Nobody asked me, but . . .

Since it’s introduction in 1981 the Maxima has been the flagship of Nissan’s sedan fleet.  With a strong emphasis on sportiness, it’s no surprise that the Maxima has been referred to as Nissan’s 4-door sports car.

The sixth-generation 2007 Maxima, available in sporty SE ($28,050 plus $605 destination charge) and luxury SL ($30,300) versions, expands upon that fun-to-drive tradition with extensive revisions to the Maxima’s classic coupe-like silhouette and distinctive C-pillar design.  Inside, the 2007 Maxima features a revised instrument panel and easier-to-read gauges, along with materials and fit and finish that create a richer, higher-quality look and feel.

Nissan has also reduced the number of buttons and controls, which works fine for heater/vent/air conditioning operation but results in really confusing controls for radio presets and bands.   Also, the four dash vents are angled oddly, making it difficult to direct air on the passengers.

Seats, on the other hand—or butt—are wide, comfy and supportive, aided by power assists for the driver (optional for the passenger in the SE we tested), a wheel that manually adjusts for reach and rake and a sliding center armrest.  Rear seaters don’t get short-changed either.  Cushions are deep and supportive and there’s ample leg, head and shoulder room.  Seat backs are split 60/40 and fold via pull straps in the trunk.

Powering the Maxima is Nissan’s award-winning 3.5-liter V6, which produces a pulse-raising 255 horsepower.  It’s mated to a Nissan Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) in place of a traditional automatic transmission on both models.  A CVT doesn’t have distinct gear ratios, but in manual mode the Maxima CVT electronically simulates six gears.  The CVT provides responsive performance in the Maxima, thanks to the engine’s abundance of torque, which allows the car to accelerate quickly and smoothly without having to resort to excessive engine revs.  The downside to this brisk performance when accelerating hard from rest is the tugging on the steering wheel—torque steer—that results from the front wheels doing double duty: having to steer the car and apply power to the ground.

A CVT is also an economy enhancer and helps the Maxima achieve EPA estimated mileage figures of 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway.

Maxima is born and bred to motor quickly along New England’s numerous twisty roads.  Four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS, a sophisticated multi-link rear suspension, precise steering, standard traction control (Stability control is optional.), and an 18-inch, high-performance wheel/tire package make for responsive and confidence-inspiring handling.  And unlike some sports sedans, which fatigue your body with their road harshness, the Maxima’s ride is an excellent blending of support and suppleness.

Make no mistake, if you’re looking for a well-equipped, near-luxury, 5-passenger family sedan costing around $30,000 and with more than a touch of dynamic driving panache, you’ve got to have the Maxima on your short list.

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