Future historians will record that, in the summer of 2006, astronomers revoked Pluto's status as a planet, and Nissan reeled in the spacey styling of the Maxima, bringing it down a little closer to Earth-car standard. Those same historians will also render a verdict whether either decision was a good one. Right now we might be too close to these events to tell, but we're thinking the styling changes to the 2007 Nissan Maxima are a good thing. And we still like to think of Pluto as a planet. In both cases, call us old fashioned.
Gone is the beaver-toothed, studded grille from the '58 Buick, replaced by a more conservative, more elegant grille more in keeping with the Nissan Altima. In fact, all of the body work has been restyled. The 2007 Nissan Maxima gets new headlamps, new taillamps, and redesigned fenders, rocker panels, rear spoiler, and hood. The cabin gets a new instrument cluster and center dash for 2007, making for easier, more intuitive operation.
Underneath, a continuously variable transmission, or CVT, replaces the more traditional five-speed automatic for smoother, more efficient operation. Nissan excels in this technology and we found the Maxima's transmission responsive.
The Nissan Maxima fills a niche for aficionados who appreciate something different. Straddling the line between mid-size family hauler and a near-luxury sports sedan, it offers drivers an interesting alternative to mid-size sedans such as the Nissan Altima, Toyota Camry, and Honda Accord. The Maxima is more focused on personal luxury and performance. And the 2007 model is just a little less quirky than last year's model.
Buyers choose between the more responsive SE and the more plush SL. Either way, cruising on the highway is effortless with Nissan's wonderful 255-hp V6 engine. For 2007, both the Maxima SE and SL come standard with a continuously variable automatic transmission, which translates to smooth, efficient power. Gone is the available six-speed manual, which is fine because we didn't care for it.
Both the Nissan Maxima SL and SE models abound with luxury features. The re-styled 2007 cabin is innovative and comfortable with supportive, luxurious seats. Surviving the 2007 revision is the Maxima's daring Skyview roof, a narrow glass panel running lengthwise over the front and rear seats. It's the sort of feature associated with futuristic concept cars. Also interesting are the available rear bucket seats, a feature seen primarily on show cars or as an option on high-end luxury models.
Together, the rear bucket seats and Skyview roof make back-seat riders feel more like first-class passengers and less like coach-class cattle. The Maxima is not as family-friendly as the Altima, particularly with the optional four-bucket-seat interior. Instead, it's designed for people who don't have children or maybe just one and want a more interesting, more luxurious sports sedan. (A traditional rear bench seat comes standard for owners who may want to put three people in back.)
In short, the 2007 Nissan Maxima is an enjoyable and interesting sports sedan.