Pros: "body, interior, fun to drive, keeps its value"
Cons: "turn radius, premium gas"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I owned my 2003 Maxima GLE for three years, rode it every day to school and work. It was the best car I've driven in my life. Smooth as silk, with enough power to beat a Mustang. The body has stayed in style for ten years, where other sedans look like grandma cars now. Nissan did a great job. The inside was comfortable, almost felt like a luxury car. Drop it into third and give it some gas, and you'll be amazed. It was not perfect - the turn radius is horrible, so parking isn't fun. It needed a lot of parts replaced once it turned 150,000. Front bearings, front and rear shocks, alternator, front sway bar bushings, radiator, and windshield fluid pump all gave out within 15,000 miles. But she was easy to work on, and we did all the repairs ourselves with no problems. She runs best on premium, the engine knocks with 87, and doesn't have as much power with 89/91 as with 93.
In the end, the car met its demise in a crash, 30 mph into a stopped vehicle. Airbags deployed, no one was injured. I miss it dearly."
"I owned my 2002 Maxima SE for 3 yrs. and this car was very good to me. My biggest (and perhaps only) complaint was the "Service Engine Soon" light was ALWAYS on! These cars are infamous for this and everyone I met in passing with this same car all had this light on too. The car's performance was not affected though, but try to get an inspection sticker! You'll have to get nailed by a Nissan dealer somwhere to fix the phantom problem that trips this warning light. Still an awesome car though but be warned about this problem before you buy one!"
"I bought this car new in 2000 (early release 2001 model) and really like the style and pickup. However there seems to be systemic electrical issues with this car. During the warranty period the sunroof motor went out as well as the alternator. After the warranty I had to change the alternator again and the windows groan and are going up very slowly. I just had my first break job at 80k and 9 years, it cost $430. This cars rear rotors should be replaced each time a break job is done, which adds cost to the job. Of course the check engine light comes on ever once and a while. Took it into pep boys and computer said change the oxygen sensor so I did and it went off for a while. It goes on and off as it wishes I don't pay attention anymore. The last problem was a strange noise when the engine shut off. Sounded like a servo turning on and off. I found out that it was an electrical motor mount going bad. I just un plugged it and notice no difference. Maint manual says there are only 2 settings for the motor mount based on the RPM of the engine. When you look at the engine it appears very complicated and this is an example of that design. Who ever heard of electrical motor mounts! In the end I like the car like I said just has electrical problems."
"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!"