Nissan has launched a revised version of its strong-selling Maxima large sedan, with tidier, more integrated front-end styling and a CVT continuously-variable transmission.
The CVT replaces the conventional four-speed automatic used on the previous model Maxima and is a recalibrated version of the Murano crossover SUV's gearbox (the Murano is based on the Maxima platform and uses Maxima hardware).
The Maxima's CVT has a manual override, Tiptronic-style function which offers six steps, simulating a manual six-speed box.
The 3.5-litre V6's power and torque outputs are unchanged from the previous model Maxima's - at 170kW and 333Nm.
At light throttle openings, the Maxima will cruise at 100km/h at less than 2000rpm.
The restyled gives the Maxima new headlights, larger driving lights mounted in the redesigned front bumper, and a new, smaller and more subtle grille.
The car is shorter in profile thanks to less front overhang.
Rear-end changes include new LED taillight clusters and a redesigned bumper that now has a cutout to showcase the dual tailpipes. The old Maxima's tailpipes were hidden by the rear apron unless an optional bodykit was ordered.
Stylists have paid special attention to redesigning both front and rear bumpers to make them look more integrated with the rest of the car and reduce overhang. The car is now more than 40mm shorter.
All Maximas have alloy wheels - 16-inch on the Si and six-spoke 17-inch on the Ti.
Nissan is offering six paint colours for the Maxima, including a new silver, champagne and turquoise blue.
The interior has been given a revamp too. Gone is the awkward-looking woodgrain trim, replaced by fashionably alloy-look accents which look far better and much more at home.
Upholstery is charcoal-coloured across the range. Door panel inserts are now cloth or leather, replacing the previous model's vinyl items. As with the switch from wood to alloy-look accents, the new door panels look better integrated and more upmarket.
The old model's orange-look instrumentation has given way to white meters.
Chassis electronics include ABS anti-lock brakes, Vehicle Dynamic Control, Electronic Brake Distribution and Brake Assist which increases peal pressure during emergency braking.
Dual front airbags, active head restraints and an engine immobiliser are standard across the range.
The entry-level, $41,590, Si has body-coloured exterior mirrors, climate-control air-conditioning, power windows, cruise control, remote-control central door-locking, and a six-stacker, four-speaker, Compact Disc sound system.
The mid-range, $44,190, ST adds the 17-inch wheels, side airbags, power-adjustable driver's seat, and a six-speaker CD system.
The range-topping Ti gains side curtain airbags, intelligent-key entry, dual-zone climate-control air-conditioning, power-adjustable front passenger's seat and a trip computer. Ti buyers can specify suede or leather upholstery.
The Ti sells for $48,995: leather adds $3000 to the pricetag.
What you get
The entry-level Si has chrome door handles, driving lights, a six-disc dashboard-mounted Compact Disc change, and leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearlever knob.
The seats are upholstered in Sporty Velour fabric, and the driver's seat is manually-adjustable.
The rear seats have headrests, and the power-adjustable exterior mirrors can be folded.
There are dual front airbags, and all five occupants get lap/sash seatbelts.
The mid-range ST adds dual side airbags for front-seat occupants and a rear ventilation grille for the climate-control air-conditioning system.
Like the top-of-the range Ti, it gets 17-inch alloy wheels in place of the Si's 16-inchers.
The Ti adds a Drive (trip) computer with 8.5-inch monitor, and an outside temperature gauge.
Suede upholstery is standard, with leather a $3000 option.
Its six-disc CD changer is in the glovebox, and there is a single-disc player in the dashboard. All three models also have a cassette player.
The Ti's rear seat headrests are removable, and it adds side curtain airbags to the safety package.
The air-conditioning is dual zone climate control with individual controls for front seat occupants.
On the Road
Nissan's previous Maxima was a deserved New Zealand Car of the Year winner in 2004, and is now even better.
The interior changes are logical and add an extra air of class, and the exterior restyle gets rid of the awkward - at times jarring - relationship among the car's front and rear-end styling and elegant side profile. The car now looks as if it were designed by a team working together rather than separate cliques designing its rear, front and side.
The Maxima was n ever short of power, and Nissan has left the engine unchanged.
The big mechanical difference is adopting the CVT continuously variable transmission which debuted on the Murano crossover SUV.
It works superbly in the Murano and in the Maxima. Progress is seamless and there is n one of the rubber-band feel common on smaller-engined cars fitted with CVTs. Nor does the engine ever seem to be straining to break free of the transmission's shackles, the exhaust note rising raucously.
The Maxima's CVT transmission is as sweet as any state-of-the art five or six-speed conventional automatic, and is a major advance on the old model's four-speed.
In some extremely brisk driving on very demanding roads during the car's media launch, the transmission worked perfectly, offering smooth running and instant "kickdown"-style response when lower ratio-styled acceleration was needed.
It was so good, in fact, that we left it in Drive after trying the Tiptronic-style six-step manual override.
Though the Maxima's suspension set-up is skewed towards comfortable ride rather than sport handling, the base model Si we drove never put a foot wrong on roads more suited to an all-wheel drive Subaru Impreza WRX STi than a large V6-powered front-wheel sedan.
The brakes were more than up to the job, the steering offered good feel and a total absence of rack shudder on even ultra-tight, rough-surfaced corners, and the level of roadholding was confidence-inspiring.
On initial acquaintance, the Maxima was very impressive and a real advance on its already very good predecessor.
- Reviewed by Mike Stock
2006 Nissan Maxima Specifications
Engine 3498cc V6. Maximum power, 170kW at 5600rpm. Peak torque, 333Nm at 2800rpm.
Transmission Front-wheel drive. CVT continuously variable gearbox with six-step manual function.
Suspension Front, MacPherson strut. Rear, multi-link independent.
Brakes Four-wheel discs. ABS anti-lock system with EBD and BA.
Wheels Si, 16-inch alloy. ST and Ti, 17-inch alloy.
Tyres Si, 205/65 HR16. ST and Ti, 215/55 VR17.
Performance Turning circle, 11.4 metres. Towing capacity, 1500kg (braked trailer); 500kg (unbraked).
Dimensions Length, 4890mm. Width, 1765mm. Height, 1470mm. Wheelbase, 2775mm. Front track, 1530mm. Rear track, 1540mm. Kerb weight, 1513kg. Luggage capacity, 476 litres. Fuel tank capacity, 70 litres.