2004 Nissan Maxima

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starting MSRP

Key specs

Base trim shown


Body style


Seating capacity

193.5” x 58.3”


Front-wheel drive



The good:

  • Sporty handling
  • Stability
  • Five-speed-automatic operation
  • Resale value

The bad:

  • Road noise

2 trims

Starting msrp listed lowest to highest price

  • SE


  • SL


Wondering which trim is right for you?

Our 2004 Nissan Maxima trim comparison will help you decide.

See also: Find the best Sedans for 2024

Notable features

  • 265-hp V-6
  • Automatic or manual transmission
  • Optional four-passenger version
  • New Skyview roof

2004 Nissan Maxima review: Our expert's take


Don’t consider this a quiz as much as a good ol’ fashioned jog of the brain: Quickly now, what ever happened to the Nissan Maxima?

You remember the Maxima, right? It was the sedan signified by . . . (We’ll wait for the response.)

OK. Wasn’t it the one that had the unique . . . (Still waiting.)

To be fair, you couldn’t be blamed if you forgot about the Nissan Maxima, especially with the recent explosion of the Altima, its smaller cousin. Maxi-who? Maxi-what?


In the swirl of press surrounding the redesign of the Altima, it is understandable if you can’t put your finger on the Maxima’s whereabouts. The Altima did, after all, take home a rather memorable Car of the Year honor not long ago. Maxima? More like minimalist in the big picture of things.

The truth is, it’s easy to misplace something that suddenly seems overpriced, undersized and underwhelming – especially lined up next to the Altima. At least it was.

Redesigned and more upscale than ever before, the 2004 Maxima re-emerges as the car it used to be – one of the best combinations of performance, luxury and value in the midsize segment. It arrives with a roomier interior, lots of upscale options and a V-6 that purrs. It bounces back in its original role as Nissan’s “premier” car, second only to the Z in name recognition.

(So much for anonymity.)

Credit the cousin for the change. Now planted on the same underpinnings as the Altima – which is good and bad (more later) – the Maxima attempts to spice up what was once a little vanilla.

From a reworked exterior to a boost under the hood, there is a lot to like. It is significant again mainly because it distinguishes itself again. It’s not perfect, but it’s better. And for a model that looked on its way out, it’s a nice save for a company that has been making a few big ones of late.

With a lineup reduced to two trim levels – the SL and SE – there are only a couple of ways to order one: Sporty or luxury.

The SE, our one-week tester, is the sportier of the two versions, offering a firmer suspension, a metallic-trimmed interior and 18-inch wheels. The SL is all luxury, complete with wood trim, a 320-watt Bose audio system, a softer suspension, an eight-way power driver’s seat and (regrettably) only a four-speed automatic. An “elite” package will take things even higher in the option department, changing the three-seat setup into a two-seater with more room.

In either version the good news is about adding inches. The Maxima has improved itself this year by growing where it needed to most: the passenger compartment. For a while there, the Altima outgained its older relative. Now the Maxima’s caught up. That means the ’04 version has added 3 inches to the wheelbase, more room on length, height and in the trunk (15.5 total cubic feet).

What that really means is that you have a new option in the sedan sweepstakes. If you’re an Accord buyer, it’s an alternative – a costly one, but an alternative. When comparing the SL to the Accord EX with a 3-liter six-cylinder model, you will pay about $3,000 more for the Maxima than the Honda. But the Maxima is still less than an Infiniti G35 (its other cousin), the Toyota Avalon and the Volkswagen Passat.

And it still feels more fun than nearly all of the above.

The Maxima has long boasted one of the best V-6s in the industry and the new model carries on that tradition. The award-winning VQ-series DOHC, 24-valve, 3.5-liter V-6 is a burner. In the SE version it pushed us all over the road, in and out of turns and off the stoplight in a hurry. It’s 10 horses more than before (265 horsepower) and now 20 more than the V-6 Altima.

Rev it up in either the five-speed automatic or the six-speed manual (3.5 SE model), and it’s easy to find the torque, a plentiful blend of growl and bite that will still get you 20 mpg in the city and 28 on highway. Decent stuff.

Now if only the suspension would match.

The revised suspension is now independent. But while the SE promises to be firmer than the SL, much to our chagrin, it’s too much like the Altima. Steering feel is a little numb and although the suspension provides a comfortable ride, it’s almost too comfortable for a “sports” sedan. Body roll is also a little too much for this category. For the SL buyer, it might be just fine.

Inside and out, the cosmetic changes on the Maxima make it seem like a more grown-up, sporty version of the Altima. Styling has always been a winner, and there it doesn’t disappoint. With a wide, toothy grin up front and crouching, rounded lines to the back, the Maxima is a vast improvement over the old design. Distinct. Different. A little daring.

Interior space is now downright abundant with plenty of seating for five. Up front, the seats are a little short, making long trips a little tiresome, and headroom is a little tight. Nissan makes up for it with a standard Skyroof, a large fixed glass panel strip up top that makes things appear more roomy, if not a little odd. Seen from above, the Skyroof looks like a bandage placed over the center spine of the roof. The trouble is, it doesn’t open and it looks strange.

The Maxima’s cabin consists of quality materials with gauges that look like they were borrowed from the 350Z and a logical center stack that holds all audio and climate controls in a tightly organized manner underneath a large navigation screen.

Some nice touches: The SE offers the option of a heated steering wheel – great for the winter months. Power-folding side mirrors are also a plus.

Annoying things: With the same engine as the 350Z, the Maxima suffers from excessive torque steer, or the loss of control from excessive pulling out of the front wheels on a brisk takeoff.

On the safety side of things, the Maxima uses four-wheel-disc brakes and Electronic Brake Force Distribution, a system that makes sure you are applying enough force on the brakes, as well as brake assist to activate the anti-lock when it senses panic.

Standard features on all models include power locks/mirrors/seats/windows, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote keyless entry and a ton of air bags.

But don’t think all of this comes cheap. In what some critics say is a confusing price scheme, the Maxima arrives at less than $27,000 but gets up there in a hurry. Equip it with some of the options and packages and extras that were on our test model ($6,400 “Elite” package including heated rear seats, a DVD-based navigation system, leather seats and the premium sound) and you are into the mid-30s.

That starts to put the Maxima in big competition – Lexus ES300, BMW 3-Series. That may still be a leap.

At least, for a change, it’s something that’s worth a look.

2004 Nissan Maxima

Rating: 3

High gear: Roomy, aggressive, sporty and stylish, the Maxima steps into the forefront for midsize sedans by combining the things that used to separate it from the pack.

Low gear: Steering feel and handling is a little numb, front seats could use a little more length and packages get pricey when you start adding on all the extras.

Vehicle type: Front-wheel-drive, front-engine, four-door, five-passenger midsize sedan.

Key competition: Honda Accord, Ford Taurus, Chevrolet Impala, Toyota Avalon, Volkswagen Passat

Base engine (SE): 265 horsepower, DOHC 24-valve 3.5-liter V-6

Torque (SE): 255 lbs-ft. @ 5,800 rpm

Safety equipment: Standard anti-lock brakes as well as front, side and head air bags; optional stability control; traction control not available.

Wheelbase: 106.9 inches

Length: 186.2 inches

MPG rating: 20 city/28 highway

Manufactured: Smyrna, Tenn.

Warranty: Basic warranty is three years/36,000 miles; drivetrain is five years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance is three years/36,000 miles; and rust is five years/unlimited miles.

Base price: $26,950

Price as tested (SE model, including options, destination and delivery): $34,790

Consumer reviews

Rating breakdown (out of 5):
  • Comfort 4.2
  • Interior 4.4
  • Performance 4.3
  • Value 4.0
  • Exterior 4.5
  • Reliability 4.0

Most recent consumer reviews


Love my Mr.Max

I've loved these cats since they debuted in late 2003. I finally found a used 04, granted high mileage (215000). It now has been 3 years, now 285000 and with regular maintenance, original engine and transmission, it's never failed me. It looks like thr day it rolled off the production line, and if financially feasible, if the engine or trans does fail, I'll replace it and keep driving Mr.Max. love this car.


Great Car

Bought New, 60k miles in 16 years. Brakes , tires, GAs tubes in hood and Trunk lid failed. Burned out fog bulbs, replaced battery once. Turned front brake calipers. Garage Kept, Replaced all fluids. Thats about it.


Something i'd love forever, if i could.

Foreword: I'm young, and i don't make the money required to maintain this vehicle. It's been garage-kept, loved, and well maintained by one single person before me. This car was the baby of one individual, and as such it speaks true to how well this vehicle can hold through the years if given the love anyone can possibly can. Reality after 250,000 miles: It's reached it's prime, and far passed it. It's time. Time to turn this car off, and give it the final blessing it deserves. Not being sold, not being scrapped. As much as i want to drive it currently with a blown header, it's time. Current state (After all these many miles & love): 1. (INTERIOR) The interior is still beautiful, you could even pass it for 'fresh off the lot' factory quality. It's held on. Sturdy, and beautifully designed. 2. (EXTERIOR) The exterior has kept it's original "Radiant Amber" color well, though admittedly has faded in it's quality through the years. It's unmistakable however, that if kept in a proper climate, this car's exterior can with-stand the test of time. Though, expect the reality of the 'Metal' trims to peel, and much of any plastic to peel and fall off. 3. (Transmission, Drive-Train & Motor) The motor, though having been replaced in the past (Now covering roughly 180k+ miles, transmission remaining stock to the car since the beginning) still has the pep you'd expect from the 3.5L V6. Though i don't know the condition of the motor that was used to replace the wrecked one, it was a Nissan Motor none-the-less... When you press that pedal, you can expect an admittedly long lag, before you get kicked ever-so-slightly throw back in your seat taking you onward into watching your speed-o-meter running through it's numbers pretty confidentially. Even at a surprising rate. 4. (Accommodations/Quality/Luxury) So, i'm an electrician. And though this vehicle has never been considered to be used as a service vehicle. I managed to fit an entire 300ft of 3/4 EMT into this car. Having dropped the backseat to reveal the entrance to the trunk. I was able to fit all 3 bundles of pipe into the car, with room to spare. Obviously in a pinch, with an embarrassing moment having arrived to a job site. But PRIDE, seeing as how the car was able to do so. Final notes, though i have more information; I love this car. It's been given to me in it's late life, and i love it to death. I only wish i had the income to restore it to factory quality at this point, but i frankly cannot. I have to move onto another vehicle. THAT BEING SAID, if i had the ability, this car is absolutely worth restoring and making a "Forever Car"... BUT ONLY FOR: 1. Someone who only wants a decent little pep when they press that "Trigger" (Peddle) 2. Someone who doesn't mind the lack of the "New Age" touch-screen(s), adaptive cruise, back-up camera, Etc.

See all 57 consumer reviews


Based on the 2004 Nissan Maxima base trim.
Frontal driver
Frontal passenger
Nhtsa rollover rating
Side driver
Side rear 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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