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2009 Nissan Maxima Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2009 Nissan Maxima was new.


Performance: 8.3

2009 Nissan Maxima has good power from its V6 engine and diminished torque steer along with sharper cornering from its modified suspension. But despite its strong performance attributes, test drivers say the biggest problem with the Maxima is the way it's promoted -- few are willing to endorse it as a "4-door sports car."

  • "As its top-of-the-line sedan, Nissan fits the updated 2009 Maxima with cabin tech handed down from its Infiniti brand, and gives it a driving character far more sporty than we would expect. Although front-wheel-drive means the Maxima might have trouble competing with the likes of BMW and Audi, the continuously variable transmission (CVT) is exceedingly well-tuned, delivering what feels like hard shifts and a really usable sport program." -- CNET
  • "The power is awesome, and there is virtually no sign of torque steer, the tendency of a front-drive car to steer itself in the direction of the wheel that is getting the power." -- Fort Worth Star-Telegram
  • "As willing to play as the drivetrain is, the Maxima still doesn't feel quite like a sports sedan; it's more of a sporty sedan. It feels huge, which is good for comfortable riding but is a bit of a downer for spirited driving." -- Car and Driver
  • "Wearing a fresh design highlighted by an hourglass shape, with a rounded hood bracketed by sharply creased fenders, the '09 Maxima feels more performance-oriented just sitting still." -- AutoWeek
  • "While we can't entirely sign off on Nissan's claim that the 2009 Nissan Maxima represents the return of the four-door sports car, we can wholeheartedly say that this is the best Maxima yet, and by a mile." -- Edmunds

Acceleration and Power

Generally, reviewers like the Nissan Maxima's 3.5-liter V6 engine's power and the continuously variable transmission's smoothness; a handful note the Maxima powertrain is not as sporty as advertised.

  • "If the Maxima is supposed to be a sports car, it has to be packing a great engine. And as we'd expect from the automaker, it doesn't disappoint. As a modern Nissan, it's only fitting that the Maxima is powered by the 3.5-liter VQ V6 as used in the 350Z and numerous Infiniti models." -- Autoblog
  • "The engine, mated to a standard CVT (no manual is planned), is hushed and pulls smoothly; no undue tugging at the wheel. The ride is well-isolated and controlled." -- Motor Trend
  • "We found the transmission a joy to use in either mode. It is perhaps the world's second-best CVT, after the Audi." -- New Car Test Drive
  • "Passing on a two-lane is a quick and stress-free affair, and the power and response of the CVT are fun and addicting." -- Car and Driver
  • "I was a bit disappointed with the continuously variable automatic transmission, however. If this car is ever going to be taken seriously as a sports sedan, let alone a "four-door sports car," it's going to have to have at least a conventional five- or six-speed automatic, if not an optional manual gearbox (complete with clutch)." -- Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Handling and Braking

Test drivers have nothing but compliments for the 2009 Maxima's refined suspension, steering and braking, especially as Nissan has gotten rid of a niggling problem from the past -- torque steer. Some, however, find that the suspension doesn't handle rough roads well.

  • "Handling was excellent." -- The Auto Channel
  • "Perhaps of chief importance to the road experience, the Maxima is now also almost completely devoid something that plagued previous generations a whole lot: torque steer." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "Nissan engineers have done a commendable job of adjusting the suspension system and steering to mostly eliminate torque steer. The result is balanced and confident handling at rapid speeds on twisting roads." -- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
  • "When the road surface gets uneven, the rebound damping comes across as weak and the Maxima can feel floaty. It's nothing that can't be easily fixed, but it's not quite right for a sports car." -- Autoblog
  • "Brake pedal feel is reassuringly on the firm side and offers very good feedback." -- Edmunds

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