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REVIEW
From Edmunds.com
PROS
  • Powerful V6 engine
  • Roomy interior
  • Upscale features
  • Suspension well balanced for both handling and comfort
CONS
  • Reflexes aren't as sharp as those of some competitors
  • Some low-grade interior materials
  • Iffy fit and finish
  • Can't get a manual gearbox

Typically, when one pays a bit extra, one gets a bit extra -- for instance, when the teenager at the local burger hut asks, "Would you like fries with that?" or at the grocery store when you decide to cough up an extra $1.50 for triple-ply toilet paper instead of two-ply. The 2007 Nissan Maxima represents a similar step-up approach in the family sedan segment. For a little bit more cash, this Japanese front-drive sedan provides buyers with a powerful V6 engine, a sport-themed persona, a little more room and a few extra features. This has been a successful formula for Nissan, and the Maxima, which has been around for more than two decades now, is one of the company's most well-known nameplates in the U.S.

For 2007, Nissan has made some tweaks to its flagship sedan as part of a midcycle refresh. The car's front-end styling has been redone with a new hood, bumper and headlights in hopes of making the car look more contemporary, and the interior has a redesigned center stack with better ergonomics. The big news, however, is the introduction of a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT). A CVT lacks fixed gearing in the traditional sense and instead continually and automatically adjusts the transmission's effective gear ratios for optimum acceleration and fuel economy. Nissan's been working on CVTs for a while now, and it says the unit in the Maxima has quicker response compared to the one in the Murano.

After driving the 2007 Nissan Maxima, we can confirm that this CVT is indeed smoother and more responsive than previous applications of this technology, and it makes good use of the 3.5-liter V6's power band. However, the lack of conventional shift points takes some of the involvement out of the driving experience, even with the Maxima's simulated manual mode. Besides that, the CVT offers only a small improvement in EPA fuel economy estimates compared to last year's five-speed automatic. In addition, Nissan has dropped the manual transmission this year. Certainly, having a manual tranny is not the cornerstone of sedan desirability, but it has made the Maxima stand out in the past as one of the sportier options in its price range. And now there are even more choices than ever for an upper-crust family sedan. There are the Acura TSX, Chrysler 300C, Subaru Legacy and Volkswagen Passat, for instance. Even Nissan's fully redesigned Altima and Toyota's new Camry are worth taking a look at. Bottom line? With so many choices awaiting those willing to pay a bit extra, the Maxima is looking increasingly less enticing.

WHAT'S NEW FOR 2007

The 2007 Nissan Maxima receives a few changes this year. A new continuously variable transmission (CVT) is standard, and it replaces both the six-speed manual and five-speed automatic from last year. Nissan has also updated the car's front styling and improved its interior ergonomics a bit. Detail-oriented buyers might also notice that the V6 engine is rated for 10 less horsepower this year, but this is because of the implementation of a new SAE testing procedure. Actual engine performance is unaffected.

2007 Nissan  Maxima Picture
2007 Nissan  Maxima Picture
2007 Nissan  Maxima Picture

EXTERIOR

The 2007 Nissan Maxima is a midsize sedan. There are two trims available: Maxima 3.5 SE and Maxima 3.5 SL. The SE is designed to be the sportier of the two. It comes with features like 18-inch wheels, a SkyView fixed glass-paneled roof, power windows and mirrors, keyless entry, a power driver seat, metallic interior trim, a tilt/telescoping steering wheel and an eight-speaker CD stereo with an MP3 jack and steering-wheel-mounted controls. Along with its softer suspension tuning, the more luxurious SL has 17-inch wheels, HID headlights, wood interior trim, a power passenger seat, leather upholstery, front seat heaters and a 320-watt Bose audio system with CD changer. Most of the SL's additional features can also be had on the SE as part of the Sensory Package.

One can further upgrade the Maxima SE and SL with the Preferred Package, which comes with Bluetooth connectivity, rear park assist, driver seat memory positioning and a heated steering wheel. Another interesting choice is the Elite Package. It changes the car's rear seating area into a more comfortable two-passenger setup with a center console and rear sunshade. Maximas with the Elite package are pricey, though, as Nissan bundles in the Preferred Package and, on the SE, the Sensory Package. Main standalone options for the car include a navigation system, satellite radio and a traditional sunroof.

INTERIOR & SAFETY

It may be a midsize sedan, but the 2007 Nissan Maxima's interior feels downright cavernous front and rear. The front seats are wide and accommodating, though finding an optimal driving position can be difficult. The dashboard features a sleek and modern design. In years past, the center stack was marred by some poor ergonomics, but Nissan has largely rectified the situation for '07. Trunk space measures 15.5 cubic feet, which is very competitive for a family sedan. One of our lingering complaints about the Maxima's cabin is the mediocre build and materials quality. For a car priced at the $30,000 mark, there are still a few too many low-grade plastics and fit-and-finish miscues.

Standard safety features include traction control, four-wheel antilock disc brakes with brake assist and electronic brakeforce distribution, front seat-mounted side airbags and full-length head curtain airbags. A stability control system is optional. In NHTSA tests, the Maxima earned five stars (out of a possible five) for driver protection in frontal impacts. Front-passenger protection is rated at four stars in frontal impacts, as is front- and rear-occupant protection in side impacts. The IIHS gave the car a top "Good" rating after conducting its frontal offset crash; however, the sedan earned only a "Marginal" rating (second lowest) in IIHS side-impact testing.

2007 Nissan  Maxima Picture
2007 Nissan  Maxima Picture
2007 Nissan  Maxima Picture

PERFORMANCE & HANDLING

The front-drive Maxima comes with a 3.5-liter V6 engine rated for 255 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) with a manual mode is standard.

The 2007 Nissan Maxima feels as quick as ever, with brisk response off the line and a broad midrange that the transmission fully exploits. At the same time, though, the absence of conventional shift points takes some of the fun out of driving. The manual mode does a decent job of simulating shifts (even re-creating the "positive" shift quality expected in a sport sedan), but with "upshifts" coming in promptly at redline, it's no substitute for the real thing. Although the Maxima's suspension provides a smooth, comfortable ride, the car lacks the true performance feel expected of a self-proclaimed sport sedan. The steering is communicative and well weighted, but many competing sedans provide a better feel for the road. In addition, under hard acceleration, the Maxima does exhibit some torque steer, an annoyance that's better controlled in other front-drive competitors. The brakes, at least, are strong and easy to modulate.

VERDICT

Although the 2007 Nissan Maxima offers a likable combination of performance, luxury and interior room, there are now many good sedans in this price range. And some, like the VW Passat and Acura TSX, outpace the Nissan in handling and interior refinement.

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