As a consumer, I've never considered buying a Nissan Maxima. It just hasn't been on my car radar. After test-driving a 2009 Maxima for a week, it's now on my radar. In fact, I give it the maximum A-plus Mommy-rating. It's a thoroughly enjoyable car to drive, and it had enough comfort and luxury appointments to make me look forward to getting into it each day of the test drive.

The Nissan folks refer to the Maxima as a four-door sports car, and I'd have to agree. Unlike other sedans, the Maxima isn't plain-looking. Its funky headlights reminded me of the Nissan 370Z, which I adored when I reviewed it, and it gave the front end a pseudo-Volvo look.

The Maxima's spunky sport tuning made it fun to drive. Its V-6 engine is amazingly quick, but I always felt in control. The only downside to the V-6 engine is it needs premium gas.

During my time with the Maxima, I drove through one of my favorite neighborhoods that's known for its gorgeous horse farms and narrow dirt roads. The Maxima handled those roads well despite the huge potholes and rough terrain.

Between the Maxima's sporty look and fun-to-drive V-6, you're looking at one fine sedan.

Exterior

The Maxima was redesigned for 2009, and I noticed quite a few design elements that appear to have been pulled from the Infiniti line. From the outside, the hood looks bowed toward the center and flares up a bit on the outer edges; I've noticed the same molding on Infinitis. As you buckle in and look over the hood you notice these large, sculpted bulges - muscular, really - which add to the sporty ambience of this not-so-ordinary sedan.

Likewise, the Maxima's profile is accented with chrome door handles and chrome trim around the windows. I like chrome for the added sparkle it delivers. A girl needs to feel glamorous, and you'd be surprised how quickly a little chrome can brighten the day.

All too often, a car's rear end gets short-changed on design and style. This isn't the case with the Maxima. Dual exhaust pipes, a sharply clipped booty, a spoiler and - of course - a little more chrome work tie the entire car together perfectly; there are no loose ends.

SENSE AND STYLE

Family Friendly (Not Really, Fair, Great, Excellent): Great

Fun-Factor (None, Some, Good Times, Groove On): Groove On

Interior

The Nissan Maxima's interior is as pronounced and edgy as its exterior. However, it felt a little too masculine for my taste. There are a lot of dark gray materials on the inside. It's accented with metallic-looking plastic trim on the center stack. Upon closer inspection, the faux metallic trim is speckled, and it looked like a peel-and-stick finish. It didn't do much for me.

The seating is comfortable, and its eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat also has power lumbar support. I liked the red stitching that contrasted with the Charcoal-colored leather seats, as well as the power moonroof that really opened up the already roomy cabin area.

In the backseat, my boys had plenty of legroom. There's so much legroom that they couldn't kick the back of my seat because they couldn't reach it. It's worth remembering that a seatback that's out of reach of little feet is a seatback that stays clean. All that extra legroom means a rear-facing infant-safety seat should easily fit in the backseat.

I also took the Maxima on a major grocery run, and its cargo space gulped up my groceries and had room to spare for dessert. The trunk is sizable, but if you have a double stroller I'd make sure it can fit back there before buying the Maxima.

My test car came with a 9.3GB hard drive for music, which is part of an optional Tech Package. For the first time ever, I figured out how to record my CDs to the hard drive, so I wouldn't have to tote CDs around. I really liked this feature, but if you prefer an iPod, an iPod interface is also available as part of the optional package.

The navigation system's controls are completely separate from the stereo buttons; this helps minimize confusion. The touch-screen also displays cabin information. To adjust the air conditioning, you have to push the mode button down by the climate controls, then scroll through the options on the screen. If I had a choice, I'd replace the mode button with a simple diagram of body parts. I like the swiftness of clicking one button to get air flowing where I need it instead of scrolling through modes to locate my preference.

IT'S THE LITTLE THINGS THAT COUNT

Storage Compartments (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Fair

Cargo/Trunk Space (Puny, Fair, Ample, Galore): Ample

Safety

The Maxima failed to impress me when it came to its Latch connectors and child-safety-seat fit. The backseat has bolsters that interfered with the fit of my sons' booster seats. The result? The booster seats sat slightly crooked. Sounds safe, doesn't it? The Latch connecters were difficult to access, so it looks like some kid-friendly renovations are in order in the Maxima.

The Maxima has all the standard safety features we look for, including side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags for both rows of seats, antilock brakes, traction control and an electronic stability system.

I also like that the emergency trunk release handle is easily visible in the trunk. It made me feel secure knowing it's in there in case I ever find myself stuck in the trunk for whatever reason. I should really watch less "Law and Order."

FAMILY LIFESTAGE

In Diapers: There's plenty of room for a rear-facing infant-safety seat.

In School: My sons' booster seats didn't fit well in the backseat because of the bolsters.

Teens: This is a distinctive-looking sedan that any teen would happily drive.