2009 Nissan Maxima first impressions  

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I’m back from my day of driving the new Maxima. Today’s Nissan-sponsored junket followed typical junket SOP: Journalists pair off for a nice long drive on a route laid out by the manufacturer. Route quality varies, but today’s was a particularly good one, nice and long with plenty of challenging roads. However, thanks to good timing, fortunate circumstances, and a couple of willing Nissan staffers, I got a couple of hours on my own in a Maxima — and a chance to drive it on the About.com Top Secret Curvy Test Road. I normally eschew use of the word “w00t”, but this is a special occaision. So… W00t!

So how was the Maxima? Well, Nissan has definitely worked out the torque steer issue (the tendency of a powerful front-wheel-drive car to pull to one side under hard acceleration). Torque steer is all but undetectable in the new Maxima, a nice change from the first-gen V6 Altima, a car in which you could change lanes with the gas pedal. The Maxima’s ride isn’t quite perfect; the “sport” suspension is a bit too firm and the regular suspension a bit too soft. But that doesn’t get in the way of handling — the car I took on the Test Road had the base suspension, and when pressed to its limits it handled as well as any front-driver I’ve ever tested, and better than a few rear-drivers. My first impression was of a cut-rate Infiniti M-series — and I mean that as a compliment.

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