- The Washington Times - Friday, February 28, 2003

Maxima combines practicality with fun in a midsized sedan
From the time I drove that first Nissan Maxima I have been able to recommend this car to nearly anyone who asked the question "What's a good car to buy?" Through five generations of Maxima models I've been able to tell friends and family this is a car to put on your list to look at before you buy.
My opinion hasn't changed much with the new and latest Maxima. Although a few features cause me minor concern, it is still a vehicle I consider a contender. With more power and a more compliant suspension system, the Maxima continues to be a good "go to" vehicle.
The new Maxima design continues with the new face of Nissan, which is being incorporated across nearly every model. The stylish sloping front fenders and hood line follows the new-age Nissan design. The modular headlight assemblies can be fitted with halogen or Xenon style lights, depending on your preference and checking account. Xenon lighting tends to be much higher priced.
Another unique styling feature found only on the Maxima is the new Skyview roof panels that bring an extraordinary amount of light into the vehicle without sacrificing the head room of a traditional sunroof. These two 8-inch-wide glass panels run the length of the roof.
Their centered location brings light to both front and rear seats. And speaking of light, when the sun goes down, the Maxima has subtle lighting that shines from the roof near the rear-view mirror down onto the center console. What Nissan calls mood lighting lends a warm glow over the area at night. I leave the mood it induces to your imagination.
Nissan says the body is larger and provides increased interior room. Yet sitting behind the steering wheel, it feels more compact. With the driver's seat positioned for my perfect setting I found there is more than plentiful leg room for rear-seat passengers. Get the Elite Package and rear seats become separate bucket seats divided by a center console that provides additional storage space.
Model selection has been simplified. Two trim levels are available; the base SL and the sportier SE are just the beginning of the choices. With each trim level you can select a number of packages that give you all the features you might want. Packages include a Premium, Sensory, Driver, Journey and an Elite Package. These individual packages can be combined to add all manner of luxurious features that will make motoring an event rather than drudgery.
Power comes from the potent 3.5-liter V-6 that Nissan is using for most of its vehicles these days. In the Maxima, with its dual-muffler exhaust system, the engine produces 265 horsepower, which is an increase over the previous Maxima. While everyone likes to quote horsepower numbers it is the torque ratings that give you the sense of power from stops. The 255 foot-pounds of torque is also an increase from last year and gets the Maxima up to speed in a hurry.
Transmissions include a base four-speed automatic, a six-speed manual or a five-speed automatic that is equipped with manual mode shifting. The four-speed automatic is your basic transmission while the upgrade automatic allows you to select the manual mode, giving you the ability to shift gears for yourself. I found the six-speed more to my liking even though it continues to be a bit difficult to quickly shift through the fourth, fifth and sixth gears. It is a situation I noticed on the previous version and seems to continue in the new Maxima.
This is a sedan that is enjoyable to drive and supplies all the features most owners want in a vehicle they rely on for day-to-day chores as well as helping to make weekend drives fun and exciting. The 2004 Maxima will continue to make buyers happy with their purchase. And if you are happy with your car, it just may make your day a little bit better.


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