New York Auto Show – 2009 Nissan Maxima
By Igor Holas
Nissan took the wraps of its all-new 2009 Maxima in New York. The flagship sedan finally gained some visual independence and quality separation from the mainstream Altima. The Maxima maintains its current front-wheel drive setup, but Nissan built a better car around it.
Up front, Nissan decided to take the risk with the headlamp shape, which is truly unorthodox, and as with the new Murano, I am still struggling with it. The rest of the exterior is sort of sedate, but classy. The car is well-sculpted and proportioned and devoid of any obvious missteps.
What the Maxima might lack on the outside is made up for on the inside. The interior is all new with a newfound level of materials, design, and features. In most dimensions, the interior actually surpasses the outgoing Infiniti interiors such as the outgoing FX, or the Q. As with the new Murano, the switchgear looks straight out of Infiniti with great tactile feedback and great looks. The best feature of the interior is the rear armrest – which neatly integrates controls for the air conditioning / heating and the heated seats. These buttons are neatly integrated into the armrest and look truly classy.
I was impressed with the Maxima. The exterior is refined and elegant, even if the nose styling is not exactly my cup of tea. The interior is very luxurious and upscale and makes this car stand out among its competitors. Luckily, unlike so many other recent Nissan redesigns, the 2009 Maxima looks nothing like its predecessors – it is not exactly daring, but it is different and new.
Click through the jump for Nissan’s press release and click HERE for a gallery of the Maxima and some other Nissan and Infiniti models shown in New York.
All-New 2009 Nissan Maxima Recaptures Its Place as the True “4-Door Sports Car” Premium Performance Sedan
– Aggressive Styling, Refined Platform, More Powerful V6, Cockpit-like Interior and Enhanced Quality Highlight Changes to Seventh Generation of Nissan’s Flagship Sedan –
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 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 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 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 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 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 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.
Ds mode takes advantage of the CVT’s infinite selections of available gear ratios and is able to select the right gear, the right time, all the time. This enhances the emotional, sporty feel while driving on canyon roads or city streets. Whether it is upshifting through the gears while accelerating, or automatic engine braking (downshifting) when coming into a corner, Ds mode is able to match vehicle speed and engine rpm with the driver’s intended acceleration input. Ds mode, combined with the sound creator, creates an emotional experience not available on any other CVT vehicle.
Available paddle shifters, mounted on the steering column, allow manual transmission shift changes for varying scenarios – such as winding roads – while the driver’s hands remain on the wheel for optimum vehicle control.
“The enhancements to the new Maxima’s already industry leading CVT, especially the addition of the new Ds mode, help us realize the full potential of the Xtronic technology, including the controller and adaptive logic,” said Castignetti. “It’s like having an ‘automatic’ manual mode – with lightning quick gear ratio changes going into turns and auto gear hold out of turns. You’ve got to feel it to believe it.”
Fuel economy is estimated to be 19 miles per gallon City, 26 miles per gallon Highway (final EPA figures to announced at a later date) – similar to that of the 2008 Maxima, despite the 2009 Maxima’s 35 additional horsepower.
Advanced Suspension, Steering and Braking
Maxima’s suspension is designed to be both stimulating and relaxing, combining responsive handling with a comfortable ride.
The subframe-mounted strut/coil spring front suspension makes extensive use of lightweight aluminum parts. An X-type upper cowl structure helps establish front body rigidity for suspension mounting.
Maxima’s multi-link independent rear suspension design, also subframe-mounted, offers outstanding handling by minimizing camber change during cornering. The rear shock absorbers and springs are separated for minimized friction and the shocks are in line with the center of the rear wheels, providing excellent damping and minimal harshness. Front and rear stabilizer bars are standard.
Braking is provided by standard 4-wheel disc brakes with a 4-channel, 4-sensor, 4-wheel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist (BA). The system features new vented rear disc brakes with larger rear rotors (versus the previous generation Maxima) and a variable ratio linkage for a secure feel
The 2009 Maxima features a new Twin Orifice Power Steering (TOPS) vehicle-speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering system, similar to that utilized on the Nissan 350Z. The system features high accuracy gear, which is designed to offer improved high performance response, along with ease of driving at low speeds and a stable feel at high speed. Maxima has the quickest steering ratio of any Nissan sedan (15.2:1) to help provide its sporty steering feel. A new strut tower brace also contributes to Maxima’s improved steering precision and rigidity.
Every 2009 Maxima offers standard 18-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and V-rated P245/45R18 all-season tires. The Maxima 3.5 SV model with Sport Package features 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with P245/40R19 all-season or summer performance tires.
“With major improvements in engine horsepower and torque, along with the many enhancements to the CVT programming and addition of ‘Ds mode,’ we expect the new Maxima to be among the best performers in class in terms of acceleration and driving feel,” said Castignetti. “Add in its tuned performance exhaust, the virtual lack of torque steer, nimble handling, controlled body movements and linear steering and braking feel, and Maxima stands out as the most exciting and exhilarating performance sedan in class.”
“Super Cockpit” Interior
Another challenge in designing a true sports sedan is creating an attractive, intimate, sporty cockpit feel for the driver without compromising the traditional sedan attributes of passenger comfort, roominess and utility.
The new Maxima’s interior design team developed an interior concept of “Super Cockpit, but with Space” – the feeling of a sports car with controls ergonomically close, yet with ample roominess and comfort for both driver and passengers. Key design words emphasized during development were “impressive and silky,” “high touch,” “craftsmanship” and “high tech.”
Every aspect of the interior layout, including the size and shape of touch points and placement of features, was improved for a better driving experience. The shifter lever, for example, was placed closer to the driver and falls easily to hand. This also allowed a cupholder to be placed to the right of the shifter device, not behind it. The transmission’s manual mode gate has been moved toward the driver for a more intuitive action.
To enhance the “cockpit feel” of the new Maxima’s interior, the center console has been raised, and a premium quality feel is provided through the extensive use of soft touch materials, as well as soft, deep pads where an arm or elbow may rest.
The high quality feeling is also expressed with “Daytime Illumination” electroluminescent meters, with a special tilting of the tachometer so engine redline is placed at the 12 o’clock position, and extensive use of chrome surrounds for the gauges, vent rings, vent knobs and audio switches.
The new Maxima’s three-spoke steering wheel is sport-oriented and its diameter has been reduced (compared with the previous Maxima) for improved feeling. Maxima Sport and Premium Package models feature a unique “parallel” pattern steering wheel stitching (versus the traditional baseball-style stitching) for enhanced grip.
Much development attention was spent on the 2009 Maxima’s driver’s seat, or “the Chair.” The special driver’s seat includes an available manual thigh extension for long distance driving, additional support in the side bolsters for good lateral support during sporty driving, as well as added seat height adjustability. The new Maxima’s seat height is 0.8 inches lower (at its lowest setting), which also enhances the sporty driver’s feel. The seat is also available with heating and cooling functions and premium leather-appointed surfaces with special stitching. Also available are power lower lumbar and memory function.
The new Maxima’s front and rear seats share a common design theme for added harmony and cockpit feeling. The front seatbacks include a new slim, sculpted design, resulting in additional rear passenger knee room.
The 2009 Maxima is available with two different rear seat layouts – a 60/40 fold-down rear seat with access to the trunk, and a fixed rear seat with center armrest pass-through for carrying long items such as skis or other sporting equipment. Three interior colors are offered for 2009: Café Latté, Frost and Charcoal.
“The new Maxima is more tailored and refined than any Maxima that has come before, while maintaining a high-touch, high-tech sporty feel,” said Castignetti. “Its craftsmanship is outstanding, as is the quality look and feel – making Maxima an easy vehicle to enjoy, even when sitting still.”
Comfort and convenience features include a standard moonroof, 8-way power drivers seat and 4-way power adjustable front passenger seat, dual-zone automatic temperature control, cruise control with illuminated steering wheel mounted controls, Intelligent Key with Push Button Ignition, power windows and door locks, AM/FM/CD6/MP3 audio system with 8 speakers and an available Interface System for iPod
Maxima 3.5 SV models add leather-appointed sport seats, an advanced Bose® premium audio system with 9 speakers (including two subwoofers and a center channel speaker), speed-sensitive volume control and Radio Data System (RDS), HomeLink® Universal Transceiver, fog lights and outside mirrors with turn signal indicators.
A number of packages are also offered, including the Sport Package with sport-tuned suspension, 19-inch wheels, rear spoiler, High Intensity Discharge (HID) Xenon headlights, heated outside mirrors with reverse tilt-down features, automatic entry/exit system with two-driver memory, heated front seats and steering wheel, paddle shifters, metallic link trim, Bluetooth® Hands-Free Phone System, XM® Satellite Radio (active XM® subscription required, sold separately), premium leather-appointed seats and more.
The Premium Package includes the Dual Panel Moonroof with rear roof window and front and rear power retractable sunshades, High Intensity Discharge (HID) Xenon headlights, heated outside mirrors with reverse tilt-down features, automatic entry/exit system with two-driver memory, heated front seats and steering wheel, paddle shifters, premium leather-appointed seats, Eucalyptus wood-tone trim, 7.0-inch color monitor, RearView Monitor, Bluetooth® Hands-Free Phone System, XM® Satellite Radio (active XM® subscription required, sold separately) and more.
Several Tech Packages are available, including the Maxima 3.5 SV Tech Package, which includes an advanced Nissan Hard Drive Navigation System with Voice Recognition, 9.3GB Music Box Hard Drive, XM NavTraffic® with Real-Time Traffic Information (active XM® subscription required, sold separately), 7.0-inch color monitor, XM® Satellite Radio (active XM® subscription required, sold separately), RearView Monitor and Interface System for iPod®.
The 2009 Maxima comes equipped with standard Nissan Advanced Air Bag System (AABS) with dual-stage front supplemental air bags, front seat-mounted side-impact supplemental air bags for chest protection and roof-mounted curtain side-impact supplemental air bags for front and rear outboard occupant head protection.
Also standard are front-seat Active Head Restraints, 3-point rear seat belts for all seating positions, front seat belts with adjustable upper anchors, pretensioners and load limiters, emergency inside trunk release, Zone Body construction with front and rear crumple zones, LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) and Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS).
The 2009 Maxima also features a standard Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) with Traction Control System (TCS).
The 2009 Nissan Maxima will be assembled by Nissan North America Manufacturing Smyrna & Decherd Tennessee Plants.
Maxima Is Better Than Ever
“Our goal was to keep Maxima relevant to sports sedan enthusiasts, maintaining excitement and segment leadership,” said Castignetti. “Breakthrough design can only be accomplished by breaking through the limits you place on yourself. The passion and vision demonstrated by the Maxima development team has energized the entire organization. In the long, proud history of Maxima, this is one to remember.”
Press release provided by Nissan Media Relations
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