Nissan Maxima 3.5 SE
A nicely styled car, the Nissan Maxima 3.5 SE brings in some nice technology touches, such as the autodimming mirrors, a HomeLink transceiver, and remote window lowering. Occupant comfort is a priority in the car, a fact highlighted by the front and rear heated seats, power-adjustable front seats, dual-zone climate control, and the heated steering wheel. There are a few things Nissan didn't get quite right, however, such as the information center and Skyview roof. This car would have been a bit more at home five years ago, but today it feels a bit dated, sporting a tape deck but having no MP3 CD or Bluetooth connectivity. Fortunately, satellite radio and navigation are available as options. With 265 horsepower, the car has plenty of power when needed, but it is hampered by a soft suspension and overpowered steering. Safety is provided by a variety of air bags, antilock braking, electronic brake-force distribution (EBD), and traction control. The Nissan Maxima 3.5 SE retails for $27,500, which is a fairly reasonable price for its size and power. The body of the Nissan Maxima 3.5 SE is aggressive styled, particularly at the front, but also unmistakably part of the Nissan family. The view from the rear is definitely more ho-hum. The rounded roofline, reminiscent of the 350Z's, looks nice from the outside, but the arch makes rear headroom a little tight for those more than 6 feet tall. The comfortable front seats are fully adjustable, and the driver seat and power tilt/telescoping steering wheel can be set to two memory positions, which can be linked to specific key fobs (only one position per fob).
There is a good fit and finish to the car, and suedelike door panels, titanium trim, and leather seats give it the feel of a luxury car, although the steering-wheel radio and cruise-control switch gear feel like poorly integrated add-ons. The nonopening, longitudinal Skyview glass-paneled roof also misses both aesthetically and functionally. Fortunately, a traditional sunroof is an option.
The center information console, although stylish, is a near miss. A menu-based joystick/enter system just doesn't need two clock-adjustment buttons, as well as three for trip and fuel economy. The trip meters aren't linked to either the odometer trip meters on the instrument panel or the fuel-economy meter, which means having to reset two different things to keep track of both distance and fuel economy--confusing. Also, there isn't a simple button to turn off the display, instead requiring a button push and two movements of the joystick. Once it's off, the display is supposed to turn on briefly when you change settings, then back off again, but in practice, several functions remained illuminated, so we had to go through the turn-off procedure again.
The rearview mirror includes features such as autodimming at night, which significantly cuts headlight glare. The built-in HomeLink universal transceiver can be programmed to replace up to three remote controls for garage doors, gates, security systems, and house lights--including rolling-code systems.
The premium Bose stereo system is powerful and crisp, but it's definitely old school due to its lack of MP3 CD support or an auxiliary jack. With 320 watts on tap, the stereo should have come with a remote control, allowing you to stand clear of the vehicle. The tape player spoils the look of the console and gives it a bit of an antiquated feel--hiding the tape player behind a door would have been a good idea.