I bought my 97 SE with a 5 speed manual trans in 2006 with approximately 90K miles. The car appealed to me for a variety of reasons: silky 3.0 liter V6, plush creature comforts, impressive factory Bose unit and the relative ease of finding a reasonably priced variant with a proper 3rd pedal. I certainly indulged in a bit of wrench time - Koni struts, Eibach springs, Centerforce clutch, front/rear Brembo cross drilled rotors and a few Stillen add-ons - that greatly increased the pleasure of being behind the wheel, but the car was a solid, quick-ish workhorse even with the OEM equipment. Be mindful of rust and leaks (oil, coolant, etc.), but I'll miss the old girl when I trade her in this week
Ready availability of manual transmission, broad torque band, Bose stereo, relative ease of repairs, low overall maintenance costs.
Better overall drainage, particularly out of the rear wheel wells. Stiffer stock suspension for those who dabble in a bit of spirited commuting.
An amazingly reliable car after 210,000 miles and 17 years of service. It is dependable and has never let me down or left me stranded. I bought my 1997 Maxima SE about 17 years ago and it has been the most reliable car I've ever owned. It is super easy to service, replacement parts are inexpensive and the engine/transmission still run flawless. With 209,000 miles it still cruises quietly down the highway and gets about 25-26mpg on highway trips. The motor is smooth and the transmission shifts perfectly.
I frequently see many of the 4th Generation Maximas still on the road. If you can find a rust-free one that has been well maintained I think it's a good bet as a used car.
My favorite feature:
NO TIMING BELT.
These belts expensive to change and the Nissan Maxima engine doesn't have one.
The position of the Oil drain plug and engine oil filter are my other favorite feature.
I can change the oil in less than 20 minutes without jacking up the car or climbing underneath.
I bought this car with 188k miles. It now has 231k miles. This is my second car. I've replaced wear and tear parts like any other car would go through. I've done some upgrades. Fun to drive. 120mph + stays glued to the ground. I get 24mpg 70city/30hwy. The engine is very quiet, even under load. Awesome Bose audio system. Great looking exterior, especially when lowered with wide wheels ;). Plenty of cargo space. A lot of visibility; easy to park. My girlfriend liked it over her Ford Focus. I plan to keep this car until it literally starts to fall apart. Very good job Nissan.
VQ30DE. Pretty fast for just 190hp. Very quiet, even under load. Fuel efficient for a V6 and its old technology. A truly 4DSC.
Brake calipers could have been at least 2piston calipers rather than a 1piston caliper. I will be upgrading to G35/350z calipers/rotors soon.