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2004 Nissan Maxima

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San Francisco: It was only a few years ago when Nissan teetered on the brink of bankruptcy, nearly committing corporate suicide with a lineup of stale, flavorless sedans and generally unimpressive trucks. It was a sad sight, indeed. Nissan knew it needed a miracle to stay alive as a company, and that's what it appears to be getting today.

Over the last two years it managed to muster a pair of home runs - no, more like grand slams - with the redesigned Altima and sporty 350Z. Drawing on this newfound popularity, Nissan set out to redesign its 2004 Maxima as an upscale near luxury sedan with a sporty personality. Just like the hot selling Altima, it has an athletic stance with dramatic curves and muscular haunches, along with a powerful engine, sharp handling, and a stylish, roomy cabin.

In fact, its greatest strength - that it copies the Altima's best parts - may also be its greatest weakness. The Maxima is only slightly larger than the Altima and, despite its clear attempt at looking and feeling sporty, doesn't quite match the smaller Altima's impressive performance.

But the Maxima offers some distinct advantages. Among these, most noticeable is it’s styling, which features a more coupe like curved roof, sportier lines, and swoopier body panels than the Altima. Along with the performance oriented style comes a little bit of prestige too, especially since Nissan only expects to sell a relatively small number of Maximas compared with the Altima.

The most important difference however is in the Maxima's cabin, where wonderfully sumptuous materials give it a feeling almost as fabulous as in a full-blown luxury sedan. Its door panels are covered in a suede like material similar to that in extremely expensive Mercedes Benz models, and the dash on our test vehicle was exquisitely assembled and rattle free.

Most controls are located where drivers would expect them, and the gauges are particularly stylish and readable. However, buyers who don't like superfluous technology could be turned off by the Maxima's in dash control screen and multitude of switches and buttons.

One option that sets the Maxima apart from other mid size sedans is the "elite package," which puts a classy center console between two heated bucket seats in the rear and adds a power rear sunshade. It makes the back seat feel like it's actually meant for adults, but it costs a hefty $6,400 on the sporty SE and $3,550 on the luxurious SL model.

While the Maxima's performance is not quite as neck snapping as the less expensive Altima, it's still worth noting. Nissan's award winning 3.5-liter V6 engine is responsive and smooth as it makes 265 horsepower, and brakes feel safe and competent.

How the Maxima handles depends on which version you pick, LE or SL. The LE model has a slightly firmer and sportier ride than the SL, which is geared toward luxury buyers who want a soft and comfortable ride. People who love the thrill of driving should opt for the LE because its suspension gives the driver a little more feedback from the road and, consequently, a little more excitement.

Prices seem just right for Nissan's upscale sedan. At $26,950 for a Maxima LE, it costs significantly less than a similar BMW 5 series and not much more than a well-equipped Altima.

All in all, the Maxima's mix of luxury and performance is impressive, especially for the price. It probably won't be a grand slam in the showroom like the Altima and 350Z, but it's definitely enough to give Nissan a couple more RBIs.

Why buy it? It's like the new Altima - stylish, fast, and comfortable - only with a little more room, horsepower, and prestige. Its interior is beautifully luxurious and impressive for the price.  By Derek Price AutoWire.Net - San Francisco

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Byline:  Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo AutoWire.Net
Column Name:  Nissan Maxima follows Altima's winning formula
Topic:  2004 Nissan Maxima
Word Count:   691
Photo Caption:  2004 Nissan Maxima
Photo Credits:  Nissan Internet Media
Series #:   2003 - 54

Download the Microsoft Word version here:   2004 Nissan Maxima

Download the original image file here:  2004 Nissan Maxima 46k

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