Seven generations of Maximas have built a strong foundation for the newest Maxima model. According to the magazine reviews, Nissan’s flagship is a lean, elegant sedan with a mother lode of standard luxury features, a smooth engine, rock-steady operation, and a feeling of complete control.
But don’t run down to today’s newsstand looking for those quotes. It was 35 years ago that the editors of Road & Track, Car and Driver, Motor Trend, and Popular Science penned those words of praise for what was then the Datsun 810 Maxima.
Through seven generations since that time, Maxima has continued to provide customers with a unique blend of styling, luxury, and performance. In fact, Maxima is second only to the Z-car as the longest-running nameplate in the history of Nissan.
It’s also a strong contributor to the Nissan brand image, with one of the highest loyalty ratings among Nissan vehicles. As Maxima’s eighth generation is about to begin, take a look back at Maxima’s proud history.
IN THE BEGINNING
Maxima was introduced in 1980 as a 1981 model. At the start, it was a trim level of the Datsun 810, featuring a 120-hp in-line 6-cylinder engine. It was the first high-volume 6-cylinder Japanese sedan.
“The Maxima is loaded for American bear,” wrote Car and Driver at the time. “Gimmicks, comforts, and competences are everywhere, and delivered in a very handsome package.”
When the 2nd-generation model arrived for the 1985 model year, Maxima started making its mark. For the first time, it featured front-wheel drive and a V6 engine.
Motor Trend called the engine “a wonder of smoothness, with a broad power curve.” Car and Driver called the engine “a real sweetheart” and also said Maxima’s brakes were “phenomenal, spot on in front-rear balance.” With a “crisp-shifting” 5-speed manual transmission, “its ability to hustle traffic is a revelation.”
The rest of Maxima lived up to its powerplant, being “easy and predictable to drive” with “comfortable and supportive seats . . . excellent leg room . . . [an] absolutely huge trunk,” according to Road & Track. All in all, the magazine found the new Maxima SE “an exceptional value in its class, offering a high level of performance and luxury for the price.”
MAKING THE TEN BEST
In 1989, Maxima was redesigned again, this time with the U.S. market in mind. The 3rd-generation version became the 4-Door Sports Car, establishing a new performance benchmark for its segment.
Car and Driver named Maxima to its Ten Best list in January 1990, quickly followed by a May 1990 vote as the Best Buy in sport sedans. “Maxima leads the pack in refinement and execution,” the magazine declared. “In sum, the Maxima SE is a supremely comfortable, thoroughly refined sports sedan that offers the best mix of quality, space, performance, and value available . . . you owe it to yourself to drive one.”
The praise was just beginning. Road & Track declared the Maxima SE among The Ten Best Cars in the World for 1991. Automobile named it to its All-Stars list.
The 4th-generation Maxima followed in 1994 as a 1995 model. It was built on a new platform, featuring the patented Multi-Link Beam rear suspension and Nissan’s 3.0-liter VQ V6 engine, producing a then-impressive 190 horsepower. It was an immediate hit with the press.
Motor Trend named Maxima its 1995 Import Car of the Year. Maxima was also the choice of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance as Best New Car for 1995. And in January 1995, the editors of Ward’s Auto World and Ward’s Engine and Vehicle Technology Update included Maxima’s V6 engine in their first 10 Best Engines list.
Maxima made Automobile’s All-Stars list in 1995, as well as Car and Driver’s annual list of Ten Best Cars for 1995 and 1996. Kiplinger’s 1996 Buyer’s Guide called Maxima SE Best in Class in its price range.
THE DAWN OF A NEW CENTURY
Maxima continued to evolve with the introduction of the 5th-generation Maxima for the 2000 model year. It was positioned as the “cut above” sedan that provides an inspiring blend of luxury and performance. Two years after its debut it received Nissan’s legendary 3.5-liter VQ V6, which would also be featured in the 350Z when it was introduced a year later.
This generation set off another round of praise. Road & Track named Maxima the winner in a comparison test with the heavyweights of the sedan class, beating Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Taurus, and Pontiac Grand Prix. “Maxima nearly swept our instrumented performance categories,” the magazine noted, and “Maxima’s equally strong showing in the subjective rankings speaks of its well-rounded nature.”
The next step up was the 2004 Maxima, which for the first time was assembled in the U.S. It used the same platform as Altima, but re-positioned as the premium sedan with the soul of a sports car.
For 2009, Maxima was completely restyled to emphasize its performance personality. Its aggressive design reasserted Maxima’s 4-Door Sports Car personality and sophistication, further distancing it from Altima.
THE FUTURE IS NOW
Over the past 35 years, Maxima has carved out a unique place in the midsize sedan market. Maxima offers style, luxury, and performance that sets it apart from the sedans of other mainstream manufacturers. Maxima also offers the premium appeal of luxury nameplates without the luxury price tag. And it offers sports-car-like performance that puts it in a class of its own.
Now the 8th-generation Maxima is poised to set even higher standards for design, performance, and luxury.
Source: Nissan Virtual Academy