It was a cold and wet day in November, as I remember, when I drove my first Maxima. I had looked at a 2002 a few weeks before, while visiting the local Nissan dealership to see the new Altima.There was something about it, calling my name. But, I digress.On this day, I was required to drive up to Detroit for a customer integration project. Seeing as how my Ford product was probably not up to the trip, I stopped by the local rental car agency where I had some Pontiac model scheduled for pick up. When I arrived, lo-and-behold, they had a new 2k2 Maxima, in Majestic Blue, sitting in the lot just begging me to upgrade. What’s a guy to do? I could have ignored the call and picked up the plain-Jane domestic. I could have left and driven my beater. The 3 milliseconds it took to come to a conclusion seemed like forever. But the decision was made: Time to upgrade.
The car was an automatic. A huge contrast to the 5sp coupe I owned. The power difference was huge! When you are talking 164hp (my coupe) vs. 255hp, you get impressed easily. The 4-sp automatic transmission includes a gated shifter which I found to be quite interesting performing manual shifts. The dash layout is a “waterfall effect” with most buttons and adjustments in the center section. The Bose stereo system comes with front separates (6.5″ mids in the doors and tweeters in the A-panels), rear door mids, and a sub on the back deck. The stereo system was pleasant and I loved the fact that the Bose head unit has an internal 6-CD changer.As the day progressed the only negative aspect I found was the location of the side-view mirror adjuster which was up on the dash behind the steering wheel.Other than that, I was enjoying it immensely.
The trip itself took 6+ hours of seat time to get to Detroit. I did it with only one bio-break. The power drivers seat was comfortable and the electronic adjustments were superb. The motor was quiet and the acceleration was great. I simply set the cruise control, eased into a relaxing position, and let the miles rack up. The stereo bounced between multiple stations and CD’s to keep me entertained.The relaxing atmosphere of the drive was a contrast to the numerous trips I had made in my coupe over the previous few years.
The trip to Detroit was short-lived.Within an hour of arriving, which happened to be around 5pm, I was done and having dinner with a co-worker.The thought of staying in a hotel for the night only entered my mind briefly.I was looking forward to a night-drive home.As I left Detroit for another 6+ hour trip, I immediately appreciated the HID headlights and the way they illuminated the road. The back-lit gauges were easy to read and great on the eyes.The auto-dim rearview mirror was another great benefit.My thought, after arriving home that evening was “I gotta have one!”.
On Valentines Day, 2002, I finally purchased my 2002 Maxima SE in Majestic Blue with Charcoal interior, sunroof, and automatic transmission. To date, I have put over 113k miles on the car.I am on the third set of tires at this point, and have not had any mechanical failures to date. From a maintenance standpoint I fill’er up with gas, and change the oil around 7k miles (90% highway travel).
Am I saying everything about the car is absolutely awesome?No.There are issues that should be noted. The main problem with the car, as it turned out, was the suspension.The car seemed to float and sway around too much. It was a pain driving at highway speeds, around a curve, and over bumpy roads at the same time.
The handling, at times, made you somewhat nervous. There was also an issue with torque steer.With the amount of torque this car has, flooring it from a standstill will make the steering wheel pull left and right, which is very annoying.Fortunately, both of these can be solved relatively cheaply. A rear sway bar (RSB) along with a front strut tower brace (FSTB) will get rid of most of these “problems”, make the car perform much better, all for around $150 total. A great deal and I highly suggest it.
Another notable problem are issues with rocks. All Maxima models, prior to 2004, were imported from Japan where there are more stringent rules concerning car paint.In my opinion, the paint is a bit thinner than vehicles painted in the US, which can lead to a large number of rock chips if you live in an area where there is a lot of highway road debris. If you pick one up that has a great finish on the hood and bumper, I would highly suggest you get a clear bra system for the hood/ bumper/front fenders. Adding more of this material to the rocker panels, directly in front of the back wheels, is advised as well. I did not do this and have so many rock chips I purchased a regular bra just to cover them up.Rocks also chew up the front fog lights.
The lenses are glass and are prone to break. Nissan replacement costs are $150+ EACH! To save money, Nissan actually has a GXE conversion kit for roughly the same price that includes both fog lights. Eventually, both will break, so this is a good deal. You can also put some clear plastic film over them which I have heard protects them and extends their life. I should note that I deal with an extreme amount of highway driving on roads that are not in great shape, so I have had to deal with truckers flinging rocks all over the place which is the primary reason I have the number of chips.
Finally, the tires: This car came from the factory with Bridgestone Potenza RE92’s.While they last a decent amount of time (I replaced my set at 42k), they are absolutely the worst tires I have ever experienced in the rain. The first time I drove in heavy rain, I did 55mph in a 65mph zone and drove with white knuckles.NOT a fun experience.If they are on there, get rid of them as soon as you can and be careful in the rain if you still have them.
So, there you go.In my opinion, after 113k miles, I am very happy with my 2k2 Maxima SE. Sure, there are a few issues with the car, as noted above, but what car does not have issues? Mechanically, it is sound. Has a comfortable interior that lasts, a engine that has been one of the top-10 for the last 11+ years in a row. There are options available, like heated mirrors, heated seats, heated steering wheel, Navigation, traction control, side airbags, etc, that really enhance the feel/usability of the car.Paint chips, glass fog lights, suspension, and tires are all relatively minor issues that can be resolved with a little bit of effort and small expense. If you are looking at picking up one of these, I recommend it. You won’t be disappointed.
Article Date:Dec 2006
Article By: Matthew Moody (audtatious) is a NICOclub Administrator