1995 Nissan Maxima QX SE 2.0: The Oppositelock review.

At some point earlier this year I wrecked my previous car, a 2008 Renault Espace 2.0DCi 6-speed, “inherited” from my Dad. He charged me €2,100 for a rough french minivan with 330,000km (206,000 miles). Just days later I went to Europpomeet with it, on sketchy brakes and some of the finer roads in Belgium and Germany. I survived, and didn’t even need to refuel until the end of the weekend despite a 400 mile trip to the Meet. On the way back I immediately ruined the car by scraping a guardrail. Espace didn’t care. Eventually I totalled it in a minor collision with a Golf, but not until after I had moved out of my dad’s place, so the Espace fulfilled one last job.

About a month without a car later I had enough of being car-less for a multitude reasons, so I went shopping. One type of car I had been eyeing up was a large japanese sedan from the 80s and 90s. Contestants included a MINT 1990 Mazda 929 with the 2.2L four, a solid Mazda Xedos 9 (Millenia for some people) with the 2.5 V6, and LPG conversion, a dirt cheap 1993 Maxima on the other side of the country, a Nissan Laurel with the glorious 2.8L Diesel, an early non-turbo Saab 9-3 and a Chrysler LeBaron Turbo Coupe. The one thing all of them shared was a 5-speed manual. Eventually though I ended up buying this one-owner 1995 Maxima QX with barely 100,000km. Sure, I paid €2,000 for it, which is almost a lot but the car was in excellent condition and it came with a full set of 8 like-new summer and winter Michelins on 15" alloys. I think three months and 7,000km of ownership are quite enough for a first impressions post.

Starting with the weekend categories:

Styling: 6/10

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To be honest, I don’t think its a particularly pretty car. The front and rear end don’t quite seem to belong together. The Front is quite boxy and 1980s (my dad likened it to a Ford Sierra) and it has that godawful pseudo-BMW grille every European market Japonaise car of the 90s seems to have. Most of the rest is very round and bulbous. The Exhaust tip is fake and it doesn’t even line up with the bumper cutout. The colour is called Burgundy Wine Metallic, a nice deep pearl effect hue that changes from purple to red depending on lighting. Best part about the design. Interior design is very Lexus, but as far as japanese interiors go it is a nice place to be.

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Performance: 5/10

Yes it is a V6 and a manual, but the fact that it only has 1995cc of displacement and an abysmal 177Nm of torque mean it does not really go. Acceleration, while I haven’t timed it is in the two-digit range (official 0-62mph time is 11.3s LOL), and top speed is pretty poor as well, with all of 126mph flatout. For comparison the slightly smaller Primera with the equivalent 2.0L engine will hit 62 in just 8s and top out at 142mph. SR20DE > VQ20DE.

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Handling: 5/10

Nissan once sold the Maxima under the premise of being a four door sports car. While mine is even a manual, the suspension design is pretty garbage, struts up front and a BEAM rear end. My old Van had a more independent suspension than that. Also the springs are so soft the car always has a gangster lean when there is junk in the trunk. It actually has reasonable grip from the massive 195/65 R15 tires and body roll when actually cornering is reasonable as well. Understeer.

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Audio: 8/10

When you drive regularly, you barely hear anything but wind and road noise, despite ridiculously short gearing. When you step on it you get a nice bit of V6 roar, but its not the obnoxious VQ rasp we’ve become used to from Z bros. Stock > modified exhaust. The sound system is some 1990s Sony cassette stereo. It was quite good actually, but the speakers had become brittle from age so I had those replaced by some banging ones stolen out of some Ford Escort and some Honda Accord. On topic to access the rear speakers is terrible as you have to take the entire rear seat apart, which resulted in many broken plastic bits.

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Cool factor: 6/10

Maximas may be the most common japanese six cylinder cars in Europe, but they’re generally driven by old people. Not Cool. Then again the only other Maximas I’ve seen on the road since buying it were driven by younger crowds. Some of them had questionable mods.

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Daily categories:

Practicality: 6/10

While passenger space is pretty great, boot space is limited and mine only has a carpet covering the full size spare in the trunk. The rear bench doesn’t fold but at least there is a cutout for long and narrow stuff.

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Comfort: 8/10

Probably the best part about it. The ride is soft and irons out a lot of nasty bumps (I’ve tested it on some rally-ish stages), the seats are wide, cushy and covered in some very plush type of cloth that has excellent thermic properties. The heater works. The rear seat is like a sofa.

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Features: 10/10

It has a stereo. It has a heater. It has electric windows and sunroof. It has ABS. But nothing else. Just what one REALLY needs. No nannies interfering with you and nothing superfluous.

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Quality: 5/10:

Materials are pretty good, apart from some very obvious fake Wood, but fit and finish is inconsistent at best. The rear Nissan badge is at an angle. The panel gaps are eh. The body is not very well protected against rust so that is always an issue. It has starting issues when the fuel tank is nearly empty. In all honesty I think our old 1997 Citroen Xantia Break is a better built car than this Nissan. On the plus side the VQ runs well but it better be, it is barely broken in.

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Running cost: 6/10

Spare parts are nowhere near as easy to find as they are in the US. Fuel economy is meh. I average between 9.2-9.5L/100km on mostly extra-urban driving. To bring up the cheaper Primera again, that averages 1L/100km LESS with superior performance. On one tank I can do up to 750km. but usually only about 650. Insurance and taxes are pretty high.

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Verdict:

It’s a stereotypical american car interpreted by the japanese. I guess this is why the formula works well in the US, but not here. To be fair it suits my driving style well, and I do actually enjoy driving it, but it really needs a more economical engine to work perfectly. It definetely isn’t a sports sedan. The 3.0L goes far better, but the character remains the same. I will keep lusting for a Laurel 2.8D SGL, its the same car without the sporting pretentions and far more economical.

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Winner: