The 2009 Nissan Maxima, which makes its world debut at the 2008 New York International Auto Show, marks a return to the longtime Nissan flagship sedan’s roots as a commanding 4-door sports car – a vehicle that is unique in both appearance and driving feel, with renewed relevance for today’s active and ambitious sedan buyers. In other words, the Maxima is back.
The all-new 2009 Maxima will be offered as two well-equipped models, Maxima 3.5 S and Maxima 3.5 SV. For 2009, Nissan is reclaiming its rich 4-Door Sports Car heritage with an infusion of emotional design, driving excitement and advanced technology – creating a silky, stimulating sports sedan like no other on the road today.
“Do-overs” are sometimes allowed in sports but rarely in the automotive industry. Yet midway through the development of the new-generation Maxima a mulligan was indeed granted. Rather than continue with an evolution of the previous highly successful Maxima design, the creators of the 2009 Maxima stopped and rethought the entire direction.
Inspired by the concurrent top secret development of the 2009 Nissan GT-R supercar, they threw away positioning words like “conservative” and “balanced” and concentrated instead on new concepts like “addictive performance,” “striking,” “commanding” and “powerful.”
High targets were established, including the goal of creating “the best performing front engine, front-wheel drive car in the world,” along with class-leading acceleration, braking, handling, workmanship and cockpit design.
Three key areas were singled out for change: exterior design, which needed to be more aggressive, with more personality and attitude; a “super” cockpit, creating an interior that combines a driver orientation with high quality, roominess and user-friendly technology; and class-leading performance, enhancing what previous generation owners called “Maxima-ness.”
To further push the performance envelope, the development team challenged themselves to concentrate their efforts on “emotional engineering” – to experience Maxima with the five senses in a purer, more visceral manner, rather than through CAD drawings and computer simulations.
As each designer and engineer set and exceeded higher and higher targets, they realized that confirmation of the results would require validation on the road. But not just any road. Members of the development team traveled to Germany’s famed Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit – not coincidentally the site of much of the GT-R’s performance development work – to test Maxima prototypes. Special attention was placed on body rigidity, suspension and steering, along with honing Maxima’s competitiveness against some well-established European sports sedans.
Dimensionally, versus the previous generation, the new Maxima measures the same width at the doors but wider at each fender, which not only helps project a sporty appearance but also allows a reduction in the visual gap between the fenders and wheels and tires. Maxima’s dynamic performance stance is accented by 18-inch and available 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with low-profile performance tires.
Another new styling feature is the available Dual Panel Moonroof, which is traditionally offered only in luxury segments. The Dual Panel Moonroof includes a front section that moves like a normal moonroof (positioned farther forward than typical), with a very wide opening to provide an open-air motoring feeling. There is also a fixed translucent rear section that provides light to rear seat passengers. The overall design gives the appearance that the entire roof is composed of black glass. The Dual Panel Moonroof includes dual power sunshades for both the front and rear glass sections, adding a level of convenience.
At the rear, Maxima features a new 12-LED L-shaped taillight design, with a pair of side marker bulbs for added visibility during night driving.
For five previous generations, Maxima has been built on a front-wheel drive (FWD) platform. Yet with the new Maxima’s development team everything was open for discussion, including the benefits of front-wheel drive versus rear-wheel drive (RWD). Although there are well-known advantages of RWD in terms of sporty handling, it was ultimately decided that by switching Maxima from its previous platform to Nissan’s new “D platform,” which was first introduced on the current Nissan Altima Sedan, Hybrid and Coupe, the target Maxima performance could be delivered – without giving up the added FWD benefits of lower costs, lower weight and enhanced roominess versus a RWD platform.
In creating driving performance worthy of Nissan’s flagship, the Maxima’s body and chassis engineering teams worked together to create a secure feeling, virtually no torque steer during acceleration and a level of nimbleness that ultimately makes a car fun to drive.
A range of enhancements helped achieve these targets, including increasing body rigidity and adjusting the wheelbase and track dimensions. Body rigidity was increased by 15 percent and front strut mounting rigidity was increased by 100 percent, with all-new structures added to the engine compartment and additional reinforcement applied to the instrument panel structure. Maximas equipped with the Sport or Premium Packages feature a panel behind the rear seat that improves torsional rigidity by 17 percent versus models with a fold-down rear seat (a rear trunk pass-through is utilized with this panel).
Compared to the previous generation, the new Maxima offers more horsepower and torque, providing quicker acceleration response and a special “Maxima Sound” – a satisfying, sporty sounding exhaust note. For 2009, Maxima again features a standard 3.5-liter VQ-series V6 engine, enhanced and refined to take its driving performance to new levels.
The revised engine features a modular engine design with microfinished crank journals and cam lobes, molybdenum coated lightweight pistons, a resin intake collector, digital knock control, six individual coils (one per spark plug) and a cross-flow coolant pattern. Also utilized are a Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVTCS), a variable induction system, a silent timing chain and electronically controlled throttle.
The 2009 Maxima’s 3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve V6 is now rated at 290 horsepower and 261 lb-ft of torque (estimated), increases of 35 horsepower and 9 lb-ft of torque over the 2008 Maxima.
For drivers seeking the utmost in vehicle control, a new “Ds mode” (drive sport) has been added to the CVT for 2009. “Ds mode” is an electronic control logic, that enhances sport driving through increased acceleration feel with higher engine revolutions, automatic engine braking and maintaining engine speed during cornering.
Available paddle shifters, mounted on the steering column, allow manual transmission shift changes for varying scenarios – such as winding roads – while the driver’s hands remain on the wheel for optimum vehicle control.
Braking is provided by standard 4-wheel disc brakes with a 4-channel, 4-sensor, 4-wheel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA). The system features new vented rear disc brakes with larger rear rotors (versus the previous generation Maxima) and a variable ratio linkage for a secure feel
The 2009 Maxima features a new Twin Orifice Power Steering (TOPS) vehicle-speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering system, similar to that utilized on the Nissan 350Z. The system features high accuracy gear, which is designed to offer improved high performance response, along with ease of driving at low speeds and a stable feel at high speed. Maxima has the quickest steering ratio of any Nissan sedan (15.2:1) to help provide its sporty steering feel. A new strut tower brace also contributes to Maxima’s improved steering precision and rigidity.
Every 2009 Maxima offers standard 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and V-rated P245/45R18 all-season tires. The Maxima 3.5 SV model with Sport Package features 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with P245/40R19 all-season or summer performance tires.