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2000 Nissan Maxima SE

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SAN FRANCISCO: I don’t know about you but I wasn’t overjoyed when I heard that Renault had bought a big chunk of Nissan. A French and Japanese mixture doesn’t have me drooling in anticipation. But then again, Nissan needs something to jolt them out of the doldrums they’ve 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.

It’s not that Nissan doesn’t 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 can’t match the sales figures of its main competitors - Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. More’s the pity.

The Maxima SE is a fine sports sedan, definitely worthy of the title. Starting with the engine, without which there wouldn’t 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. That’s 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 themselves.

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. Pretty decent.

But don’t think of the Maxima SE as just some straight line sweetie. It’s 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 didn’t wring the Maxima out to its maximum. Still, most of the Maxima’s 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 we’ve 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 driver’s 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. I’m not sure how I feel about it. On the one hand the rear is a bold statement. On the other hand, I’m not sure what the statement is. I think the rear generates too much interest, making you look there instead of savoring the complete package. You’ll 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 I’d have to liken it to the Ford Contour SVT. It’s 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

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