~ ~ I suppose the sad day had to eventually come! The ‘mad cabbie’ has had to part company with his much loved Nissan Bluebird Executive, (circa 1990) which has served him so well as his taxi since it was purchased for only £1500 (Sterling) in August, 1999. A major disagreement with a large lorry, who’s driver decided he liked the look of my lane much more than his own, left the car needing more repairs to the bodywork than its overall value. Mind you, I picked up a fair few Euro in compensation from the haulage company, and still managed to sell on the old Bluebird for €500 to a young lad who is going to undertake his own repairs. In fact, I nearly got back the initial cost of the car, which can’t be bad after three years plus of virtually trouble-free motoring, now can it ??!! ~ ~ So what to buy to replace the ‘love of my life’? Well, much as I was tempted, another Bluebird was really out of the question, as the last model was produced back in 1992 and I had enough trouble sourcing a good, clean version when I bought the Executive back in 1999. But of one thing I was certain. It was certainly going to be another Japanese car, and if possible, another model from Nissan. Prior to purchasing my Bluebird, I ran a 1990 Nissan Maxima 3-Litre Automatic for a short time as my taxi, but made the fatal error of fitting a LPG (Liquid Petroleum Gas) unit to the engine to improve my fuel consumption, without realising that engines with a cubic capacity of over 2-litres have a distinct tendency not to take too kindly to the higher temperatures that the engine runs at when fuelled by LPG. The result was a cracked cylinder head, which meant that the car was a virtual write-off in real terms. But I never forgot the car, which is the flagship of the Nissan fleet. It was an absolute joy to drive! (In fact, I received my first ever Crown award here at dooyoo for my review about it, many, many moons ago!) Another 3-L
itre Maxima was out of the question at today’s fuel prices however, (even if petrol IS considerably cheaper here in Ireland than in the UK!) as I didn’t particularly fancy working simply to pay an enormous fuel bill. ~ ~ Back in 1995, Nissan brought out a newer version of the Maxima, which in the UK they called the ‘QX’, but which here in Ireland (and most other European countries) they still marketed as the ‘Maxima QX’. As well as the large 3-litre version, (which Nissan retained) they also produced a car with a smaller 2-litre engine. Although not quite so powerful as it’s big 3-litre sister, the 2-litre QX still retained the 24 valve V6 Nissan engine, which meant it was no slouch, but which at the same time gave it much improved fuel consumption figures. (more later) So I decided that I would cast my eye around on the Web and in the classified car ads to see if I could find a good, clean version of this smaller 2-litre version. My first port of call was the excellent ‘Autotrader’ website (http://www.autotrader.co.uk) where I had tracked down my old Bluebird in a small local garage in Blyth in Northumberland. There were/are a good number of Nissan Maxima’s listed, but imagine my surprise when I actually came across one in a garage not half a mile away from my own front door here in Dublin, and at a considerably lower price than most of the cars listed at Autotrader! A 1996 Nissan Maxima QX 2-litre, (SE) at the very low price of only €3,750. (Comparable Maxima’s were selling in and about the £5K to £6K Sterling mark over in the UK!) The low resale value of a used Maxima is both a plus and a minus factor. If you are buying a brand new car, then obviously it is a big minus factor, as the price of a new Maxima (for no good reason, in my opinion) drops like the proverbial stone as soon as you drive it out of the dealer’s showroom. The current market price of the late
st version of the Maxima here in Ireland varies between the €36K and €47K mark depending on the model and the trim specification. If, on the other hand, you are looking around for a totally superb second hand bargain, with extremely high specification, performance, and comfort levels, (as I was) then it is a very big plus in the car’s favour. The reason for this huge drop in resale value is probably best explained by the terrible slating that Japanese cars in general receive from the motoring press and media both here in Ireland and in the UK, who appear to be fixated on the misguided (in my opinion) notion that anything that comes out of a German car factory (BMW and Mercedes) is automatically superior to anything produced by any other car manufacturer. Over the years, the public have tended to swallow whole this media myth about ‘prestige’ cars, and hence the Nissan Maxima suffers from an image and badging problem that it’s very hard for the Japanese manufacturer to dispel. This is despite the fact that the Maxima is as good as (or even better!) than comparable models such as the BMW 5 Series, Mercedes or Audi. Pound for pound (or even Euro for Euro) the Nissan Maxima gives better value than either of the aforementioned German cars, and beats them hands down when it comes to specification levels and overall reliability. Nissans in general have long been known for their ability to clock up astronomical mileages of 200,000 miles plus without any major mechanical problems or large repair bills, which is a lot more than can be said for most of their German and European rivals. The Maxima doesn’t suffer from this problem in the USA however, where it has long been considered one of the most desirable prestige cars on the market! ~ ~ So why am I so impressed by the Nissan Maxima? The answer is fairly simple. The Maxima is a superbly engineered motorcar, that looks well and drives beautifully, and whi
ch can be bought (used) for less money than a second hand Fiesta of the same age! Some have criticised its appearance, but my answer to that would be that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I personally like its sleek, low, rounded exterior and understated appeal, which is not so ‘in your face’ as the likes of a BMW. A beautiful set of seven-spoke alloy wheels and a set of spots set into the front bumper finish off its exterior appearance perfectly. And I like the light metallic grey finish FAR better than the metallic black on my old car, as it is much easier to keep looking clean and tidy. The build is second to none, with everything about the car oozing quality, from the satisfying clunk when you shut the doors, down to the walnut trim round the central facia and door trims. The seating on my own car is in brushed velour (although you can get leather, which I would actually have preferred) and is extremely comfortable. An added little touch is the space for newspapers and magazines fitted on the rear of the front seats, which I fill each morning with the ‘Irish Times’ and the ‘Daily Telegraph’ for my passengers (and my own) use. (Got to do my bit for quality journalism and all that!) The driver’s and front passenger seats are heated, (for those chilly winter mornings) and are adjustable up, down, back, and front in order to allow you to find your most comfortable driving position. And there is more legroom for passengers in the rear seats than in any other similar car, which is a huge plus factor in my case, where the car is being used as a taxi. Likewise the space in the boot is cavernous, and will swallow up vast amounts of luggage without complaint. It has all of the ‘bells and whistles’ that you would expect on an executive class car, with electric windows all round, central locking, electric mirrors, fully adjustable steering column, and an electric tilt and slide sunroof. On
e extra that is missing is air-conditioning, which surprised me a little, as I thought it was a standard fitting, but it transpires that this is only the case on the American models. (I like air-conditioning!) A little touch that makes life easier for a poor beleaguered taxi driver are fitted dual cup holders in the front for carrying my ever-present cup of strong caffeine. By the way, the rear seat passengers aren’t forgotten in this respect. Cup holders are also included in the central armrest in the back seat, and can be folded away when not in use. And there is ample space for all my ‘bits and pieces’, with a large glove compartment, storage space in the doors and central facia, and more underneath the central armrest in the front. Head rests (sorry, I meant to say head RESTRAINTS) are standard both front and back, and fully adjustable to allow you set them in the optimum position for your neck and head protection in the event of an accident. (Thanks to my pal ‘sidneygee’ for his excellent opinion about the proper use of head restraints) And there are airbags for both the driver and front seat passenger. It also has an excellent six-speaker Philips stereo system, with a six disc CD multichanger fitted in the boot, so I can listen to all my favourite sounds and radio chat shows while tooling around in the horrendous Dublin traffic. ~ ~ Driving the car is such a pleasure that my average time behind the wheel in a normal working week has increased two fold! I love to drive anyway, (otherwise why would I consider taxi driving as a profession!) but I especially like to drive big, classy motorcars. And the Nissan Maxima QX is without question a big and classy motorcar. It’s large V6, 24-valve, DOHC, (direct overhead camshaft) fuel injected engine is as smooth as silk and as powerful as a rampaging herd of wild elephants when the ‘pedal is pressed to the metal’. Maximum brake horsepower of 14
0 is achieved at 6,400 rpm. And it’s so quiet when idling that I actually have to listen hard to make sure it is actually running! (Shades of Rolls Royce, eh what!) Its actual performance figures (2-litre version) are a top speed of 125mph (only 6mph less than the larger 3-litre) and a 0 to 60mph time of about 11 seconds. (9.5 seconds for the 3-litre) Where it really comes into its own is when overtaking. Drop gears from fifth to fourth, or fourth to third, give it some ‘welly’, and the Maxima literally leaps past other traffic as though it were standing still. And all this is achieved with the minimum of fuss and bother from the 5-speed manual gearbox, which is precise and crisp. Economy wise I am achieving around the 25mpg mark about town, which rises to about 40mpg at a steady 56mph. (but who wants to drive a car like this at a steady 56mph??) So I suppose an average of about the 30mpg figure would be about right, which is truly excellent for a car of this size and weight. Talking about weight, this is a heavy car, weighing in at a massive 1335kg, but the power steering makes short shift of this, and it’s as easy to handle as a much smaller vehicle. And the powerful ABS (anti-lock) power assisted brakes will stop you on an old sixpence. (or new 5 cents) This model of Maxima also boasts Nissan’s new multi link beam suspension on the rear. This means that the ride is somewhat firmer than on the older model, which had a distinct tendency to ‘sag in the arse’ as it aged. The new suspension means that you don’t quite get the same silky smooth ride characteristics as you did with the older (pre-1995) models, not that you would ever be tempted to describe the ride as in any way uncomfortable. It also means that the car handles even better when cornering, as it doesn’t wallow into the bends so much as previously, as the lateral body motion is reduced and the rear tyres are kept more perpendicu
lar to the road surface. Talking of tyres, the Maxima runs on larger than standard (205/65/VR15) rubber, which keeps you glued to the tarmac very effectively. (I managed to talk the garage where I bought it into two new tyres for the front, saving myself about €300 plus!) ~ ~ The cost of servicing a Maxima QX is slightly higher than a standard family saloon, but is far from prohibitive. The first thing I did after taking delivery of my car was to have a full service carried out, at a total overall cost of €270. (Mind you, I use my own ‘back street’ mechanic, and avoid main dealers like the bubonic plague!) This included a new set of NGK spark plugs, which were by far the most expensive item at over €100 the set. But they last for 50,000 miles plus, so don’t need to be replaced as often as normal. The rear brake pads were replaced, as were the oil and air filters, and new semi-synthetic oil and anti-freeze were added. A new front number plate cost an extra €10. (the old one was cracked) The car had no other faults. One thing to be careful with when you own a Maxima however is to keep an ever watchful eye on the heater radiator. This has a disconcerting habit of starting to leak as the car gets older, (well documented) and dripping down onto the (VERY expensive) engine control unit located directly below it. Should you ‘fry’ this control unit then you are looking at €1,000 plus to replace it. (unless you can pick one up in a scrap yard) ~ ~ So to sum up. I am totally delighted with my new purchase, and am looking forward to a good few years of trouble free (hopefully) and highly enjoyable motoring in my Maxima QX. The car comes with the very highest recommendation from the ‘mad cabbie’. Not a car to buy new because of the massive depreciation, unless you are planning to keep it for a good number of years. But as a quality second hand vehicle it is
very hard to beat. ~~~~~~~~~~~~ A Euro varies in value at between 60p and 64p Sterling ~~~~~~~~~~~~ New Price in the UK 2.0 - Litre V6 SE + Auto £23,700 3.0 - Litre V6 SE + Auto £25,900 (No prices are quoted for the manual version. Do they still do one?) Used Book Price In the UK 2.0 - Litre V6 24 Valve SE Saloon 1996 £2,700 1997 £3,300 1998 £3,840 1999 £4,520 2000 £5,480 3.0 - Litre S 24 Valve SEL Auto Saloon 1996 £4,000 1997 £4,860 1998 £5,690 1999 £6,800 2000 £8,170 2001 £9,610 (See what I mean when I talk about high depreciation!) ~~~~~~~~~~~~ Copyright. KenJ. October, 2002. ~~~~~~~~~~~~
Like so many other people, the QX wasn`t on my list of desirable cars. Come to think of it, I didn`t really know it existed..... We ended up with ours by default, as we had a problem getting a good price for our previous car, a Rover 200 auto on a Q plate. Yes, all the stories you have heard about Q plates are true. We had to change cars because of my wifes hip problem, as the seats in the Rover just weren`t up to the comfort standards. Try as we might, no-one would give us a decent price for the car. Nothing at all wrong with it, just the Q.... In the end, we went back to our Nissan dealer, who sold us the Rover, and he said that he felt he`d have to help us. First shock, a dealer with a conscience!!! We had to have an auto, and this lovely dark blue thing was sitting on the forecourt. A 1998 S-reg QX SEL 2.0, not even due its first MOT then, at £6995. First thoughts are "What`s wrong with it if it`s going at that price?". We were told that a) they`re not the most popular car on the road, and b) it had 116000 on the clock! We walked away. After a couple of days, we went back and had a good look at it. Full leather, a nice mid-grey and unmarked. Automatic climate control. Onboard computer. Heated seats. Elec. adjustable seats. Pushbutton dash. Wood, fake, but very effective. Sony CD player. Drivers and passengers airbags, and side airbags. Thatcham-approved security system. Loads more, and what capped it all, when we checked, it was going to cost less to insure than our little Rover was.....! We decided to go for it, and can honestly say that 11 months and another 16000 miles later, we do not regret it one little bit. The car has been 100% reliable, starting first time every time, and we have some cold weather up here in NE Scotland. I have the history, and all that it has had replaced are the tyres and a new battery, which was put on when we bought it. Even the exhaust is the original. Driving this car is something to be experienced, and
while the 2 litre engine is a bit sluggish on long hills, it is a very willing unit, especially when you select "Sport" on the autobox. I`ve driven BMW`s in my previous job, and good as they are, they are no better than the QX. I can`t speak for Mercs, as I haven`t had the pleasure, but if the equivalent Merc is better than my QX, then it`s a damn fine car. But I doubt it! We travel up and down from Scotland to Oxford, and the journey just glides by. We don`t have to suffer the Services too much either, because we don`t feel the need to stop so often, so there`s another benefit! I can get 30+ mpg at a steady 70 mph, and I`m more than happy with that. My pet hate is the "Top Gear" mentality. That program was responsible for more misguided opiniating than anything else, and Messrs Clarkson et al are the reason cars like the QX get cold-shouldered. We don`t all want to hang the rearend out on bends, we want to enjoy a drive in a car that suits out style, and I`ve found mine. If there is a better-built, more comfortable, more reliable car out there for the money, show me it, and it`s my next car. In the meantime, I`m going to clock up the 250000 mile mark before I even think about getting rid of it. With 131300 showing, that won`t take long! To conclude, if you get the chance to try out one of these hidden gems, do it! You won`t regret it. You may even be like me, and do a good PX deal on it!
Ok, the basics first of all about why I bought one of these anonymous japanese thingies. I'd run Saabs for a few years thinking they were some of the best and most reliable long-distance cruisers on the planet (I do a lot of miles across Europe). But even they weren't as good as they were cracked up to be; niggling problems and pricey fixing costs. So I read all the reviews and decided that the QX must be worth a look because its obviously designed for the American market and the reviewers kept saying how well made it was. I found a 3.0 SEL with ALL the toys at a local Nissan dealer and was fairly impressed. It was fairly bland and uninspiring but I could see how well it was built. A short drive converted me. I've tried all the usual stuff (Beemers, Mercs, Lexus, etc) but this was fantatstic. So smooth and pretty damn fast. And the best bit. Its 3 years old and I get it for less than £10k! Had it 7 months now and I can't believe how good it is. I've searched all over for a fault but I can't find a thing - not even a bit of loose trim. It will do 700 miles in a day with ease. Nothing ever goes wrong and the servicing is simple and cheap. I don't care if owners of german cars look down their noses at it. It will burn most of them off and cost me a lot less to run.
The QX is really an unknown quantity in the UK with only 600 sold per year. It is the biggest and most expensive car sold by Nissan and classed as an executive saloon. I have owned mine for 18 months and bought it when it was 18 months old for considerably less than the £29,000 price tag when new. As you'd expect for a 'top' car it comes with every thing that you can image including climate control, 10 CD stack system, and electic every thing including seats, mirrors etc. The service bill for it is not far off the price of a primera at about £120. The trouble with big 3 litre cars that have exceptional performance is the only down side Fuel consumption. It will give about 26 miles to the gallon but the free reving engine which has fantastic acceleration for a saloon car makes up for this. The auto box is effortless with the smoothest of changes. The car is faultless and if it were to have a BMW or Mercedes badge on would keep its value better than they do. I have never had a Japanese car being a vauxhall man but have been so impressed by Nissan that my wife now has a micra. Top Gear magazine always rate them as well worth looking at in the second hand market because of the good value for money