1997 Nissan Maxima

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starting MSRP

Key specs

Base trim shown


Body style


Seating capacity

189.5” x 55.7”


Front-wheel drive



3 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 1997 Nissan Maxima trim comparison will help you decide.

See also: Find the best Sedans for 2024

1997 Nissan Maxima review: Our expert's take

The engine’s the thing in the Nissan Maxima – what turns a nice sedan into a sports sedan, what makes the Nissan flagship a strong contender against automobiles costing thousands more.

Displacing just three liters, the V-6 purrs smoothly at highway speeds or under normal acceleration. Or it will emit a satisfying snarl when pushed to release all 190 horses, feeling more like an exotic Italian automobile than a practical Japanese machine.

I found myself pushing it often to redline, enjoying the silky rush of power, without harshness or excessive noise. It was all too easy to merge aggressively into freeway traffic in third gear, shifting up into fourth and fifth after the Maxima is up to speed, way past slower traffic.

Yes, it has a five-speed stick shift, which is becoming something of a rarity in four-door sedans powered by V-6 engines and, overwhelmingly, automatics. Stick gives this midsize car the extra sporting edge, the kind of performance enhancement for which BMW buyers lay out the big bucks.

Of course, I’m going against the trend here, with a growing percentage of cars in every segment going automatic, if stick shift is offered at all.

But the Maxima, which used to call itself a Four Door Sports Car, or 4DSC, seems intent on attracting those of us who need a decent-size four-door to transport our families but still want something interesting to drive.

And that engine, which was upgraded and enhanced two years ago, takes Maxima a long way toward that goal. It even gets decent gas mileage.

On the road, the Maxima is stable and steady, though lacking the sharp handling edge of BMW, the solid highway manners of Mercedes-Benz, or the bump-absorbing sophistication of its upscale brother, Infiniti. There’s a bit less aggressive cornering, a bit more looseness, a little more harshness, but considering the price differential, the Maxima can stand on its own merits.

Infiniti’s I30 is built on the same platform as Maxima, though with a more luxury-oriented ride and interior. And certainly no five speed.

Maxima has been a consistent top seller for Nissan, creating a segment into which Toyota and Honda eventually grew and now compete in.

“It’s been a real successful flagship for Nissan,” said Greg Elliott, manager of Nissan’s West Coast corporate communications. “It does have room and presence and great performance.”

The Maxima tested here was the performance-tweaked SE model, with tighter suspension, speed-rated tires on 16-inch alloy rims, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and some cool, retro-inspired white-faced gauges with black numbers and red pointer.

Those gauges really evoke the feeling of a vintage race car, although they contrast jarringly with the otherwise mild interior. I like these gauges, but I’d be happier if Nissan designers were able to pick up some more retro touches on the dash to create a more tuned-in look.

As it is, the dash and interior are comfortable and funct ional, but not terribly interesting. Aside from those gauges, that is. Legroom and headroom are very good, with broad supportive seats. The big console in our test car was wobbly, but I don’t know if they are all like that.

The beefier suspension helps nail down the Maxima’s handling, though it could still use some shock-absorber upgrading. There’s a bit too much body movement and bump rebound for a car with sporting aspirations.

The four-wheel disc brakes are a welcome addition, though anti-lock braking should be standard instead of optional.

The Maxima has always been something of a bargain, considering performance and standard features, and the latest SE seems like a lot of car for the money. The GXE is the base model, and starts at $21,500. The upper end GLE can go up in the top $20s, so a comparison with the I30 might be in order.

Maxima faces some new competitionwith some of the next generation of General Motor’s midsize cars, but the Nissan has establi shed a ter ritory for itself that it seems unlikely to relinquish. For drivers with families, it’s a good combination: sporty road manners, four doors and room for the kids, and pulled by a sweet, powerful V-6.

Plus, stick shift for those who still think sporty driving is a hands-on experience.

1997 Nissan Maxima

Vehicle type: Five-passenger, four-door sedan, front-wheel-drive. Base price: $23,299. Price as tested: $26,865. Engine: 3-liter V-6, 190 horsepower at 5,600 rpm, 205 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Transmission: Five-speed stick shift. Curb weight: 3,010 pounds. Length: 187.7 inches. Wheelbase: 106.3 inches. Safety features: Dual air bags, optional anti-lock brakes. EPA fuel economy: 22 mpg city, 27 mpg highway. Highs: Great engine. Interior comfort. Decent price. Lows: Bland interior. Anti-lock brakes cost extra. Needs better shocks.

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.6
  • Interior 4.6
  • Performance 4.7
  • Value 4.9
  • Exterior 4.6
  • Reliability 4.8

Most recent consumer reviews


This car is Immortal!!!

I got my 97 Maxima GXE 5 speed from someone used. It wasn't in the greatest shape to begin with. Repaired a few things and I drive the heck out of it and it just keeps on going. Now has 236,300 miles and wants more!


bought it for 100 bucks

For a 97 car in 2018 to run this good, be this reliable, and simply work is amazing. I paid 100 for the car, it needed 1400 worth of repairs which I did, now it starts right up, runs smooth shifts great, I am amazed at how solid the car is after all these years, I have the loaded leather, bose stereo cassette and cd, even an aftermarket 10 disc changer in the trunk and everything works. Cruise, power mirrors, electric seats, moonroof, everything. I have a Honda fit and Silverado but I just jump into the maxima and go, love this car, worth every penny. Wouldn't sell it.


Most reliable car i've owned

This vehicle is awsome. I has gone all over the United States. Allways reliable. The air conditioner is cold even at 20 years old.

See all 21 consumer reviews


Based on the 1997 Nissan Maxima base trim.
Frontal driver
Frontal passenger


New car and Certified Pre-Owned programs by Nissan Certified Select
New car program benefits
36 months/36,000 miles
60 months/unlimited distance
60 months/60,000 miles
Certified Pre-Owned program benefits
Maximum age/mileage
Nissan and non-Nissan vehicles less than 10 years old and less than 100,000 miles. (Nissan vehicles less than 6 years from original new car in-service date must have more than 60,000 to qualify for Certified Select.)
6 months/6,000 miles from date of sale
Dealer certification required
84-point inspection
Roadside assistance
View all cpo program details

Have questions about warranties or CPO programs?

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