The History Of Nissan Maxima

The Nissan Maxima is a Full-size car (formerly mid-size) manufactured by Nissan that is sold in the United States and Canada. The Maxima debuted in 1976 as an upscale version of the Bluebird and was spun into its own line in 1980, having been made continuously since then. Most pre-2004 Maximas were built in Oppama, Japan, until the current North American Maximas started being assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee.

The Maxima models are also known as Nissan Cefiro or Nissan Laurel in various markets. The US-spec Maxima shares the FF-L and D platforms with the Nissan Altima and Nissan Teana; the Teana is often exported as the Nissan Cefiro or Nissan Maxima to other markets (not to be confused with the US-spec Maxima).

The Maxima model line began with the Nissan Bluebird Maxima, which was available in the US as Datsun 810 from February 1977. It was powered by two versions of the SOHC L-series I6 engine, a 2.0L displacement for the Japanese market and a 2.4L (as found in the Datsun 240Z) for the US market. The Bluebird Maxima used a carburetor for the base model and fuel injection for the sporty version. The 2.0L engine was good for 122PS JIS (90kW), while the bigger American engine could reach 125hp SAE (93kW). The sporty version channeled power through a five speed manual transmission. These cars were rear-wheel drive and had a semi-trailing arm rear suspension. The station wagon variant had the rear live axle for load carrying reasons.

The 2-door coupe version was introduced in 1979 along with an exterior refresh, and was available in the Maxima lineup in the Datsun 810 only. The new Datsun 280ZX shared the 810's chassis, though the 810 did not get that car's larger 2.8L engine.

The first car to wear the Maxima name was introduced in 1981. It was essentially a Japanese-market Bluebird 910 with a 3.9in (99mm) longer nose. The car was offered as the 810 Deluxe or 810 Maxima that first year, and all 810s became Maximas for 1982. In 1984, the last year of the first generation Maxima, American Datsuns began carrying the "Nissan" badge as well (only 1984 Nissans have both "Nissan" and "Datsun" on the back of the car). Toyota responded to the introduction of the Maxima with the Japanese market Toyota Mark II and named the car the Toyota Cressida.

Powered by the same 2.4L I6 engine as the previous Datsun 810 and Datsun 240Z, the car was still rear-wheel drive. It was also available with the LD28 OHC 2.8L I6 Diesel engine (available in the US from mid-1981 through 1983) with either 5 speed manual or automatic transmission.

Some of the power steering pumps were sourced from General Motors' Saginaw Gear division, while others were sources from Atsugi. This was the second Nissan to use US-sourced parts besides the Borg-Warner T-5 transmission used in the 82-89 Nissan ZX Turbo's.

In the fall of 1984, the first front-wheel drive Maxima (based on the Bluebird U11) was introduced. This Maxima was available with a 154hp (119kW) 3.0L VG30E V6 engine and a 4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual transmission. This engine was shared in the naturally aspirated 300ZX and was the first V6 engine to be mass produced from Japan. The second generation was assigned the compact status. 1988 was the last year for the station wagon, which had been offered since the Datsun 810 days. In late 1986, the 1987 Maxima was introduced with a freshened exterior and interior. Automatic shoulder belts were now found on both the 1987 sedan and wagons built after February 1987. Luxury amenities were offered on both the "base" GL, later renamed GXE and SE trim levels. Such features for the GL/ GXE included digital touch entry system on the driver and passenger side door panel, power windows, locks, antenna, power seats, remote trunk release, voice warning system, optional leather seating, an optional Electronics Pkg(a sedan exclusive, it included a digital instruments and a trip computer) and an optional power sunroof (sunroof was standard on Maxima wagons). 15" alloy wheels are standard for the Maxima. An exclusive option for 1988 was the Sonar Suspension System -which was part of the Electronics Pkg- replacing the trip computer that was previously offered. 1988 was also the year that the previously standard digital touch system offered on the GXE sedan became part of the Electronics Pkg option as well. It replaced the onboard trip computer that was previously offered. This feature used sonar waves to monitor the road conditions ahead and adjustable the shocks for the most controlled ride. The SE (and some GXE) offered dual power seats, a five-speed manual transmission, 3-way shock adjust suspension, front and rear windshield defroster and a factory-installed security system. The SE also has a small rear spoiler, 4-wheel disc brakes, black side rear view mirrors and body molding (GXE got body color side rear view mirrors and matching body molding. Again, the Maxima's prime competitor was the similar-specification Toyota Cressida. Maxima provided a combination of luxury and sporty features while the Cressida was generally seen as being more luxurious.

The Maxima was redesigned in 1989 as the J30 (not to be confused with the unrelated Infiniti J30) model. Bigger dimensions made it the second Japanese sedan sold in the USA to qualify as a "mid-size" (after the Mazda 929); it was also the first Japanese car to exceed Japan's 67in (1701.8mm) width restriction, making it fairly comfortable for the rear three passengers. Surprisingly, weight actually decreased slightly from the former generation. Nissan called the new Maxima a 4-Door Sports Car and even gave it a "4DSC" window decal showing this. Some say this Maxima helped start the rebirth of sporty curves in the family sedan; it was considered by some to be quite striking in its day.

The Maxima now featured a 160hp (119kW) 3.0L V6, with a 190hp (142kW) VE30DE engine standard on the SE model starting in 1992. The VG30E was a unit that had been used in the previous Maxima, as well as the first generation Nissan 300ZX. An interesting feature was the digital touch entry system on the GXE (in conjunction with the new Luxury Package)offered a feature that permitted the windows to be lowered and the moon roof opened without the key in the ignition. In the United States, the VG30E engine was used on all 1989-1994 GXE models and 1989-1991 SE models.

The VE30DE engine, plus a limited-slip differential, became standard on the SE models in 1992. The SE models can be further distinguished from the GXE by their white-faced gauges, twisted spoke turbine wheels, body colored grille's, twin-tip mufflers, factory smoked tail lights, black trim instead of chrome, firmer sport suspensions, variable timing cams, variable intake manifold (5-speed only) and optional 5-speed manual transmissions, which weren't offered on any of the GXE models. The automatic transmission on all GXE's (RE4F02A) was an innovative compact unit from Jatco, which featured 'sport' and 'comfort' modes that shifted at different points. The 1992-1994 SE received an optional automatic transmission (RE4F04V) that had stronger internals but kept the 'sport' and 'comfort' modes. The SE also had a rear spoiler and black side mirrors whereas the GXE has body color side mirrors.

During this year, the Maxima was first introduced to the European market, replacing the Laurel. For European markets, the model range was:

  • 3.0
  • 3.0 S
  • 3.0 SE

All European and Australian variants had automatic transmissions and the VG30E Engine only.

Versions sold in Japan had manual transmission as an option in addition to the automatic transmission that was standard in Europe, North America and Australia. Maximas sold in New Zealand had manual versions as well.

The Maxima SE was on Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 1990.

Unlike later models, the Nissan J30 had an independent rear suspension that was absent from the Maxima until the 2004 models.

The car was redesigned again in 1995 as the A32. A new VQ30DE 190hp (142kW), 205lb·ft (278N·m) tq 3.0L V6 was the only engine option for the North American market. The VQ30DE's smooth, powerful acceleration and long-term durability helped it earn a first spot on the Ward's 10 Best Engine List, and the VQ has now been recognized consecutively for every year since its introduction (as of 2008, 14 years running). The engines have also responded well to forced induction when utilizing low to mid boost range levels when a turbo or supercharger is added. The independent rear suspension of the previous generation was replaced with a lighter and cheaper torsion bar solid axle system.

The Maximas primary competitor, the Toyota Cressida is replaced by the FWD Toyota Avalon, a stretched version of the Toyota Camry introduced in 1994.

The exterior was refreshed for 1997, with new 5-spoke alloy wheels, plastic (clear-lens) headlights, a slightly different front and rear fascia with new taillights, foglights and badge designs, and a chrome grille insert for GLE's (body color for SE models) was added. Among interior changes were a different steering wheel and CD player. Front seat-mounted side impact airbags were added as an option for 1998 and 1999 SE and GLE models. There were also structural modifications to improve crash worthiness for the 1997 to 1999 models. The 1999 Nissan Maxima saw some minor changes: an anti-theft engine immobilizer was standard, as well as the '99 Maxima actually had some minor body trims, and a '99 was the only 4th generation with optional traction control.

The North American 1995 Maxima included a Bose sound system on the GLE (optional on the SE) which had a 6 speaker sound system, a Clarion system was also an option (non-Bose). The fourth generation Maxima was highly praised for its roomy interior.

This Maxima was Motor Trend's Import Car of the Year for 1995. The Maxima SE again made Car and Driver magazine's Ten Best list for 1995 and 1996.

The Maxima was one of the few 4 door, V6 cars at the time with an option for a manual transmission (as opposed to the automatic-only Toyota Avalon, Mazda Millenia, Chevrolet Lumina, Dodge Intrepid, etc). This is one of the reasons it is popular for some people who want a cheap, spacious car that can still be quick. In addition, this version of the Maxima is the most popular with tuners or modders because of its manual transmission, low price and performance parts availability.

This particular generation was sold in Japan as the Nissan Cefiro A32, which previously was a separate rear-wheel drive car (see A31 Cefiro). For the Japanese market, a Cefiro-badged station wagon was also available. One version of the Cefiro (Brougham VIP spec) was sold in the US as the Infiniti I30, yet the Cefiro had subtle differences including different fog light arrangements, one-piece headlights and a few assorted engine options (VQ20/ 25/ 30DE).

This generation was also sold as the Maxima QX in Europe and other parts of the world, and was mostly identical to the Japanese Cefiro except for minor trim differences.

The 2000 Maxima (designated A33) which shares a chassis found surprisingly on the Nissan Skyline BNR34 the 4-door model which the Exhaust system was derived from the GT-R. Was a refresh of the previous car, designed at Nissan's La Jolla, California design studio. The engine was a 222hp (166kW) 3.0L VQ30DE V6. This variant of the VQ30DE was referred to the VQ30DE-K. In this variation, there were three models (GXE, GLE, and SE). The "GXE" was the base Maxima. The GLE was the "luxury" variant and had 16 inch wheels. The GLE was the basis for the Infiniti I30, (JDM Nissan Cefiro). A 2001 20th Anniversary edition got an increase of 5hp (4kW), different interior treatment, body kit, special wheels and other tweaks. The fifth-generation Maximas have a number of common problems: ignition coils, MAF sensor, TPS (Throttle position sensor) and IACV-AAC (Idle control valve). Users should be particularly aware of the IACV problem which can short out the ECM leading to a very costly repair. All of these faults trigger the check engine light.

In 2002, the engine was replaced for the whole lineup with a 3.5L VQ35DE that produced 255hp (190kW) and 246lb·ft (334N·m) of torque. In addition, the model got a slight refresh with a larger grille opening, headlamps with high-intensity discharge (HID) low beams, a six-speed manual transmission with optional helical Torsen limited-slip differential, revised 17 inch six-spoke wheels on the SE models, new 17 inch seven spoke wheels on the GLE models, clear taillights, and some interior and exterior refinements over the 2000 to 2001 models. In 2003, there was a special package called the Titanium Edition with special wheels and interior treatment, as well as a Meridian Edition package which included heated seats and steering wheel (most of the time leather, although some were available with heated cloth), and a GPS navigation system. The Titanium Edition was available in all colors, but a new color was available only with the Titanium Edition (Polished Titanium). The last generation Maxima GLE was the basis for the Infiniti I35. In Russia, the Maxima is being sold as Nissan Maxima QX.

In 2002, the third-generation Altima, based on the Nissan FF-L platform, surpassed the Maxima in size. This new Altima was a considerable success in the highly competitive midsize segment, so that would push the next Maxima upmarket.

The sixth generation Maxima, code-named A34, shares the platform with the third generation Nissan Altima, in addition to several other Nissan models. It regained the distinction of Nissan's largest car in North America. This Maxima and the Altima are only sold in the United States, Canada and Mexico (other markets have the related Nissan Teana which is between the Altima and Maxima in terms of size). In the US, it comes with the venerable VQ35DE, a DOHC V6 engine that now produces 265hp (198kW).

Interestingly, in Australia, the Maxima has the same engine, but Nissan has set the maximum power to only 170kW (228hp). The Australian version is code-named J31 (however it is almost a completely different car other than the VQ engine), initially only came with a four-speed automatic transmission, and obviously has quite noticeable styling differences to the North American version. In 2007, it received a minor mid-life facelift and an all new CVT automatic transmission. However, SE models can be had with an optional five-speed automatic transmission. A six-speed manual is still standard on some models.

The rear independent suspension returns, this time using a multilink setup similar to the Altima.

A smaller Maxima, from 2003, is sold in the Asia-Pacific region (as well as in Australia) and based on the Nissan Teana. In some markets, it is sold as the Nissan Cefiro. It is built on the standard FF-L platform of the Altima/ US Maxima combined with certain pieces of the JM Nissan Presage design same as the Nissan Teana previously mentioned. The American Maxima is known for a balance between sport and luxury; other models tend to focus more on comfort.

For 2007, the U.S. Maxima became available with a standard Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) (similar to the CVT in Nissan's Murano) as the only transmission choice, a manual transmission is no longer offered. It features a freshened front fascia (now lacking the center block, the new grill closely resembles that of the 2007 Altima). Headlights are also more squared around the edges.

For 2008, the Maxima's fuel economy drops from 21/ 28 to 19/ 25 due to new EPA measurement methods. A Platinum Edition package of convenience features is added for 2008 on both SE and SL trim levels.

See also: Nissan Teana for a slightly related Japanese spec car designated J31.

The Maxima was redesigned for the 2009 model year and made its debut at the 2008 New York International Auto Show. The newest Maxima (A36) is built on the Nissan D platform sharing this platform with the fourth generation Nissan Altima and second generation Nissan Murano. The exterior and interior design are somewhat similar to the Infiniti G and Infiniti M, with an updated navigation interface and optional iPod interface system that works with the main console monitor and steering wheel controls. It will come equipped with a revised version of the VQ35DE engine producing 290horsepower (220kW), however it requires premium unleaded fuel. A revised version of Nissan's Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) with paddle shifting will be the only transmission offered (no manual). A diesel version is expected to be released for the 2010 model year. The new Maxima will be offered in S and SV trims with several premium and technology packages available. The seventh-generation Maxima also marks the return of the "4-door sports car" but with no corresponding decals on the rear side windows. The current Maxima's design trades unneeded height and length for sleeker styling, although the width has been increased slightly. The keyless ignition now uses a push button start. In the U.S., the seventh generation Maxima went on sale in late June 2008.

Performance:[citation needed]

  • 0 - 60 mph: 5.8 sec.
  • 0-60 mph with 1-ft Rollout: 5.2 sec.
  • Skid Pad Lateral acceleration: 0.85 g
  • 1/ 4 Mile: 14.5 sec. @ 98mph (158km/ h)
  • 60 - 0 mph: 128feet (39m)

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