The flagship sedan for Nissan, the 2006 Maxima is in tough company in the midsize car category — arguably the most competitive in the auto industry. The Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Volkswagen Passat are among its competitors.
Yet the Maxima shows itself well in the midsize crowd with a superior interior and exterior design, comfort and myriad individualized features.
My test drive for the week was SE edition, one of three Maximas available. Largely unchanged since 2004, the SE offers a powerful ride with a 3.5-liter, 24-value, 265-horsepower V6 engine.
The four-door sedan has a five-speed manual transmission and more-than-adequate power. The Weekly Driver test showcased the vehicle at its finest — with one brief exception — during a weekend getaway that included myriad driving circumstances.
The three-day, two-night jaunt from Sacramento to Santa Cruz, Calif., included trips in both directions on Highway 17. The 27-mile stretch between San Jose and Santa Cruz is considered among the most dangerous sections of road in California. Highway 17’s combination of high-speed, dense traffic on narrow lanes and shoulders and an all-too close median can test even the most competent drivers.
One nice Maxima feature that made this stretch and other segments of the trip easier is that front passengers seem to sit up slightly higher than in many sedans. Combined with a panoramic-styled front windshield, the Maxima offers great visibility. The confidence of seeing the road completely was particularly appealing on Highway 17, where the median barriers are omnipresent at close proximity and tight-cornering at high speeds is the rule.
Despite driving an estimated 400 miles on this test trek, it was also during the dual passage over Highway 17 where the Maxima’s only problem occurred. While braking on winding, downhill stretches, the steering wheel heavily vibrated.
Yet, the issue could could have a single-vehicle problem, since it appeared to be a alignment problem.
Further, the Maxima’s positives outshine the periodic, pesky steering problem.
* Acceleration and responsiveness is impressive at all speed zones;
* Instrumentation is attractive and functional, although some of the controls look so similar, it takes a little while to decipher what’s what;
* A Maxima trademark is its Skyview roof, the fixed, tinted-glass window panel over the front and rear seats. It’s stylish and sleek, with the sun screens opening from side to side, not front to back.
* My test car exterior color was a smoke gray. It was matched with an opposite interior — dark tan/light brown leather seats, The contrast worked perfectly.
The SE model also has a long list of standard features, including a leather-wrapped steering wheel, eight-way power driver’s seat, outside temperature indicator, rear window defogger, air conditioning with dual-climate controls, AM/FM cassette and CD player and more than a dozen other items.
My weekly test vehicle was also equipped with Elite, Driver Preferred, Sensory and Premium Audio Packages and chrome wheels. The four additions added more than $6,000 to price and pushed the total, with the destination charge, to more than $34,000.
The various options included individually heated rear seats, a rear center console with a 12-volt power point, a rear spoiler, 18-inch wheels, Xenon highlights and the aforementioned superior, 320-watt Bose sound system with eight speakers.
Considering such niceties, however, the $150 final additional charge for a five-piece floor and trunk mat set seems excessive.
Still, the Maxima is hard not to like. It’s spacious, comfortably seats four adults and has a welcoming overall feel, not too far removed from the pleasantness of a comfortable mattress in a hotel room after a long day’s work.
Safety Features — Dual front, side and side curtain airbags; antilock brakes,
Fuel Mileage (estimates) — 20 mpg (city), 28 mpg (highway).
Warranty — Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Powertrain, 5 years/60,000 miles Corrosion, 5 years, unlimited miles.
Base Price — $27,100.00.