SAN FRANCISCO: I
dont know about you but I wasnt overjoyed when I heard that Renault had bought
a big chunk of Nissan. A French and Japanese mixture doesnt have me drooling in
anticipation. But then again, Nissan needs something to jolt them out of the doldrums
theyve been in. Somehow, somewhere, the company that brought us the fantastic Zs and
the original 510 has lost that certain something they used to have. Maybe a little Gallic
infusion will help.
Its not that Nissan
doesnt have some very respectable vehicles. Case in point, the 2000 Maxima SE. The
Maxima SE has always been a fine car (in fact it could be argued that it was the first
Japanese sports sedan) but somehow it just cant match the sales figures of its main
competitors - Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Mores the pity.
The Maxima SE is a fine
sports sedan, definitely worthy of the title. Starting with the engine, without which
there wouldnt be much sport in the sedan, we find a 3.0-liter, DOHC, V6 that puts
out a very respectable 222 horsepower through a five-speed manual transmission.
Thats more horsepower than either the Accord or Camry V6 and on par with the Acura
3.2TL and Lexus ES300. The manual transmission is standard and an automatic is optional,
instead of the normal reverse. People who drive sports sedans like to shift for
The powertrain combination
provides 0-60 mph acceleration of 7.0 seconds, does the quarter mile in 15.4 seconds, tops
out at 131 mph, and garners EPA fuel economy ratings of 21 mpg city and 27 mpg highway.
But dont think of the
Maxima SE as just some straight line sweetie. Its more at home on the twisties than
the drag strip. Thanks in part to 215/55R16 wheels and tires, and a suspension tuned for
handling, the Maxima SE might embarrass plenty of pure sports cars on the back roads.
Nissan took a fair bit of criticism a few years ago when they abandoned the independent
rear suspension (IRS) in favor of a simpler (and cheaper to build) rear beam axle. 90% of
drivers will never notice. Unfortunately the other 10% are very demanding and they miss
the old IRS. I never noticed the loss but then I didnt wring the Maxima out to its
maximum. Still, most of the Maximas competitors have IRS.
Inside the Maxima SE is
every inch a luxury sports sedan. Comfortable seating for four (five will fit), a very
nice, analog gauge set, and a shifter that is right there. It also has all the luxury
touches weve all come to expect such as cruise control, power windows/door locks,
tilt steering column, tinted glass, remote keyless entry as well as unique titanium-tinted
gauges w/reverse lighting (the gauges change color at night), and a height adjustable
center armrest (file this under "huh?").
Added to my test car was
the SE Comfort & Convenience Package (sunroof with one touch control), 8-way power
drivers seat, integrated HomeLink Transceiver, Variable Intermittent wipers (versus
2-speed basic), and a 200 watt Bose Audio System. Good stuff.
One area where the 2000
Maxima SE generates mixed comments is its styling. While the front is relatively benign
(the headlamps do have a sort of Kabuki raised eyebrow look), the rear gets people
talking. Im not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand the rear is a bold
statement. On the other hand, Im not sure what the statement is. I think the rear
generates too much interest, making you look there instead of savoring the complete
package. Youll have to decide for yourself.
Overall the Maxima SE is my
kind of car. Fun, comfortable, suave enough to polish my image. After careful
consideration Id have to liken it to the Ford Contour SVT. Its slightly bigger
(and more comfortable inside because of the size). All it needs is a more raucous exhaust,
the better to show off its hidden anti-social side.
Out the door the Maxima SE
listed for $26,746, including California/NLEV emissions against a base of $23,649. Not a
bad deal. Try one. By Bruce Hotchkiss © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Nissan Home Page
Byline: By Bruce Hotchkiss © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Column Name: The First Japanese Sports Sedan
Topic: 2000 Nissan Maxima SE
Word Count: 685
Photo Caption: 2000 Nissan Maxima SE
Photo Credits: Nissan PR
Series #: 1999 - 56