2009 Nissan Maxima Photos - nissan maxima 2009

2009 Nissan Maxima

Nissan is hoping that consumers will see the 2009 Maxima -- the seventh-generation model -- as bringing the car back to its four-door sports car heritage. About 20 years after the 1989 Maxima went on sale with 4DSC stickers on the rear windows, the 2009 Maxima heads to the marketplace with a bolder style Nissan describes as "liquid motion."

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According to Nissan, the 2009 Maxima almost didn't happen. That would have deprived the world of a sensational looking automobile with performance enhancements to match its seductive shape.

Apparently, Nissan's original plan was to modify the existing sedan and introduce a few upgrades. At some point, though, the designers determined that a makeover just wouldn't cut it. After all, the Maxima is Nissan's top-dog car and laurel resting is the surest way to wind up shuffled to the that's-so-yesterday back lot.

In an about-face that, Nissan claims, was inspired by the forthcoming GT-R supercar's development, the designers started over with blank computer screens and with considerable encouragement to inject "emotional engineering" into the project.

Emotions were clearly running at a fever pitch since the new car is downright spectacular. The Maxima really looks like a premium automobile instead of a plumped-up Altima, even though both share the same front-wheel-drive platform. Where once there were simple, rounded contours running the length of the vehicle, there are delicate "shoulders" extending along all four doors and fenders. Elsewhere, neatly formed creases and bulges are displayed, along with a restrained chromed grille flanked by oddly shaped headlight pods and taillamp lenses that, from certain angles, resemble shark fins. Different for sure, but it all works in an eye-catching mix that exudes sophistication and agility.

The car is 10 centimetres shorter overall and the front and rear wheels are now about five centimetres closer together, but width and stance have been marginally increased. The slightly shrunken body structure is now 15 per cent stiffer and places where the front suspension struts attach to the body are twice as rigid as before. Premium- or Sport-package-equipped models receive a support brace running widthwise behind the passenger compartment that promotes flatter cornering, but the cargo-extending fold-flat back seat disappears in the process.

The cabin rivals Nissan's upper-level Infiniti models for upscale attractiveness. There's plenty of space and comfort for five people, but the semi-bucket rear-seat design on the Sport package is an acknowledgement that there are rarely more than two people aboard back there.

Perhaps the Maxima's biggest surprise is under the hood. Instead of installing the larger 3.7-litre VQ-series V6 engine employed in the Infiniti G37 coupe, a 290-horsepower 3.5-litre V6 keeps the Maxima on the move. The fact that it's more powerful by 35 horses than the 2008 car, yet is expected to produce similar fuel consumption, is nothing to sneeze at.

Back for another term as the VQ's running mate is a continuously variable transmission, now with more responsive (quicker) built-in "steps" that can be orchestrated using the optional steering-column-mounted paddle shifters. Drivers can also engage the transmission's "Ds" (for Drive sport) mode that allows for higher engine revs between steps, maintains engine speed while cornering and generates automatic engine braking when decelerating.

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