Special Coverage

New York Int’l Auto Show

Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. takes its Maxima sedan down a notch in size with the ’09 model that makes its world debut today at the New York auto show.

The new seventh-generation Maxima, the largest car in Nissan North America Inc.’s Nissan-brand lineup, will go on sale in the U.S. early this summer.

Highlights of the revamped model include a new “liquid motion” exterior design, a sports-car-like interior and a boost in horsepower, plus a variety of available creature comforts.

“High targets were established for the development of the new Maxima, including the goal of creating the best performing front-engine, front-wheel-drive car in the world, along with the goals of class-leading acceleration, braking, handling, craftsmanship and cockpit design,” Nissan says in a statement.

As with the Altima, its smaller D-platform relative, the Maxima’s wheelbase and overall length have shrunk, but the new model has a wider front and rear track for a more aggressive stance.

Other design cues include a “catamaran-style hood” and L-shaped headlights and taillights, the latter with 12 light-emitting diodes.

The “Super Cockpit” interior puts the controls close to the driver, the auto maker says, pointing to the automatic transmission’s offset shift lever as a prime example.

Available electronic features include a 9.3-gig Music Box Hard Drive and Nissan’s camera-based RearView monitor system that feeds images to the optional liquid-crystal display screen.

The Maxima’s engine remains Nissan’s VQ 3.5L V-6, but it offers 35 more hp and an additional 9 lb.-ft. (12 Nm) of torque, boosting ratings in the new model to 290 hp and 261 lb.-ft. (354 Nm).

Nissan has promised a V-6 diesel for the Maxima in 2010. A company official told Ward’s last fall a decision to offer diesels in U.S. Infiniti models will hinge on how successful the new engine is in the Maxima.

Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission remains standard in the Maxima. But it now includes available paddle shifters and a drive sport (Ds) mode.

Also new for the ’09 model is standard quad exhaust side continuous valve timing control (E-VTC) and a speed-sensitive rack and pinion steering system Nissan calls twin orifice power steering, or TOPS.

Standard safety features include Nissan’s Vehicle Dynamic Control system with traction control.

The ’09 Maxima will be offered in two trim levels, 3.5 S and 3.5 SV, replacing the current-generation’s 3.5 SE and 3.5 SL trims of the current generation.

The Maxima will continue to be assembled at Nissan’s Smyrna, TN, plant, with engines sourced from the Decherd, TN, facility.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com