Nissan further transforms itself into a performance brand, taking the Maxima from sedate sedan to quick sports car. To make matters even better, the cabin electronics are borrowed from the upscale Infiniti brand.
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The Maxima is the third model to employ Nissan's new design language, getting boomerang headlights after the GT-R and 370Z.
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That new styling is also shown in the wide and high fenders rising up on either side of the hood.
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Nissan has gotten plenty of use from its VQ series V-6 engine, and further refines it for the Maxima, with 290 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque, big numbers for the formerly mild-mannered car.
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Nissan's slogan for the Maxima is "The 4-door sports car," making the not-exactly-revolutionary claim that a sedan can perform well. The only performance drawback with the Maxima is that it is on a front-wheel-drive platform.
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This Maxima SV has the Sport package, which includes 19-inch wheels and sport tuning for the suspension, resulting in a very flat ride in the corners.
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Maxima has always featured a decent interior, and the 2009 model doesn't let down, with quality materials and fit. Nissan also does away with its low-end cabin electronics, fitting the Maxima with the gear previously developed for Infiniti models.
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Metal switches on the steering wheel let you control audio and cruise. Steering response is very good, lending to the performance.
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The Maxima uses a well-tuned continuously variable transmission, which sets the right drive ratio no matter how fast the engine is turning. Its sport program does an excellent job of holding high rpms.
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Long paddles are mounted to the steering column, helping drivers use the transmission's manual mode, six virtual gears on the continuously variable transmission.
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The plain gauges have a useful trip display on the speedometer, showing information such as immediate fuel economy.
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The hard drive-based navigation system uses rich graphics to indicate turns. We really like the big multifunction knob for controlling the interface. It is one of the most intuitive and easy-to-use in the business.
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The Maxima includes traffic information integrated with the navigation system, but we didn't find the capability for automatically rerouting around bad traffic.
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The audio system has many music sources, including excellent iPod integration.
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Because the navigation system includes a hard drive, you also get space to store music. The car can rip CDs to this hard drive.
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Bluetooth phone integration works well, but it doesn't import a phone's address book. You have to manually enter phone numbers.
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