Pros: Power, handling, HID lights, options, reputation, reliability, NISSAN
Cons: HID lights, smoking in the car, tranny reputation
2002 Maxima SE...
I rented one of these at a car convention in early 2002 and had the car on a track. I was able to see the car in two different worlds... daily driving on the street and lugging people and luggage around as well as high performance in a track setting. What a test drive! :)
Here it is, 2 years later and I was looking for a family-type car to buy my fiancee. I started thinking about the Maxima again. A friend of mine found a white 2002 at his local dealership for a decent price. I went and test drove the car and put down a deposit that day.
We've had the car now for 6 months/20,000 miles (she drives a LOT) and it's been pretty good to us.
ENGINE: The VQ35DE while not as proven as the VQ30DE is still pretty damned good. It's got tons of power and plenty of torque. Off-the-bat the car is probably capable of well into the 14's in the 1/4 mile. It'll hang with most cars on the street and then some. I will say that now that winter is here, I've noticed my fiancee having trouble sometimes when starting off in the snow/ice to have trouble modulating the gas so that the wheels spin and then when they grab pavement, the car lurches. Not good for the transmission :(
Speaking of the transmission, this is a weak part of the car I'd say. It's an automatic (a pre-requisite by her and I both since she previously had a 5-speed and wanted to get rid of it and I HATE long distance driving in a 5-speed as well as commuting with a 5-speed) and the transmissions seem to have a tendency to blow up if you're not nice to them. I've shown her everything I know about being nice to the transmission and yelled at her when she's not nice to the car. My fingers are crossed. There have been two incidents where the tranny failed me. Both times I was on a highway travelling along at constant speed on a long(ish) trip. I went to pass another car on a 3-lane road and the car didn't react. I pushed the gas pedal further and nothing happened except the RPM's crept up. Finally the gear engaged with a loud thump. The first time I thought it might've been related to the cruise control but the second time I didn't have the cruise on. Only thing I can think of is that the car had been driven for a while so maybe the friction surfaces were too heated up to grab?
HANDLING: While many people (my fiancee included but this is a good thing) think the car doesn't handle that great, I *KNOW* that it does. I will admit though that the car doesn't *FEEL* all that great. It does handle when pushed though as I found out when taking the car around a track. I had the car to and beyond it's limits and when I went beyond the car's limits, the car still reacted in a fairly safe and controllable manner. Although the handling doesn't feel all that great, *I* feel good about the handling.
Another thing is the Bridgestone Potenzas. Everyone raves about how crappy the tires are and both my fiancee and I have driven in the snow/rain/ice with little to no problems. I don't know what everyone's problem is unless everyone just drives like an idiot?! Even my fiancee taking the car aggressively (in my opinion) into corners in snow, the car came through without a problem.
INTERIOR: The car is huge! Everytime I sit in the back seat (I'm 6') I'm amazed. The front seat can be back all the way and I'll still have room. And the trunk is quite large as well. However, as some others have noted, the hinges are large and get in the way. That's a result of the big, heavy trunk lid. Oh well... there's always the backseat for more storage!
The seats are not as comfortable as my car or her old car but both were more sporty cars so that's to be expected. The gauges take a bit of getting used to but what new car isn't like that. The trip computer and buttons on the steering wheel are very handy but it almost gives you too much to look at and distract yourself with. Unfortunately the car didn't have heated mirrors or steering wheel. I would've liked that and/or heated seats but the seats are cloth. I'm not a huge fan of leather anyway. If they had heated cloth seats, I'd like that but that's, well, stupid.
EXTERIOR: I LOVE the look of this car. Everything about it from the HID headlights (I want them for my car now!) to the lines to the chrome taillights. Prior to renting the car, I thought the HID lights were stupid and who needs them? After driving with them, I saw the difference. I saw the light so to say. The difference is pretty noticeable. Even more so now when I drive her car and mine back-to-back. I feel like I have a headlight out in my car!
Unfortunately I did not find out about the HID theft problems until after I fell in love with the car. It was too late. So I had to deal with wanting a car that's headlights are/were in high demand in one of the highest theft capitals in the US - Jersey City! Nissan offered datadots to deter thieves and I've also spent about $900 on an alarm. The alarm was good in other ways though as it allows her to put the windows up/down before getting in the car (good to vent heat in the summer) and it has remote start which is real nice in the winter. She does not live in Jersey City but when we go out when she's visiting, I have not noticed anyone giving the headlights particular attention. I know that up until last year, I'd hear about it and see Maximas with the headlights missing but I think it's either died down from people being caught or it's just getting old or the thieves have moved onto other cars. That's my only real complaint about the car aside from the fact that she really dissapointed me when she told me that she smokes in the car!!! :(
She's had a pickup truck rear-end her at 5MPH but still leave a hole in the bumper cover as well as she hit a deer at 10MPH or so (after slamming on her brakes). The damage from the deer is one of the headlights ($$$) and the hood and bumper cover in the front. The car is all banged up right now unfortunately.