New Maxima is bigger, more stylish

3 April 2000: by Brian Byrne.

At its best, the old Nissan Maxima QX only sold around 200 copies in a year, and that was three or four years ago. The new one has just been launched, with Ireland the first market in Europe to get it, and Nissan Ireland are expecting to move up to 350 copies in the rest of this year alone.

That's ambitious, and reflects the difference which the new car shows over its predecessor. It is larger, inside and out. It is significantly better looking. In fact, people notice it already when they see it. Which is something they didn't much do with the older, blander car.

I've always liked Maxima. It has always been an underrated car in Ireland, I've felt. And the 2-litre V6 engine introduced in the last version was really a super unit. Still is, and is the 'entry' motor for the latest QX too. The other is the familiar 3-litre V6, with uprated power now.

The styling in the new version is very American, and obviously made for that market (where the car is sold under the Infiniti brand as the 130, and only with the 3-litre engine; I won't depress you with the price). But it should attract buyers here too, because the Maxima now has the 'presence' which those whom it is aimed at (upper executive) require. Sure, it's very difficult today to sell a mass-market manufacturer's big car against the 'name' brands like BMW and M-B. Opel manage it with their Omega, particularly in Germany, where there are more rich business people who don't necessarily want to flaunt it (hence the availability of a 5-litre V8 version of the Omega).

And if you want to have the higher-level QX here, you're not flaunting it either, because the 3-litre differs externally only by the addition of a small '3.0' badge in front the of 'V6' which adorns the bootlids of all. Anyway, 90% of QXs sold here will be 2-litres.

I've driven the car briefly. Liked its smoothness, and quietness, and how it loped comfortably across very indifferent and winding mountain roads to its Aughrim launch location. It won't burn rubber and isn't intended to, but when pushed at corners under power it showed the same kind of dynamic handling and ride responses that smaller sibling Primera is famous for. On the launch day, I managed 25mpg, but the manufacturers say a combined figure of 30 is likely (the engines were still tight on cars that had only arrived in Ireland two days before).

Holding people and their goods it does very well, with substantially more room front and aft, and a boot that's truly cavernous with 18% more capacity than in the previous car. I'd consider it £28,000 reasonably spent, with high specs that include climate control, four airbags, ABS and electronic brake distribution, a 6-changer CD unit in the boot, and electrics beyond the average. You can have leather for £2,000 extra, Xenon gas headlamps, and a few other bits as options. The 3-litre is the guts of £37,000.

Well done, Nissan. You now have a flagship that looks the part. I look forward to a closer examination in due course. I notice there's no mention of a curry hook.

Nissan Maxima facts: 2.0- and 3-litre petrol; 5-speed manual or 4-speed auto (standard in 3-litre); saloon; price range £26,995-£36,495.


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