I grew tired of the constant $2,000 repair jobs and engine light warnings on my 1999 mystic silver Volvo S70 GLT (I doubt I will ever buy a European car after six years with that Volvo and similar problems with an older model) so I finally broke down and bought a used 2007 Maxima with 20,000k on the odometer. It was a rental car which gives me slight concern because car renters can be brutal to cars, but the Precision Gray Maxima looks good and so I bought it on Friday night, June 22. Here are some of my impressions, many of them colored by my previous ownership of the Volvo S70:
When I first got into the Maxima to take it home, I realized there is no key per se. You use your remote to activate a knob, which you twist like a key. The radio controls are on the steering wheel, which doesn't take long to get used to. The TPMS tire pressure light is very sensitive and turns on if one tire is slightly less than its prescribed PSI. So much for the days of simple cars. ALL CARS, no matter if they're Japanese, American, or European, use a lot of electronics and computer chips, so this means more trips to for service than before. But still, European electric and computer problems are far worse.
My other concern was the 20-mile gas tank. The Gas Empty Light flashed and the gauge showed that I had no gas yesterday, June 23, so I filled it up and was perplexed when it only held 14 gallons. Either the gauge is grossly inaccurate or the Nissan makers incompetently stuck a Nissan Sentra gas tank on my Maxima. In any event, my anxieties were slightly allayed when I went to Edmunds Chat Community and found other 2007 Maxima owners having the same problem. One of my students, the owner of an Accord coupe, has a similar issue with his gas tank and fuel gauge. My car goes to the Power Torrance Nissan dealership on Wednesday to address this issue and the TPMS tire pressure light.
Other impressions. The car feels a bit fat, and is in fact a good two inches wider than my Volvo S70. This fat condition is compounded by its wide 40-foot turning radius, about five feet bigger than the Volvo's. If you want a small turning radius, the Lexus IS250, which is rear-wheel drive, is a tiny 33 feet but at 40K out-the-door price it was almost double the good deal I got on my Maxima. So having a rather fat Maxima with a 40-foot turning circle makes sharing our modest 2-car garage a challenge. My wife has a 99 Nissan Altima, about 69 inches wide. I need to rig a bunch of tennis balls and hang them from strings to make sure I'm not hitting the side or back of the garage. One bad swipe and I'll have close to a $1,000 in paint repairs. I'd love to have a video camera to show me if the front or side is hitting anything but that seems like overkill.
Okay, I've expressed my anxieties and the car's drawbacks. Now for the good news: The car drives like a dream. The day I bought the Maxima, I drove a 2007 Altima and was underwhelmed. It felt cheap, the cramped interior, the seat, everything. Let us be clear: The Altima is not a smaller variation of the great Maxima. It is a different beast altogether and an inferior one at that. Sitting in the plush Maxima with its lavish quarters and strong lumbar support, I feel like a king. It's not soggy in the suspension. Nor is it too firm. On the freeway I feel like I'm gliding on a magic carpet and I must wipe off my smug imperious smile as I fly across the freeway or bling-bling through town . Unlike my previous Volvo, the Maxima absorbs road bumps, it does not rattle, and it feels more stable. The steering wheel doesn't shake like the Volvo's. Now owning the Maxima, I see that my Volvo was abysmal. My Maxima in fact has all the luxury feel of a Lexus GS or an Infiniti M35 and I got it for $ 20,700 out the door with my Volvo trade-in and I made them change the cloth seats to leather. There was another identical Maxima in the showroom, same gray color, with 19-inch wheels and it was going for 33K, about 36K out the door. So I saved a good 13K.
Back in September of 2001 I bought the 1999 Volvo S70 GLT for 24K out the door. I put 32K miles on it and traded it in on June 22, 2007 with 64K on the odometer. During my ownership, I spent close to 10K on repairs and maintenance; in other words, I spent about 34K on the Volvo. Had I bought a brand new 2002 Camry back then, similarly equipped, it would have been about 19K out the door. Based on data, the maintenance and repairs would have been about 3K. So I would have saved 12 thousand dollars; plus I'd have only 32K on it and would not have had to buy a new car, another 21K. So buying the Volvo cost me 33K in unnecessary expenses. Needless to say, I will never buy a Volvo again.
Update August 8, 2007: My Maxima's TPMS tire sensor light kept coming on because my rear left tire had 2 nails in it. Presumably I drove the used Maxima off the lot with the 2 nails. Power Nissan of Torrance backed me up and paid 310 dollars to replace the wheel even though their warranty doesn't cover tires. There were extenuating circumstances: I complained about the TPMS light the first day I bought the car and repeated visits to the dealership didn't resolve the issue until it was too late to save the tire.