The navigation system's main drawbacks are that it doesn't do text-to-speech for every road, just for freeway and highway numbers, and the traffic system doesn't proactively detour you around incidents.
Nissan packs an insane number of audio sources into the stereo. There are the usual broadcast sources: AM, FM, and satellite. The disc player can read MP3 CDs, and can also rip standard CDs to the car's hard drive, which reserves about 10GB of space for MP3s. There is the iPod cable in the console, and a Compact Flash-card slot on the stack. It is difficult to get stuck without any music in this car.
The sound system is above average, although not really of audiophile quality. It complements front tweeters and door speakers with a centerfill speaker and subwoofer.
Bluetooth phone support is easy to set up; we had no problem pairing it with an iPhone. There is also a good onscreen interface for the phone. But the setup lacks the ability to read your phone's contact database, forcing you to manually enter numbers into the car's phone book.
Nissan also has excellent back-up camera technology that it brings to the Maxima. Put the car in reverse, and the rear-view image shows up on the LCD, complete with overlays that show you the distance of objects behind the car and the path the car will take depending on how the wheels are turned.
Under the hood
For the 2009 Maxima, Nissan refined its award-winning 3.5-liter V-6 VQ-series engine, increasing air intake and fuel-burn efficiency to get 290 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque--strong numbers for a family sedan. This engine uses continuously variable-valve timing to optimize efficiency and different engine speeds.
That engine is mated to the CVT, which has a normal drive mode, sport mode, and manual-gear selection. Sport mode automatically shifts to a lower ratio when the brakes are applied, and maintains engine speed in corners. The CVT includes six virtual gears for manual shifting, which can be selected with the steering column paddles or the shifter.
The suspension delivers a very smooth ride at speed on the freeway, while cabin noise is kept to a minimum, giving the Maxima luxury car qualities. But that ride isn't too soft, and the suspension handles cornering very neatly, keeping body roll down.
As further proof of the Maxima's sporty nature, Nissan fitted the new car with a similar steering mechanism to that used in the 370Z, a speed-sensitive power-steering unit that does an excellent job of delivering road feel at higher speeds, while still being very responsive.
For emissions, the Maxima does surprisingly well for the size of its engine, earning a ULEV II rating from the California Air Resources Board.
The 2009 Nissan Maxima SV has a base price of $31,990. Our review car came with the Sport package, which includes a raft of features including HID headlights, the paddle shifters, and a smart key, for $2,300, and the Sport Technology package, bringing in the excellent navigation system, onboard music storage, and rear-view camera, for $2,250. A few other options and the destination charge brought the car's total up to $37,380.
Other options to consider are the Acura TL, which will cost a little more with similar equipment, and the upcoming 2010 Ford Taurus, which will probably cost a bit less and feature some excellent cabin tech.
The Maxima scores very well, delivering excellent performance and cabin tech, only held back by a few lacking features, such as cell phone contact-list importing and automatic traffic detours. The design is outstanding, with a sedan that sets it own unique style on the road.
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