Used 2001 Nissan Maxima Review
The athlete of family sedans.
Sometimes, a car doesn't have to be visually appealing to instill desire. Since 1995, the Nissan Maxima has been such a car. This self-proclaimed "four-door sports car" went from beauty to beast that year, but the mechanicals underneath the bodywork created a symphony no enthusiast could resist. A 1997 reskin helped in the styling department, but the real draw continued to be the stunningly smooth 3.0-liter dual overhead cam V6 engine, which Ward's Auto World dubbed "the best V6 engine available in America." Last year, Nissan released a redesigned Maxima with more of what was good about the car (luxury and performance) and more of what was controversial (odd styling cues ladled over a dull shape).
Let's start with a discussion of the controversial. Wheel arches ripped off from Audi. A gaping, slat-toothed grille that would look right at home on a Buick Regal. Teardrop taillights with smoked lens surrounds (SE only) that appear out of place in a sea of body-color plastic and metal. Love it or hate it, at least the Maxima is distinctive.
Besides, from behind the steering wheel, you won't care one whit what the outside looks like. This car is sheer joy to drive. The V6 makes 222 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 217 foot-pounds of twisting force at 4,000 rpm. Helping to produce that level of motivational force is a specially designed exhaust system that reduces backpressure when the engine is revved hard.
And rev it hard you will, regardless of whether you select the standard five-speed manual transmission or the available four-speed automatic. Handling is also a Maxima strong point, despite the lack of a true independent rear suspension. Four-wheel disc antilock brakes are standard, and traction control is available with the automatic gearbox.
Inside, a sport-oriented theme greets occupants, with the usual luxury enhancements to make the cabin more appealing. Mid-level SE models get titanium-faced gauges, while all models have a 60/40 split-bench seat. A long wheelbase creates a large interior; rear seat riders get plenty of legroom, and trunk space measures 15.1 cubic feet.
The Maxima is available in four flavors for 2001: basic GXE, sporty SE, specially-trimmed SE 20th Anniversary Edition and luxurious GLE. Standard equipment on all Maximas includes air conditioning, remote keyless entry and various power accoutrements. SE adds racy alloy wheels, special gauges, a sport suspension, foglights and a rear decklid spoiler. Anniversary models get a high-output version of the V6 engine, special trim and a unique paint color. GLE models have fake wood accents, leather seats, a 200-watt Bose audio system and automatic climate control. A power sunroof, heated seats and side airbags can be added to any model, while GXE and SE models can be equipped with a new Meridian trim package that includes heated seats with integrated side airbags. Select traction control for the SE or GLE and shazzam! You've got yourself a Z Edition.
A treat to drive, the Maxima is an enthusiast's alternative to staid family cars from Honda and Toyota.
edmunds expert review process
This review was written by a member of Edmunds' editorial team of expert car reviewers. Our team drives every car you can buy. We put the vehicles through rigorous testing, evaluating how they drive and comparing them in detail to their competitors.
We're also regular people like you, so we pay attention to all the different ways people use their cars every day. We want to know if there's enough room for our families and our weekend gear and whether or not our favorite drink fits in the cupholder. Our editors want to help you make the best decision on a car that fits your life.