"Quick note (more later) the engine change: You'll notice a lot more mechanical complaints from 2002 and 2003 owners. A lot of Maxima afficionados were upset with the 3.5liter engine change in those years, and I'm not sure it's as robust as the old 3.0.
I've owned two Maxima's of this generation, and each have easily bested all of the other vehicles I've ever owned (Mazda, Ford, Chevy, Jeep, Buick, and Honda). Much superior to the V6 Accord my Mom bought (whose tranny blew at 90kmi with a 70yo lady driving it). It is not as comfortable as the Accord due to the stiffer suspension and solid rear axle, but it handles worlds better with much greater precision and chassis feedback.
You can have your cake and eat it too. Though it's a Z-car in a suit, it also gets really good highway mileage that can top 30mpg with or without air conditioning. Fit and finish as well as overall aesthetic and mechanical design straight embarrass American cars, and the Anniversary Edition looks hot without being gaudy. I've always had a GLE or an SE with all the GLE options and am totally spoiled on heated seats and climate control; the A/C always works...never charged, never fixed. However, I've noticed that the interior leather's thickness is much reduced over that used in the '96 model I had; I see a lot more examples of this gen Maxima with damaged leather. The Bose system is good enough that you won't have much desire for even a trick stereo system.
Maintenance is laughably minimal. I'd recommend servicing the transmission regularly, as this seems the only week link in the drive train. On the chassis, the brake hanger design (as with many cars) is weak on both front and rear; always check these parts if you do your own brakes and don't be surprised if they need to be replaced every two sets of pads and rotors. Other than normal wear items, I've only ever replaced accessory equipment (starters, alternators, O2 sensors, etc.), because these cars are almost indestructible.
This car has the Z-car engine, detuned and living the easy life; no hard parts ever wear out -- the valve lash is always spot on. They are tanks and can easily go 200kmi+. I can't guarantee that about the 2002 and 2003 models though; I hear about a lot more problems with the 3.5 engine than the 3.0.
Unfortunately, "tank" could also accurately describe the handling in snow and ice. I've never had worse handling cars for Winter driving and am still unsure how to fix it. Well, it's not really that it handles poorly, but none of my Maximas could brake worth a darn on slick pavement. The ABS always kicks in ridiculously early and prevents potential stopping power from being realized. That pretty much ruins overall Winter handling.
That said, poor slick condition braking is really the ONLY quibble I have with this vehicle. This car is a case study in superior Japanese engineering and production (sorry, my fellow citizens, they just beat us at that). Get one. You'll love it!"
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