The 2009 Nissan Maxima, which makes its world debut at the 2008 New York International Auto Show, marks a return to the longtime Nissan flagship sedan's roots as a commanding 4-door sports car - a vehicle that is unique in both appearance and driving feel, with renewed relevance for today's active and ambitious sedan buyers. In other words, the Maxima is back.
The all-new 2009 Nissan Maxima will be offered as two well-equipped models, Maxima 3.5 S and Maxima 3.5 SV, and is scheduled to arrive at Nissan dealers nationwide in early summer 2008.
"Maxima has always enjoyed a certain 'duality' - a unique fusion of sedan practicality with the soul of a sports car," said Al Castignetti, vice president and general manager, Nissan Division, Nissan North America, Inc. "In recent years, however, competitive vehicles have caught up with Maxima in 'sporty' looks and performance. For 2009, Nissan is reclaiming its rich 4-Door Sports Car heritage with an infusion of emotional design, driving excitement and advanced technology - creating a silky, stimulating sports sedan like no other on the road today."
2009 Nissan Maxima: Reborn at the "Ring"
"Do-overs" are sometimes allowed in sports but rarely in the automotive industry. Yet midway through the development of the new-generation Maxima a mulligan was indeed granted. Rather than continue with an evolution of the previous highly successful Maxima design, the creators of the 2009 Nissan Maxima stopped and rethought the entire direction.
Inspired by the concurrent top secret development of the 2009 Nissan GT-R supercar, they threw away positioning words like "conservative" and "balanced" and concentrated instead on new concepts like "addictive performance," "striking," "commanding" and "powerful."
High targets were established, including the goal of creating "the best performing front engine, front-wheel drive car in the world," along with class-leading acceleration, braking, handling, workmanship and cockpit design.
"We aren't walking away from the strengths of the last generation Maxima, which was rated the top-ranked vehicle in AutoPacific's 2007 Vehicle Satisfaction Award for Luxury Mid-Size Cars and a winner of Strategic Vision's 2007 Total Quality Award? for Best Medium Car Ownership Experience," said Castignetti. "However, complacency breeds complacent vehicles. The new Maxima demanded taking risks in order to ultimately come up with a much more exciting and rewarding vehicle."
Three key areas were singled out for change: exterior design, which needed to be more aggressive, with more personality and attitude; a "super" cockpit, creating an interior that combines a driver orientation with high quality, roominess and user-friendly technology; and class-leading performance, enhancing what previous generation owners called "Maxima-ness."
To further push the performance envelope, the development team challenged themselves to concentrate their efforts on "emotional engineering" - to experience Maxima with the five senses in a purer, more visceral manner, rather than through CAD drawings and computer simulations.
As each designer and engineer set and exceeded higher and higher targets, they realized that confirmation of the results would require validation on the road. But not just any road. Members of the development team traveled to Germany's famed Nürburgring Nordschleife circuit - not coincidentally the site of much of the GT-R's performance development work - to test Maxima prototypes. Special attention was placed on body rigidity, suspension and steering, along with honing Maxima's competitiveness against some well-established European sports sedans.
"A number of product changes came directly from the Nürburgring trials, including enhancements to the braking and transmission systems," said Castignetti. "But more importantly, it gave notice to the entire Nissan organization that the new Maxima is back solidly in the performance arena where it rightfully belongs."
Aggressive Design Adds a "Wow" Factor to the Sedan Category
While seeking to create a simple-yet-strong presence, the designers of the new Maxima's exterior also wanted to re-assert Maxima's breakthrough personality - establishing a "wow" level of style that would clearly distinguish it from segment competitors.
The exterior design theme for the new Maxima is "Liquid Motion" - focusing on the flow of its powerful and beautiful surfaces, like the undulation of a wave. The look starts with Maxima's aggressive stance and powerful fender volume, which is not unlike many exotic sports cars on the market today. This deeply sculpted body/fender treatment is seldom used for mass market vehicles because of the engineering and manufacturing complexity required to physically accomplish it. Maxima's new stance is created by a slight reduction in wheelbase and overall length, along with a wider front and rear track.
Maxima's new look imparts a strong, premium presence. The large, wraparound L-shaped headlights add a unique dimension to the overall design, while the light surrounds suggest a powerful "turbine" appearance of energy and strength. The upturned headlight shape combines with a wide grille, large bumper opening and bulging "catamaran-style" hood to give Maxima a formidable expression, setting the tone for the rest of the vehicle.
The powerful Maxima form continues along its profile, with careful layering of the bumper, hood and fender parting lines. The polished, elegant motion spreads from the deep-waisted rear fenders through distinctive Maxima-style C-pillars and high trunk lid.
Dimensionally, versus the previous generation, the new Maxima measures the same width at the doors but wider at each fender, which not only helps project a sporty appearance but also allows a reduction in the visual gap between the fenders and wheels and tires. Maxima's dynamic performance stance is accented by 18-inch and available 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with low-profile performance tires.
Another new styling feature is the available Dual Panel Moonroof, which is traditionally offered only in luxury segments. The Dual Panel Moonroof includes a front section that moves like a normal moonroof (positioned farther forward than typical), with a very wide opening to provide an open-air motoring feeling. There is also a fixed translucent rear section that provides light to rear seat passengers. The overall design gives the appearance that the entire roof is composed of black glass. The Dual Panel Moonroof includes dual power sunshades for both the front and rear glass sections, adding a level of convenience.
At the rear, Maxima features a new 12-LED L-shaped taillight design, with a pair of side marker bulbs for added visibility during night driving.
"Maxima's breathtaking new exterior gives it a commanding, almost coupe-like appearance, with plenty of driveway appeal," said Castignetti. "It's one sedan that will definitely be noticed by the next door neighbors, along with a lot of other people."
Maxima is available in a choice of eight exterior colors: Winter Frost, Super Black, Navy Blue, Tuscan Sun, Radiant Silver, Mystic Jade, Precision Gray and Dark Slate.
Leading-Edge Sports Sedan Performance Platform
For five previous generations, Maxima has been built on a front-wheel drive (FWD) platform. Yet with the new Maxima's development team everything was open for discussion, including the benefits of front-wheel drive versus rear-wheel drive (RWD). Although there are well-known advantages of RWD in terms of sporty handling, it was ultimately decided that by switching Maxima from its previous platform to Nissan's new "D platform," which was first introduced on the current Nissan Altima Sedan, Hybrid and Coupe, the target Maxima performance could be delivered - without giving up the added FWD benefits of lower costs, lower weight and enhanced roominess versus a RWD platform.
"As demonstrated time and again with the new Altima, the new Nissan D platform is an amazing piece of engineering - providing responsive handling while virtually eliminating the torque steer often associated with high horsepower FWD applications," said Castignetti. "For the new Maxima, we've continued to refine the D platform, creating what we believe is one of the best-performing front-wheel drive car in the world, far above other FWD vehicles in its class. It's a level of performance that we think will be highly addictive."
In creating driving performance worthy of Nissan's flagship, the Maxima's body and chassis engineering teams worked together to create a secure feeling, virtually no torque steer during acceleration and a level of nimbleness that ultimately makes a car fun to drive.
A range of enhancements helped achieve these targets, including increasing body rigidity and adjusting the wheelbase and track dimensions. Body rigidity was increased by 15 percent and front strut mounting rigidity was increased by 100 percent, with all-new structures added to the engine compartment and additional reinforcement applied to the instrument panel structure. Maximas equipped with the Sport or Premium Packages feature a panel behind the rear seat that improves torsional rigidity by 17 percent versus models with a fold-down rear seat (a rear trunk pass-through is utilized with this panel).
The 2009 Nissan Maxima has a wheelbase of 109.3 inches, a decrease of 1.9 inches versus the 2008 Maxima, and width has been increased by 1.5 inches to 73.2 inches. The front and rear track measurement of 62.4 inches represents increases of 1.4 inches front and 1.2 inches rear over the previous model.
Additional "D platform" enhancements include the use of aluminum suspension links, revised suspension geometry, new technology shocks, revised steering and suspension geometries, a lower engine mounting and application of a new Xtronic CVT™ (Continuously Variable Transmission), all of which contribute to minimal torque steer and improved handling prowess.
A Refined Engine and CVT
Compared to the previous generation, the new Maxima offers more horsepower and torque, providing quicker acceleration response and a special "Maxima Sound" - a satisfying, sporty sounding exhaust note. For 2009, Maxima again features a standard 3.5-liter VQ-series V6 engine, enhanced and refined to take its driving performance to new levels.
The revised engine features a modular engine design with microfinished crank journals and cam lobes, molybdenum coated lightweight pistons, a resin intake collector, digital knock control, six individual coils (one per spark plug) and a cross-flow coolant pattern. Also utilized are a Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVTCS), a variable induction system, a silent timing chain and electronically controlled throttle.
In refining the award-winning VQ-series V6 for use in the new Maxima, engine development engineers focused on three areas - increasing air intake, increasing fuel burn efficiency and lowering exhaust backpressure. Steps utilized to improve air intake included increasing intake manifold collector port diameter, adding a second power valve in the intake manifold, changing intake collector material to resin for less mass and more flow, redesigning the shape of the intake valves and increasing the throttle chamber diameter. Fuel burn efficiency was improved by increasing the engine's compression ratio to 10.6:1 (from 10.3:1), changing the piston shape for reduction of friction and weight, and adding exhaust-side continuous valve timing control (quad valve timing system). Exhaust backpressure was reduced through optimizing the exhaust system layout.
The 2009 Nissan Maxima's 3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve V6 is now rated at 290 horsepower and 261 lb-ft of torque (estimated), increases of 35 horsepower and 9 lb-ft of torque over the 2008 Maxima.
Significant development time was also spent on enhancing the sporty engine sound for an increased "exhilaration feeling." The new Maxima also utilizes additional sound absorption material and a new "sound creator" to enhance induction sound. Noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) performance has been improved through a number of measures, including adoption of a new six-point engine mounting system. The system, which replaces the previous generation Maxima's four-point mounting, includes upper and lower torque rods, high rigidity front and rear aluminum brackets and front and rear switchable control mounts to improve NVH performance under high engine torque conditions.
All 2009 Nissan Maximas come equipped with a revised Xtronic CVT™ with manual mode, tuned specifically for Maxima's sporty driving character. The Maxima development team finessed the previous CVT design to improve responsiveness and strike a balance between sport and comfort, ultimately creating a transmission that provides a true synergy between engine and transmission, along with smooth, responsive and efficient operation.
For drivers seeking the utmost in vehicle control, a new "Ds mode" (drive sport) has been added to the CVT for 2009. "Ds mode" is an electronic control logic, that enhances sport driving through increased acceleration feel with higher engine revolutions, automatic engine braking and maintaining engine speed during cornering.
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