In 2009, the Tennessee-built Nissan Maxima entered its seventh generation and got a makeover. Sharing a platform with the Murano and Altima sedan, it was powered by Nissan/Infiniti's trusty VQ-series V-6 engine, which displaced 3.5 litres and developed 290 horsepower in this configuration. A CVT, fitted to the Maxima two years earlier, was the only transmission choice. Like the CVT, the VQ powerplant was widely utilized throughout the company's lineup and found its way into everything from minivans to pickup trucks.
By this time, the CVT had also pretty much proven itself, and was a surprisingly good fit for this automobile. It had plenty of top- and bottom-end power, was smooth in operation, and reasonably thrifty. Through the use of steering-wheel-mounted shift paddles, you could utilize this drivetrain to its maximum, and Nissan's Xtronic technology allowed you to change the ratios between the primary and secondary transmission pulleys, to the point where it almost felt like a conventional planetary gearbox. The Maxima may qualify as one of the few automobiles that has taken well to a CVT.
Given a restyle, the '09 Maxima was – and still is – one of the more striking looking sedans out there. Some of its competitors from this year – Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, Honda Accord – are bland in comparison, and Nissan's flagship carried itself with an athletic muscularity. Nissan designers, never short of catch-phrases, described this particular vintage of Maxima as having "liquid motion" – whatever that is. A titch shorter than its predecessor, it was slightly wider and featured an aggressive road stance.
Although it is a traditional four-door sedan, you could also get the Maxima with a four-passenger coupe interior layout that featured rear bucket seats with a large centre console. This was part of the Premium package and came with other goodies, such as a huge dual-panel sunroof, power rear sunshade, wood trim, leather seats and a heated/cooled driver's seat. Those seeking family transport may find this extra feature impractical, as it accommodates fewer passengers than the regular version. There was also a Navigation package that included XM satellite radio.
Unsurprisingly, this generation of the Maxima came with a lengthy list of standard equipment: cruise control, tilt/telescoping steering, heated front seats, 60/40 folding rear seat, Bluetooth capability, dual-zone climate control and push-button start all came with the base model. In most respects, this was an upscale automobile, and thankfully free of some of the wilder technological excesses Nissan was indulging in through its Infiniti lineup (self-healing paint, four exterior cameras, etc.).
Transport Canada and the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have one safety recall for the 2009 Maxima, and it's not a serious life-threatener. Components in the front suspension – specifically upper front strut insulators – can work themselves loose and adversely affect handling. Not a major problem and easily repaired by dealers.
NHTSA also has 24 technical service bulletins on file for the 2009 Maxima. These range from door locking/unlocking glitches, issues with the emission system, mysterious noises emanating from the rear suspension, a warning not to disconnect the battery while the engine is running (why would you?), and the ubiquitous problem of headlight lenses fogging up. This last item is surely the most common cause of problems and recalls in the industry and no car maker, it seems, is exempt.
Consumer Reports likes this year of the Maxima, but with reservations. Although the drivetrain scores well, the magazine has issues with the suspension, electrical system, low roof-line, interior quality and "squeaks and rattles". It receives an "average" verdict from this organization. Some comments from owners: "Bad head gasket," "lots of interior room," "oil changes cost much more than other cars" and "well worth the money." The fact that the Maxima requires premium gas is a source of irritation to some owners, but the CVT is well-liked.
Although market research firm J.D. Power appreciates the performance and style of the 2009 Maxima, it has issues with its overall dependability and it gets an "average" rating from this group.
From a base price of just less than $38,000 in 2009, the Maxima has dropped by about $15,000. Depending upon its trim level and options, it's now priced in the low- to mid-$20,000 neighbourhood.
Tech Specs:2009 Nissan Maxima
Original Base Price: $37,900; Black Book: $23,300 Red Book: $21,300
Engine: 3.5-litre V-6
Horsepower/Torque: 290 hp/261 lb-ft
Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 10.8 city/7.7 highway; premium gas
Alternatives: Toyota Avalon, Toyota Camry V-6, Mazda6, Honda Accord V-6, Acura TL, Chrysler 300, Hyundai Sonata V-6, VW Passat