Future historians will record that, in the summer of 2006, astronomers revoked Pluto's status as a planet, and Nissan reeled in the spacey styling of the Maxima, bringing it down a little closer to Earth-car standard. Those same historians will also render a verdict whether either decision was a good one. Right now we're might be too close to these events to tell, but we're thinking the styling changes to the 2007 Nissan Maxima are a good thing. And we still like to think of Pluto as a planet. In both cases, call us old fashioned.
Gone is the beaver-toothed, studded grille from the '58 Buick, replaced by a more conservative, more elegant grille more in keeping with the Nissan Altima. In fact, all of the body work has been restyled. The 2007 Maxima gets new headlamps, new taillamps, and redesigned fenders, rocker panels, rear spoiler, and hood. The cabin gets a new instrument cluster and center dash for 2007, making for easier, more intuitive operation.
Underneath, a continuously variable transmission, or CVT, replaces the more traditional five-speed automatic for smoother, more efficient operation. Nissan excels in this technology and we found the Maxima's transmission responsive.
The Nissan Maxima fills a niche for aficionados who appreciate something different. Straddling the line between mid-size family hauler and a near-luxury sport sedan, it offers drivers an interesting alternative to mid-size sedans such as the Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, and Honda Accord. The Maxima is more focused on personal luxury and performance. And the 2007 model is just a little less quirky than last year's model.
Buyers choose between the more responsive SE and the more plush SL. Either way, cruising on the highway is effortless with Nissan's wonderful 255-hp V6 engine. For 2007, both the Maxima SE and SL come standard with a continuously variable automatic transmission, which translates to smooth, efficient power. Gone is the available six-speed manual, which is fine because we didn't care for it.
Both the Maxima SL and SE models abound with luxury features. The re-styled 2007 cabin is innovative and comfortable with supportive, luxurious seats. Surviving the 2007 revision is Maxima's daring Skyview roof, a narrow glass panel running lengthwise over the front and rear seats. It's the sort of feature associated with futuristic concept cars. Also interesting are the available rear bucket seats, a feature seen primarily on show cars or as an option on high-end luxury models.
Together, the rear bucket seats and Skyview roof make back-seat riders feel more like first-class passengers and less like coach-class cattle. The Maxima is not as family-friendly as the Altima, particularly with the optional four-bucket-seat interior. Instead, it's designed for people who don't have children or maybe just one and want a more interesting, more luxurious sports sedan. (A traditional rear bench seat comes standard for owners who may want to put three people in back.)
In short, the 2007 Nissan Maxima is an enjoyable and interesting sports sedan.
The 2007 Nissan Maxima is a mid-size four-door sedan with a V6 engine and front-wheel drive. The only transmission available is a continuously variable automatic (CVT). As before, Maxima is offered in two distinct flavors: the sporty 3.5 SE and the more luxuriously equipped 3.5 SL.
The SE ($28,050) comes standard with cloth upholstery, brushed aluminum interior accents, and all the conveniences you'd expect in a top-end mid-size sedan. The SE also comes with a sports suspension, traction control, and 18-inch wheels and tires.
The SL ($30,300) upgrades with leather upholstery, woodgrain interior trim, heated seats, xenon HID headlamps, a premium eight-speaker Bose stereo, and other conveniences that are optional on the SE. The SL rides on a softer suspension with 17-inch wheels and tires.
The Skyview roof comes standard on both SE and SL. It does not open, however, and can be replaced with a conventional power glass sunroof ($900) that does.
SL buyers can upgrade with a Driver Preferred Package ($1000) that adds a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, rear sonar system, memory driver's seat with power lumbar support, power tilt/telescopic heated steering wheel with memory, auto-dimming outside mirrors with memory, and a feature that power-retracts the driver's seat all the way back when you open the door to ease entry and exit.
SE buyers can upgrade to SL-level luxury: The Bose Premium Audio Package ($1,050) includes eight speakers, a six-CD changer, RDS, speed sensitive volume control, and pre-wiring for satellite radio. The Sensory Package ($2,400) combines the Bose audio with leather-appointed heated seats, a four-way power passenger seat, heated mirrors, and a compass. The SE Driver Preferred Package ($3,750) combines the Sensory Package with the contents of the SL Driver Preferred Package described above.
The Elite Package, available for both the SE ($4,700) and SL ($1,950), replaces the rear bench seat with two heated bucket seats and a center console extending the full length of the interior. This option includes everything from the Driver Preferred Packages, plus a power rear sunshade with front and rear controls, auto up/down rear windows, and an extra rear 12-volt power outlet. Options for SE and SL include a DVD navigation system with seven-inch color LCD display ($1,800); XM or Sirius satellite radio ($350); Vehicle Dynamic Control ($600), and a Bluetooth hands-free phone system ($300).
Safety features that come standard include the Advanced Air Bag System with dual-stage front supplemental air bags, front-seat side-impact air bags for chest protection, and roof-mounted curtain side-impact air bags for front and rear outboard occupant head protection; front-seat active head restraints; and front seat belts with adjustable upper anchors, pretensioners and load limiters. A sophisticated traction control system and a tire-pressure monitor come standard. An electronic stability program called VDC (Vehicle Dynamic Control) is optional.