By Chris Chase, Autos.ca
Since the creation of Nissan’s upscale Infiniti brand, Nissan’s own Maxima has become a bit of a black sheep. What used to be the company’s nicest car now plays second fiddle to a whole line of vehicles that play in a higher bracket.
The entry-level Infiniti G35 sedan made it easy to forget about the Maxima, considering the Infiniti has historically been priced just a few thousand dollars higher than the Nissan. Certainly, the Maxima deserves a better fate than to languish in the shadow of the G35.
The sixth-generation Maxima was introduced in 2003 as a 2004 model. As with the car it replaced – and that pesky G35 – the new Maxima used Nissan’s excellent 3.5-litre V6, tuned here to produce 265 horsepower. Transmission choices were a six-speed manual and a four- or five-speed automatic. One neat feature was the choice of a two- or three-place rear seat.
The four-speed auto disappeared in 2005, supplanted by the five-speed, which gained a manual-shift mode. In 2007, Nissan felt there was no longer enough demand for a manual transmission in the Maxima, so it was dropped. In fact, both of the previous conventional trannies were ditched for Nissan’s continuously variable transmission (CVT), these days a mainstay of the company’s powertrains. The engine also lost 10 horsepower, for a total of 255.
The five-speed auto didn’t do much to affect fuel consumption, but 2007′s CVT made a small difference: that car’s ratings are 11.1 L/100 km (city) and 7.8 L/100 km (highway).In 2004, the Maxima earned Natural Resources Canada fuel consumption ratings of 11.5 L/100 km (city) and 7.3 L/100 km (highway) with a manual transmission and 11.6 L/100 km (city) and 7.9 L/100 km (highway) with the four-speed automatic.
The 2007 model also got some minor cosmetic changes, the most significant of which was the elimination of the big chrome “tooth” in the middle of grille.
Reliability has been okay – Consumer Reports gives the Maxima an average used-vehicle rating – and there are a number of mostly minor bugs to look out for.
A problem with cracked sidewalls on the original-equipment Goodyear RSA tires – Goodyear’s problem more than Nissan’s – is one thing to look for on low-mileage models (that still have the original tires; see two other threads on this topic, here and here). Note that with most used examples, the original tires will be long gone, so this problem likely won’t concern you. Check what tires are on the cars you look at.
The five-speed automatic transmission available in early cars is prone to rough and abnormal shifting. There’s an aftermarket fix that you can read about here. Otherwise, the Maxima’s transmissions – six-speed manual and CVT – appear to be solid.
There’s a problem too with noisy front suspension struts on 2004 models. Click here for a discussion, plus a poll of Maxima.org members on the topic.
If the sunroof leaks, read this thread.
And here you’ll find a list of how-tos, a few of which deal with solutions to minor problems.
Consumer Reports notes issues with brakes, suspension and climate control systems in sixth-gen Maximas, mostly in early (2004 and 2005) model year cars. CR also points a finger at paint/body trim and interior quality (squeaks and rattles) as sources of trouble. They list a 2004 Maxima as a so-so used car buy, but 2005 and newer models get an above-average rating.
The sixth-generation Maxima (2004-2008) earned a “good” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) for its performance in that organization’s frontal offset crash test. In side impact tests, though, it earned a “marginal” rating.
According to Canadian Black Book, used sixth-generation Maxima values start at $10,275 for a 2004 SE with manual transmission and top out at $24,150 for a 2008 SL with navigation. Close to the middle, a 2006 SE with automatic, leather and sunroof is worth $15,700. If you care to cross-shop the Maxima with the Infiniti G35, a 2004 sedan is worth $11,500, and a 2008 with sunroof is valued at $26,450.In National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) tests, the 2004 Maxima earned five stars for driver protection and four for front passenger protection in frontal crash tests, and four stars apiece for front and rear seat occupant protection in side impact tests. Those ratings are the same for Maxima models through 2007.
For some, the Infiniti might be the better value, considering its swankier image. It may also be the better car, period, for a number of reasons. Then, of course, there’s the Altima, which can be kitted out almost as nicely as a Maxima and usually be had for less money.
None of this makes a used Maxima a poor choice, but both the G35 and Altima are good alternatives and may prove to be better value. If you do choose a Maxima, be aware that 2004 models are more trouble-prone than newer cars. When test-driving, pay close attention to the operation of the automatic transmission in 2004 through 2006 models, and a check-up by a trustworthy mechanic wouldn’t go amiss.
Black Book Pricing (avg. retail) April, 2011:
|Year||Model||Price today||Price new|
|2008||Maxima SE (with optional sunroof)||$22,200||$36,998|
|2007||Maxima SE (with optional sunroof)||$18,575||$36,398|
|2006||Maxima SE (with sunroof and automatic transmission)||$15,450||$36,398|
|2005||Maxima SE (with sunroof and automatic transmission)||$12,900||$35,798|
|2004||Maxima SE (with sunroof and automatic transmission)||$11,225||$35,600|
By far, Maxima.org is the best site I found while trolling around for information. The forums are split up according to generation, and while the sixth-gen section is far from the busiest here (most of the attention goes to the fourth- and fifth-gen cars), there is a lot of useful information to be had, including a handy thread detailing some common issues plus a pretty handy how-to thread. The Maxima forum at NicoClub.com has a lot of information, but it lumps all generations together. NissanClub.com has a sixth-gen forum, but it’s not as busy as the one at Maxima.org.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2006271; Units affected: 135
2007: Certain vehicles fail to comply with the requirements of CMVSS 114 – Locking and Immobilization Systems. The steering wheel lock may engage with the ignition in the “OFF” position, even if the transmission is out of the “PARK” position. Correction: Dealers will inspect and, if required, replace the steering wheel lock assembly.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2006040; Units affected: 32 (includes other models)
2006: The die used for stamping the rear suspension subframe was out of specification during three days of production. As a result, the thickness of the attachment bracket for the rear lower link may be less than the minimum specification. This could result in a crack forming in the attachment bracket. If a crack propagates through the bracket, the rear lower link may separate from the bracket. Under certain severe driving conditions, stability of the vehicle may be compromised, leading to a loss of vehicle control. Correction: Dealers will inspect and, if required, replace the rear suspension subframe.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2005341; Units affected: 11,873
2004-2006: On certain vehicles equipped with a driver seat power lumbar support, if the wire harness from the lumbar switch is routed incorrectly, the harness could be pinched or chafed against the structural parts on the underside of the seat when the seat is in the full-down position. An electrical short could ignite the harness cover and cause a fire. Correction: Dealers will replace the lumbar wire harness.
Transport Canada Recall Number: 2004217; Units affected: 2,774
2004: On certain vehicles, the glass for the Skyview Roof may not have been quenched properly after the forming process resulting in temper imbalance. This could create extensive internal stress in the glass and eventually cause the glass to shatter. Correction: Dealers will replace the Skyview Roof glass.
Crash test results
Used vehicle prices vary depending on factors such as general condition, odometer reading, usage history and options fitted. Always have a used vehicle checked by an experienced auto technician before you buy.
For information on vehicle service bulletins issued by the manufacturer, visit www.nhtsa.dot.gov.
For information on consumer complaints about specific models, see www.lemonaidcars.com.