desirable combination of utility, performance and luxury.

The third-generation car was built for the 1989-'94 model years. Nissan was enjoying a product renaissance at the time, and this was the first Nissan Maxima with true sporting credentials. Unlike other Japanese midsize sedans, the Maxima came with a V6 only and the option to order a manual transmission. Early versions had a 160-hp V6; a 190-hp engine became available in 1992 for the Maxima SE. A second-gen Maxima was available from 1985-'88.

For the U.S. market, the Maxima is one of Nissan's most historic vehicles. Known originally as the Datsun 810, it officially became Maxima in 1982, which was also the year that the Datsun brand began its metamorphosis into Nissan.

The Nissan Maxima first made its debut as the high-end trim level of the 1976 Bluebird, but it was not until 1985 that the Maxima branched off into its own model. Having gone through a great number of changes and upgrades; the Maxima is one of the longest running mid-size sedans on the American automobile market. Starting out as a boxy two-door coupe, the Maxima has transformed into a muscular, sporty four-door sedan. With a complete redesign scheduled for the 2009 model year, the Maxima is still one of the most affordable luxury models on sales lots.

From 1976-1979, the Nissan Maxima was known in the United States as a trim level of the Datsun 810, while European consumers knew the model as a version of the Bluebird. However, the badge "Maxima" was only known to the European market. In 1982, Nissan introduced the 810 Maxima to the United States. This model featured a 2.4L I6 and the option of either a five-speed automatic or five-speed manual transmission.

The 1985 model year named the Maxima a standalone badge that was equipped with a 157 horsepower 3.0L V6. A Maxima wagon was available for both the 1987 and 1988 model years, but after that the model's exterior was tightened up and was listed as a compact sedan. The boxy exterior was traded in for a sleeker, more elegant design in 1989. The Maxima also gained a few inches, re-establishing it as a mid-size sedan in America.

With features like a moonroof, digital touch entry, and a complete power package, the Maxima quickly became an American favorite as an introductory luxury sedan. Though the engine remained a 3.0L V6 all through the 1990s, the Maxima's exterior was freshened up several times with curvier lines and a more aggressive front grille giving it a sportier appearance. However, the 2002 model year brought about the first major engine change for the Maxima. A new 255 horsepower 3.5L V6 was mounted under the hood, and upgraded wheels and a navigation unit became available.

Nissan Maxima's sixth generation brought with it a revamped version of the model. The build became more muscular, and the Maxima was only available as a four-door sedan. The engine stayed the same, but a continuously variable transmission was introduced. The unveiling of the 2009 Maxima at the 2008 New York Auto Show revealed a completely restyled edition with a futuristic appearance. With the redesign Nissan hopes to appeal to younger buyers.