2003 Nissan Maxima Sedan Review | Edmunds.com

2003 Nissan Maxima Sedan

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Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) is a category of used car. Often late-model vehicles, they have been inspected, refurbished, if necessary, and are under warranty by the manufacturer.
Nissan Maxima Features and Specs

Features & Specs

  • Engine 3.5 L V 6-cylinder
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • Transmission 4-speed Automatic
  • Horse Power 255 hp @ 5800 rpm
  • Fuel Economy 17/24 mpg
  • Bluetooth No
  • Navigation No
  • Heated Seats Yes

Review of the 2003 Nissan Maxima

  • An excellent choice as a well-equipped family sedan or as a cheaper alternative to an entry-level luxury sedan.

  • Safety
  • Pros

    Impressively powerful V6 engine, sports car moves, availability of premium features, plenty of room for five adults.

  • Cons

    High price, rough ride quality with SE suspension.

  • What's New for 2003

    Since the Maxima was updated last year and is scheduled for a redesign in 2004, there are no major changes in store for the family sedan in 2003. There's a Titanium Edition package available for the SE and side airbags are now standard on GLEs.

Full 2003 Nissan Maxima Review

What's New for 2003

Since the Maxima was updated last year and is scheduled for a redesign in 2004, there are no major changes in store for the family sedan in 2003. There's a Titanium Edition package available for the SE and side airbags are now standard on GLEs.


Since the mid- to late '80s, the Nissan Maxima has been a favorite choice of those who wanted a V6 sedan that offered a lot of bang for the buck in terms of standard features, performance and reliability. Last year, Nissan upped the ante by offering the most powerful and most luxurious Maxima ever. For 2003, this flagship car can be equipped to be anything from a nicely equipped family car to an affordable sport sedan.

Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options

The Maxima is offered in three trim levels -- base GXE, sporting SE and luxury GLE. There is plenty of standard equipment on the GXE and SE, including cloth seating; a power driver seat; air conditioning; cruise control; HID headlights; power windows, locks and mirrors; a CD player; Homelink and a trip computer with an outside temperature display. The main difference between the two is on the outside, with the SE having 17-inch wheels and tires (the GXE has 16s), front foglights and a rear spoiler. The SE also has a sport-tuned suspension that includes firmer springs and shocks and a larger front stabilizer bar. Want to be pampered? Go with the GLE and enjoy its leather seating, premium audio system with an in-dash six-disc CD changer, power front passenger seat, driver-seat memory system, automatic climate control and 17-inch wheels and tires. In terms of optional equipment, the GLE and SE can be ordered with a power sunroof; a Meridian package that includes heated front seats, steering wheel and outside mirrors; a traction control system and a CD-based navigation system. There are also a couple option packages that allow an SE to be equipped similarly to a GLE.

Powertrains and Performance

Last year, the Maxima received a new 3.5-liter V6 engine. Very similar to the V6 engine found in the Altima and Pathfinder, as well as Infiniti I35 and G35, this advanced power plant produces 255 horsepower and 246 lb-ft of torque. For the money, this is one of the most powerful sedans you can buy. A close-ratio six-speed manual transmission is standard on SE models. The six-speed can also be ordered with a helical-type limited-slip front differential. Remaining models come equipped with a standard four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission (optional on SE). In terms of acceleration, a manual-equipped SE can launch from 0-to-60 mph in just 6.3 seconds.


Along with dual-stage front airbags, the Maxima comes standard with ABS-equipped brakes with BrakeAssist and Electronic Brakeforce Distribution; active head restraints; ALR/ELR seatbelts and child-seat anchor points. GLE cars also come with front side airbags. In government crash testing, the Maxima has earned respectable scores with four stars (out of a possible five) in front- and side-impact tests. The IIHS has given the Maxima an "Acceptable" rating for front-offset crash test results.

Interior Design and Special Features

As sedans go, the Maxima is well appointed with features and amenities. The backseat offers plenty of legroom and headroom, the trunk is big and the front seats are comfortable. The Maxima also features richer interior materials than its in-house competitor, the Altima.

Driving Impressions

Regardless of trim, the Maxima is an entertaining car to drive. The V6 provides plenty of forward thrust. Some people might find the SE to have overly firm ride quality because of the sport-tuned suspension, but it's never harsh. If you have about $30,000 to spend, the Maxima is a great choice as a well-equipped family sedan or as an alternative to an entry-level luxury sedan. If the Maxima no longer fits your budget, you might want to check out the Altima. It offers near identical performance and passenger space for a lower price tag.

What Others Are Saying

Customer Reviews

Really great car

by on
Vehicle: 2003 Nissan Maxima SE 4dr Sedan (3.5L 6cyl 4A)

I've always liked the 5th gen Maxima. I finally had the chance to get one from California. Purchased August 2014 with 50,000 original miles from an elderly couple that took real good care of it. I live in Colorado and book the trip to Dublin CA. Drove the car back and got 32mpg, she did great! One issue the radio had to be replaced and the power coming from the engine...WOW! So far I've added 12,000 miles driving for work out of state and I'm happy I bought the car. This car was immaculate inside and out.

First car - favorite car

by on
Vehicle: 2003 Nissan Maxima SE 4dr Sedan (3.5L 6cyl 4A)

Owned for about 30,000 miles, Car had 120,000 and when I wrecked it was at 150,000. If you by chance come accross one of these amazing cars I would most certainly recommend it. I've raced people in them and have very often won. It is very fast and very reliable. I recently rear ended someone in it and becuase the air bag deployed it was totalled out. I'm sad and devastated. This car is the kind of car that will last forever. The only thing I never liked was the braking could have been better but I drove it fast so what do you expect... Loved it Loved it Loved it!!!!!!

03 maxima gxe

by on
Vehicle: 2003 Nissan Maxima GXE 4dr Sedan (3.5L 6cyl 4A)

This is my second max, first one still have 94 with 264,000 km and engine/trans tops. Only have 62,000 km on 03 and now first major repair, brakes all around. Got this as last Japanese made one and was afraid of quality control with 04 on. I may be wrong with the 04's on. This car takes off like a scared cat-make sure you are hanging on tight. I like the 94 more as it seems more roomer inside and with self adjusting shocks, real nice. However, very poor head lights-moved up to stronger ones to help. 03 lights, what an improvement over the 94.

Never left me stranded

by on
Vehicle: 2003 Nissan Maxima SE 4dr Sedan (3.5L 6cyl 6M)

I love this car. I bought it used in 2006 with 77k on it. I drove it for 5 years and just sold it with 160k on it. The car is fast, gets good gas mileage, looks good, and is super reliable. Over the course of 5 years I replaced 2 sensors in the car and that was it. I liked the car so much that I went out and bought another one. The new one is a 2003 as well with only 60k on it. I can't wait to drive this car another 100k.

Good value for the money

by on
Vehicle: 2003 Nissan Maxima SE 4dr Sedan (3.5L 6cyl 4A)

This is our second Maxima, the first a 1996 GLS with 160k miles that is still running strong. This model is the SE Platinum Edition and presently has 105k miles. We purchased it used with 50k miles and has so far been pretty much trouble free.

Good car

by on
Vehicle: 2003 Nissan Maxima SE 4dr Sedan (3.5L 6cyl 4A)

I put about 25,000 miles a year on this car and I have had one engine problem, a sensor that the dealership said was a recall on the '03 but not a recall on my VIN number. Considering it was a $300 repair, I wasn't happy but over all has been very reliable.

Talk About The 2003 Maxima

2003 Nissan Maxima Discussions See all Started By

I am a big fan of the maxima. I upgraded from 98 to 2000 to 2003 with manual transmission maxima. I love my 6 speeds 03....

I have a 2003 Nissan Maxima and live in the NE area. My headlights have been stolen twice in the past 5 months. These are very expensive to replace and I am afraid my insurance company will drop me....

My 2003 Maxima has been trouble free but the battery recently died. After replacing the battery, resetting radio presets, etc. I discovered that the sunroof would not respond to the switch. It worked ...

Gas Mileage


  • 17
  • cty
  • 24
  • highway
Calculate Yearly Fuel Costs
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