Used 2002 Nissan Maxima Review

Edmunds expert review

Not so much a family sedan anymore, the Maxima aims for the Acura TL and Lexus ES 300.

What's new for 2002

The Maxima receives updates this year that make it less of a family sedan and more of an entry-level luxury sport sedan. Headlining this year's upgrades is a 3.5-liter V6 that produces a stunning 255 horsepower. For maximum performance, sport-tuned SE models now combine this engine with a standard six-speed manual transmission. Other changes include revised exterior styling, additional feature content and an optional GPS navigation system.

Vehicle overview

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. For 2002, Nissan is offering the most powerful and most luxurious Maxima ever.

Offered in three trim levels -- base GXE, sporting SE and luxury GLE -- the 2002 Maxima can be anything from a nicely equipped family car to an affordable sport sedan. The big news for all Maximas is a new 3.5-liter engine. The 24-valve V6 produces 255 horsepower and 246 lb-ft of torque, an increase of 33 horsepower and 29 lb-ft of torque over the 2001 Maxima's 3.0-liter engine.

For the first time on the Maxima, a close-ratio six-speed manual will be standard on SE models. Remaining models come equipped with a standard four-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission (optional on SE).

To identify a 2002 Maxima, look for the updated exterior styling. Subtle changes are evident, such as the headlight and taillight styling tweaks. The grille now wears a bigger Nissan symbol and the lower fascia has a larger air intake. New for this year, and standard on every Maxima, are high intensity discharge (HID) xenon headlights. Yep, the same type of serious illumination that certain high-end carmakers make you pay extra for. Out back, the taillights sport the clear lens treatment that is so en vogue today.

On the inside, the Maxima features numerous refinements, including more supportive seat designs, titanium-color trim highlights, redesigned audio system faceplates, a new gauge package and a multi-function trip computer. Other additions for 2002 include micro-filtration for the climate control system, memory seating for the driver seat and an upgraded sound system with a six-disc in-dash CD changer and an optional GPS navigation system.

GXE models now come standard with last year's optional "Comfort and Convenience" package, which includes 16-inch alloy wheels, an eight-way power driver seat, six-speaker premium audio system with steering wheel controls, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a HomeLink universal transmitter. Stepping up to the GLE increases the luxury and looks with 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, the previously mentioned upgraded sound system with six-disc changer, automatic climate control, a power passenger seat and leather seating. The sport sedan enthusiast's choice would be the SE, with its six-speed manual gearbox, firmer suspension calibrations, high-performance rubber mounted on alloy wheels and the obligatory rear spoiler.

Nissan's 2002 Maxima changes are impressive. With the addition of 255 horsepower and features like GPS navigation and HID headlights, the Maxima is more of an entry-level luxury sedan than a family sedan. In fact, there now seems to be little reason to buy the Maxima's more expensive cousin, the Infiniti I35. If the Maxima no longer fits your budget, you might want to check out the all-new 2002 Altima, a car that offers 240 hp, a roomy interior, svelte new styling and a lower price tag.

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.