Maxima History

Models, Engines and Performance

Talkin' 'bout my Generation


Stock Performance

Maxima Engines

The VE30DE

Details of the VQ30DE

VQ30DE-K New for 2000

4th Generation - Beam Rear Axle?

5th Generation rear suspension

Q: What are the different models and generations of the Maxima?

A: Comments from Andi Baritchi, Greg B. and Steve Cutchen

The first Nissan luxury sedan in the U.S. was introduced in February 1977 as a 1977 model. It was called the Datsun 810. It was rear drive, had a semi- trailing arm rear suspension (more advanced than the typical live-axle of the day). The wagon version had the live-axle rear unfortunately for load carrying reasons. It also had the 2.4L OHC straight 6 engine from the 240Z (even though the 280Z was for sale in the U.S by 1977). It was available in sedan and wagon form from the beginning and also a 2-door hard top for 1979 and 1980. This car lasted about four years (typical Japanese redesign time back then). Nothing special really but this is where the Maxima began. All Maximas can trace their origins to this car. Technically, it is the First Generation model but since it never wore the badge, we can't really call it that. The Zero Generation?

The next generation 810 was introduced in the end of 1980/beginning of 1981 as a 1981 model. It was available in sedan and wagon form (no coupe this time). The car was called the Deluxe in base form. Base models had a 5-speed, OHC 2.4L straight 6, rear wheel drive, and 4 wheel independent suspension (except the wagon which again received the live-axle rear). It also had that love it or hate it Voice Alert Warning System for the first time in 1981 as standard. In upscale form it was called the Maxima. So this was where it all began, the First Generation. Maxima started as a trim designation, not a model. Maxima trimmed models received 4-wheel disc brakes and an automatic transmission as standard over the base. These were the first square bodied Maximas that you can still see puttering along. There are other items of note for this generation. In mid-1981, an 80 hp diesel engine became available and lasted until the end of 1983 (the base 2.4L OHC motor made 120 hp from 1977 to 1984). In the 1982 model year, Maxima became the official name of the car replacing the 810 badge (Datsun/Nissan was changing the names of all of their cars then). The 5-speed was available as well as the auto. (a proud tradition that continues until today! whoopee!). And in the 1984 model year, the car officially was called the Nissan Maxima.

The fall of 1984 saw the Second Generation Maxima, a front wheel drive V6 introduced for 1985. It is also the generation of the Floater. This was the last one to get redone in 4 model years (1985-1988 model years) as the third generation model lasted from 1989 through 1994 (six full years!!). The Second Generation is also the last one with a wagon in the U.S. (they continue overseas). One thing of note was that when the Stanza was redone in 1986 as a 1987 model, it received the Maxima chassis (a little known fact - and I swear it's true) but only a four cylinder motor. Therefore, the Stanza was relatively very heavy compared to its competition and very slow since it only had the four.

The 1989-94 Maximas are called Third Generation. These had a very sharp-looking body-style that is no-doubt BMW-inspired -- especially the arch in the rear quarter windows. It is commonly held to be the best looking of all Maximas. In 1992 the DOHC VE30DE engine was introduced in the SE model. The Maxima SE became the 4-door sports car! Along with the Ford Taurus SHO, the Maxima SE was the best value in high performance four door speed. And the best Q-ship available for driving quickly.

Although the Fourth Generation preserved the window arch, the rest of the car was rounded a lot in the 1995 model year. Styling was not highly received. I think the car definitely needs the rear spoiler of the trunk looks like a bread box. The best part of the forth generation Maxima? It received a new engine called the VQ30DE along with a lot of other technical enhancements including the new multilink beam rear suspension. The new rear suspension is "a new twist on the old beam" (quoted from Motor Trend sometime in '94). Basically it's a simple rear beam axle, but instead of one rod connecting the beam to the body (which would cause a lateral displacement when moving up and down), there is a dual-linkage which causes a scissor-type movement... It's hard to explain in words but basically you get the best of both words: 1) both rear wheels are always perpendicular to the road (a la rear beam suspension), and 2) the movement is straight up and down when one side is compressed, with no sideways movement on bumps (a la independent rear suspension).

In 1997 the Maxima received a facelift -- Nissan was responding to some of the pans of the forth generation styling. The front end was made more aggressive while the rear was actually made more conservative. Also in 97, cornering lamps were deleted. (Check the electrical/lighting section of the FAQ for a way to at least somewhat regain cornering lamp functionality).

The Fifth Generation Maxima was introduced in 2000. The best news was the introduction of the modified VQ engine, the VQ30DE-K. With 222 hp and 207 lb-ft of torque, better performance might be expected. But it appears that low end torque has been traded off for high end torque. This adds to the HP number, but reduces response in normal driving. Performance numbers are not improved. Also, durability of Nissan's 5-speed manual transmission has been enhanced, thanks to reinforced 2nd, 3rd and 5th gears.

More than a refreshening like the 1997 model, the unibody was reengineered. The body is an inch longer, 0.6 inch wider and 0.8 inch higher, and with a wheelbase two inches longer. A redesigned front end modernized the face, and a new back end helps the end that Camry drivers see. The base of the windshield is 2 inches farther forward. Many reinforcements have been added to increase stiffness; a 30 percent increase in torsional rigidity. The inside has been redesigned, and split folding rear seats are now standard. Steering feel has been improved, a common knock on the Fourth Generation. Bigger brakes (thanks to standard 16" wheels) are offset by more weight, and braking distances are longer. You'll also notice a completely redesigned dashboard design that's reminiscent of Ford's New Edge theme (sharp angles mixed with curves). All controls and switches are within easy reach of the driver.

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Q: What are the stock performance characteristics of the Maxima?

A: Here's the published data for previous and current generation Maximas that I know of.

Mag  Date 0-60 5-60 1/4 ET @mph  Model   Trans  Magazine Feature
    --- 2nd Generation ---
MT   1/88 10.3  ---  17.8   78  88 GXE   auto  Nissan Maxima GXE
    --- 3rd Generation ---
MT   6/89  9.8  ---  17.3   81  89 GXE   auto  Cressida vs. Maxima
C&D  9/91  8.0  8.7  16.3   85  91 SE    5sp   Six Packs to go
MT  10/91  7.6  ---  15.9   89  92 SE    5sp   Warning: Magnum on Board
C&D 11/91  6.7  7.3  15.3   91  92 SE    5sp   Short Take
C&D  8/92  7.0  7.5  15.5   91  92 SE    5sp   Maxima,SHO,Camry comparison
    --- 4th Generation ---
C&D*11/95  8.1  8.8  16.4   85  95 GXE   auto  Family Four-Doors
C&D  5/95  7.7  7.9  16.1   87  95 I30t  auto  I30t Road Test
MT   2/95  7.6  ---  15.7   90  95 GXE   auto  1995 Import Car of the Year
C&D  5/95  7.3  7.8  15.9   87  95 SE    auto  Romp in the Woods
Emds       7.9  ---  ----   --  97 SE    auto  Edmunds web site
R&T  6/94  7.4  ---  15.7   90  95 SE    5sp   Road Test
AM** 8/95  6.6  ---  15.2   92  95 GXE   5sp   Great Cars for $20K
C&D  1/96  6.7  7.2  15.3   92  95 SE    5sp   Long Term Test, new
C&D  1/96  6.6  7.0  15.2   93  95 SE    5sp   Long Term Test, 40K miles
MT** 2/95  6.6  ---  15.2   92  95 SE    5sp   1995 Import Car of the Year
MT   1/97  7.1  ---             97 SE    5sp   Intrigue vs. Camry vs. Maxima
R&T  6/97  7.1  ---  15.5   91  97 SE    5sp   Max/Jetta/Integra/AudiA4/Legacy
Emds       6.9  ---  ----   --  97 SE    5sp   Edmunds web site
MT  12/96  6.7  ---  15.1   92  96 SMX   5sp   Extreme Sedans***
C&D  6/96  6.4  6.9  15.1   92  96 SMX   5sp   SMX Road Test***
MY  12/98  5.9  ---  14.4   99  98 SMXsc 5sp   Stillen Supercharged SMX
    --- 5th Generation ---
C&D  6/99  7.0  7.5  15.6   91  00 SE    5sp   2000 Nissan Maxima SE****
R&T  6/99  7.0  ---  15.4       00 SE    5sp   2000 Nissan Maxima SE
C&D  2/00  8.0  8.6  16.1   87  00 I30t  auto  Ennui and Upward (Infiniti I30t)+

   *see comments below from Csaba Cere concerning these "out of place" stats.
  **The 2/95 MT data is Motor Trend data that Nissan quotes.
    And Automobile magazine got it from Nissan
 ***neither of the Stillen SMX tests include ECU upgrades.  Though the MT
    test said there car had one, it was preproduction did not help much.  The
    only currently available ECU upgrade is for '95.  The '96 and '97s are
    still being finalized.
****Calculations by Andi Baritchi indicate that the 2000 Maxima cannot use
    its increased HP.  The optimal shift points are above the rev limiter.
    Also, the engine seems to have less low-end torque.  This suggests that 
    engine was tuned to market high HP (torque at high RPM) versus really
    adding usable power.
   +This test was of the Infiniti I30t.  Curb weight is 3414, versus 3293
    for the Maxima SE.  Compensating the performance data would give an
    ET of 15.9 sec and a 0-60 of 7.6 as an estimate for the Y2K Maxima auto.

*The November 1995 test results seem to be out of place; this car was quite a bit slower than the other three automatics tested, note especially the 5-60 numbers. And I would have guessed that the automatics would have been more consistent than the 5spds. I asked Csaba Csere if this GXE could have been ailing a bit. He replied:

>Regarding your question, I can't argue with your observation. The Maxima
>automatic that we tested in November 1995 is the slowest of the group. I have
>no obvious explanation for this result. That test was conducted in Northern
>Michigan during the late summer. Therefore, the car was tested at the
>Chrysler Proving Grounds, our home test track, where we achieve our most
>accurate and repeatable test results.
>Furthermore, I was along on that test and do not recall any obvious distress
>on the part of the Maxima. It was perhaps on the slow side, but it was
>running fine.
>It is possible that the difference between the 8.1 seconds achieved by the
>slow Maxima and the 7.3 seconds achieved by the quickest automatic could fall
>within the bounds of  car-to-car variability if one car fell at the extreme
>fast end of the spread and the other was at the extreme slow end. In the
>absence of any contrary evidence, that would be my conclusion.

WRT how to get max 0-60 numbers, here's how Car and Driver tests:

"ACCELERATION: Elapsed times from 0 to 60 mph and through the quarter-mile distance using full-throttle acceleration. Test vehicle is loaded with driver, full tank of fuel, and 30 pounds of test instrumentation. With manual-transmission cars, wheelspin and/or clutch slip is used at the starting line to make best use of the engine's power characteristics and the vehicle's traction. All up-shifts are lift-throttle with the clutch disengaged. With automatic-transmission cars, brake tourqing (applying the throttle while holding the vehicle with the brakes) is used when beneficial to produce the best launches and acceleration. With all transmissions, various shift points are tried to maximize performance. The redline is never exceeded. Time, speed and distance are measured using a Datron Correvit optical fifth wheel. All performance results are corrected to standard atmospheric conditions."

I tend to look at the Car and Driver 5-60 (street start) numbers to get a more realistic feel for what I might achieve, since I'd rather not tach up to 4 grand and then dump the clutch on my own car.

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Q: I've heard of some older Maximas called floaters. What are these?

A: Courtesy of Larry Slesigner:

Back in 1985 and 1986, when the Japanese were flooding the U.S. with cars, a backlash began to develop. American manufacturers were complaining loudly (remember Lee?), and Congress was talking about import restrictions. To avoid this, the Japanese agreed to voluntarily restrict imports to the U.S., with each manufacturer limited by their previous market share. At that time, Nissan was only building trucks in the U.S. For Nissan, this caused a problem. The Maxima and Z were hot sellers, and by February of '86, they had already used up their entire quota for the year. So the first thing they did was introduce the 1987's in March of '86 (as I type this I'm looking at a 1987 Maxima brochure - printing date 3/86). Of course, at the rate the cars were selling, they would have sold out their quota of '87's by the fall of '86. Enter "floaters" Because the Japanese are the world's largest exporter of motor vehicles, they have to build each model in many different configurations, to satisfy each country's rules and regulations. For some small markets, this is too costly. For instance, in the '70's Japanese cars sold in Canada had 5-MPH bumpers and catalysts, even though Canada didn't require them, because it was cheaper for the Japanese to give Canadians U.S.-spec cars than build them special. The same held true for a lot of other small markets, primarily Guam (a U.S. possession) and Panama. Those two markets received U.S.-spec cars first because they were small markets, and second (because of the strong U.S. military presence in both places) because a lot of the cars sold there wound up in the hands of servicemen who would want to bring them to the states once the tour of duty was over. Each Nissan distributor is an independent entity. Nissan verified their U.S. export numbers to the U.S. government by showing how many cars they had sold to the U.S. distributor. Now, thousands of U.S.-spec Maximas and Z's were sold to the Guam and Panama distributors. They in turn sold them to the U.S. distributor. As far as Nissan (and the U.S. government) was concerned, those cars went to the Guam and Panama markets. Of course, in reality, they never left the boat until they hit the U.S. Most of the paperwork was routed through Panama. The only problem was that the cars didn't have a U.S. warranty (just like gray-market cameras). No problem. Once the dealer received the cars, they purchased a U.S. warranty from Nissan for about $200. It reduced their profit on each car, but it's better to make a couple of hundred less on each car than to not have any cars to sell at all. The other thing missing was the Monroney sticker (U.S. required), so the dealers would have blanks printed, and type in the information themselves. The buyers never knew that they had bought a "floater", but the attitude was "no harm, no foul". Now you also know why there are so many '87's out there. The model year ran from 3/86 to 10/87.

How do you know if you own a "floater"?

Nissan continued the practice for a few years (Toyota did the same thing), until they were building enough Sentras in the U.S. to offset the imports. I only sold Nissans for a short time (made a lot of money, but despised the business), so I can only tell you about the '86's to '88's for sure. Because most of the Maximas were Panama cars, the first indication of a floater is that the car doesn't have the voice-warning system (Panamanians don't speak a lot of English, so Nissan just left it out). Also at that time there were only two models, the GXE and the SE. GXE's came with power seats, SE's with a power roof. If you have an SE with power seats, you have a floater. Third indication is the stereo system. U.S. cars had a power antenna override button, so that it could be shut off to prevent freeze-up in the winter. Because Guam and Panama don't get snow, there's no override button in the floaters. I'm not sure about post-88 floaters, but if you have a Maxima that differs slightly from the advertised specs and equipment, it's probably a floater. By the way, the '87's built in '86 have manual seat belts. Those build in '87 have automatic shoulder belts. I had completely forgotten about floaters until I recently picked up a very clean '87. I had sold a lot of them back then, and one of my friends who bought one from me still had his brochure. As I looked through the specs and equipment, I remembered how we used to talk about floaters at the dealership, and how many of them we sold. My '87 is a floater.

Hope you enjoyed you history lesson. I can just imagine how many of you are about to run out to the driveway or garage right now to examine your cars again, to try to find out if you have one.


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Q: What engines were used in Maximas over the years?







Torque (ft-lbs)


1989-1994 GXE
1989-1991 SE




2nd Gen:

152@ 5200

3rd Gen:

160@ 5200

2nd Gen:

167@ 3600

3rd Gen:

182@ 3200

Lasts forever... With current data, this is the most reliable engine Nissan has built so far. Only serious problem reported is broken exhaust manifold bolts. Uses a timing belt... must be replaced every 60K miles.

1992-1994 SE




190@ 5600

190@ 4000

DOHC and variable valve timing comes to the Maxima.

1995-1999 All




190@ 5600

205@ 4000

No variable valve timing or intake length path here... just lots of torque! Judged a top 10 engine, worldwide.





222@ 6400

217@ 4000

New and improved VQ

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Q: Tell me about the VE30DE engine introduced in the 92 Maxima SE?

A: Here's what what Motor Trend had to say in October 1991:

In the past, the luxury oriented GXE and the sports-minded SE have shared most of their basic hardware, including the sane 160 HP engine. But things have taken a turn for the quick, thanks to the arrival of a potent new 190-horsepower twin-cammer. From now on the Maxima SE is destined to come a lot closer to legitimizing the "four-door sports car" moniker Nissan is do fond of using in its ad campaigns.

The all-new SE-level engine remains a 3-liter alloy-over-iron V-6 similar to the SOHC VG30 series introduced in the '84 300ZX and still used in the Maxima GXE. But this potent offering is different enough to merit its own VE family designation. The VE30DE utilizes much common technology found in the present DOHC VG30DE (those suffix letters, by the way indicate dual cams and multipoint injection) engine of today's 300ZX. That includes variable valve timing and a direct ignition system, However, the VE shares no major common components , and its camshafts are driven by chains rather than belts. The engine block is stronger with greater rigidity, but the larger heads have their four valves per cylinder splayed at a relatively narrow 30 degrees to allow the package to snuggle transversely under the Maxima's hood. On SE's fitted with a manual transmission the engine also gets a variable induction system that enhances mid- and high-range power. To improve the noise/vibration/harshness characteristics it rests in a new strain of fluid-filled motor mounts.

The VE30DE has a known problem. The Variable Valve Timing System fails, getting very noisy. Here's a link to the 3rd Gen VTC Sprockets item in the Maintenance section of the MaxFAQ.

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Q: What is so special about the VQ30DE engine introduced in the 95 Maxima?

A: Here's what various auto journalists had to say

Car and Driver, June 1994:

The other new ingredient in the Maxima recipe is the engine. It's still a 24- valve, 3.0 liter 60-degree V-6, but virtually no parts interchange with the previous powerplant. Aluminum alloy cuts the weight of the block casting nearly in half, repackaging of the cam drive and accessories shrinks its external dimensions, and the usual refinement of electronic controls manages gains in both performance and efficiency.

But for the enthusiast driver, the engine's running character is perhaps more notable even than its on paper features and benefits. A short-stroke design (3.66 inch bore by 2.89 inch stroke, versus the previous engine's 3.43 by 3.27) and a concerted effort to lighten the weight of all rotating and reciprocating parts have given the new V-6 a lively, free-revving feel. It responds instantly to throttle, spins up with a nicely subdued growl, and makes a perfect match with the five-speed manual gearbox that is the natural enthusiast's alternative to the four-speed autobox.

Output figures for the new engine are the same 190 horsepower at 5600 rpm of the former SE engine, and 205 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm, up from 190 at the same engine speed. So this engine is at least is strong as the old SE unit, and it's pulling around a car a good deal lighter: 3100 pounds, compared with the 3238 of our August 1992 comparo car. Acceleration is sparkling. Our '95 Maxima SE scampers to 60 mph in 6.7 seconds and covers the quarter-mile in 15.3 seconds, reaching 91 mph. (The '92 ran 0 to 60 in 7.0 seconds, the quarter-mile in 15.5 seconds at 91 mph.) Top speed is 135 mph, within production tolerances of the 137 mph we saw in the '92 car.

Motor Trend, June 1994

Most of the SE's performance leap comes from the new engine used in all Maximas. Yet, without close inspection, it's easy to dismiss it as a warmed-over version of the old: It has the same configuration (60-degree V-6 DOHC, four valves per cylinder), the same peak horsepower (190) occurring at the same rpm (5600), and its displacement still rounds to 3.0 liters. Nevertheless, the new engine, code named "VQ" is about "all-new" as it gets without going to proton drives.

The engine is 1.2 inches shorter, 3.9 inches narrower, and 108 pounds lighter, which helps the new Maxima weigh about 100 pounds less than its predecessor despite additional features like dual airbags. To help reduce height, stroke is shorter and bore is larger with a resulting 28-cubic-centimeter displacement increase. Larger valves are set in a narrower included angle to further reduce size and improve combustion- chamber efficiency. Also contributing to compactness: A three-chain cam-drive system- one chain turns the intake cams, while shorter chains use the intake cams to spin the exhausts- replaces the single-toothed belt.

The new engine's peak torque jumps 15 pound-feet (to 205 at 4000 rpm) and, from the test results, it's clear the area under the torque curve is substantially increased. Another factor accounting for the improvement in acceleration: Because the main moving parts are 17 percent lighter, the engine revs markedly quicker. Also assisting: reduced friction through microfinishing- ultra fine-polishing similar to that done by builders of racing engine- of crank and cam journals and cam lobes, as well as by molybdenum coating on the piston skirts, reduced skirt area, and thinner piston rings.

Nissan trimmed the engine block's weight (by 50 percent) and size by changing from cast iron to high-pressure cast aluminum (with cast-in iron liners), and by radically reducing water jacket area and rerouting coolant flow. Now, most of the coolant goes directly to the heads, with a small amount simultaneously diverted to the block.

Road & Track, June 1994

Does this new focus make the new Maxima a performance lightweight? Hardly. The 1995 Maxima showcases an all-new 3.0 liter V-6 engine, the first of a family of bent sixes (also displacing 2.0 and 2.5 liters) that will power numerous front- and rear-drive Nissans, including the next 300ZX, well into the 21st century.

The Maxima's new 4-cam, 24-valve all-aluminum V-6 is a gem. It replaces both the SOHC 12-valve 160-bhp base engine (around in one form or another since 1983) and the 1994 SE's DOHC 24-valve 190 bhp of the same displacement and shares not a single part with those cast-iron-block V6s.

For starters, it is 108 lb. Lighter than last year's 3.0 liter, helping improve the Maxima's font/rear weight distribution. A 2-stage chain cam drive (which permits use of smaller exhaust-cam sprockets) and cast-aluminum timing-chain cover and oilpan (which incorporate mounts for accessories) make the engine more compact, giving more space to the passenger compartment. Nissan engineers reduced mass of items such as the pistons, crankshaft, rods and flywheel some 17 percent, which when combined with the engine's shorter stroke, makes for easy revving and delightful throttle response. Power-robbing friction is reduced by the use of moly-coated piston skirts and microfinished crankshaft and camshaft surfaces.

Aerodynamic port development keeps intake-charge velocities high through the crossflow head, even at low engine speeds. The V-6 develops an impressive 205 lb.-ft. of torque at 4000 rpm, but more important, more 90 percent of that peak torque is available from a lazy 1600 rpm to a freeway-flying 5500. This is one flexible, responsive engine that acquits itself nicely without the aid of variable cam timing or induction tuning. And it's quiet at idle and smooth as silk throughout the rev range, aided by electronically tuned fluid-filled engine-mount technology.


This one I don't have the reference for... courtesy of Shaun Tran:

One of the technical high points of the '95 Maxima is its new Vat engine, which is standard in all models. This new VQ powerplant. is similar in configuration to the VG series it replaces: Both are 3.0 liter 24-valve DOHC 60-degree sixes. But that's where the parallels end. The revolutionary VQ is smaller, lighter, cleaner, cheaper to build, and easier to maintain. It also makes more power and torque yet delivers better fuel economy.

Because it would be used for a variety of future applications worldwide, would displace between 2.0 and 3.0 liters, and would see both transverse and longitudinal installations, Nissan spared no effort in the VQ development program-nor in its preproduction reliability testing. For the first time in its history, the firm employed a special task force to design manufacturing efficiencies on this all-aluminum wonder. Extensive computer modeling contributed to further optimization and helped reduce total component count by 10 percent. The VQ assembly process is equally state-of-the-art, with 70 percent of its final buildup done by machine. Utilizing a relatively short stroke, new chain-driven two-stage cam drive, and a more-compact cylinder head assured that this engine would set new standards in packaging efficiency. Repositioning various ancillary components netted further gains, ultimately cutting 1.2 inches from the complete VQ assembly's overall height and 3.9 inches from its overall length.

The relentless assault on excess weight in the VQ began with the decision to move from a cast-iron block to an aluminum counterpart with cast-in iron liners. Every major internal component also was redesigned to jettison unnecessary mass. In the end, the new VQ ended up 23 percent-an incredible 108 pounds- lighter than the engine it replaces. To ensure that necessary structural rigidity would be maintained, the VQ is fitted with a beefy single piece main bearing girdle as well as a heavy-duty, cast-aluminum oil pan.

The VQ relies on a unique dual-path system to circulate coolant separately through the block and heads. This split routing not only promotes more uniform cooling of the individual components, it provides for quicker cold-start warm-up, which in turn lowers hydrocarbon emissions. To help increase fuel economy, the design team also attacked internal friction. On that front, all critical crankshaft and camshaft surfaces are microfinished, while the trimmed-down pistons use narrower rings and have a molybdenum coating to further reduce drag. Other mileage-/enhancing emissions-cutting tweaks include more precise control of the ignition, timing, and fuel- injection systems, plus redesigned intake ports. The intake manifolding also was changed to improve low-end torque.

The effect is nothing short of brilliant. Despite its formidable out-put-the VQ makes 190 horsepower at 5600 rpm and 205 pound-feet of torque at 4000 rpm-it garners EPA city/highway numbers of 22/27 mpg paired with the five--speed manual transmission and 21/28 mpg when matched with the four-speed automatic. That's a gain of 4 percent and 13 percent, respectively, over the standard V-6 in the '94 Maxima, which made only 160 horsepower and 182 pound-feet of torque.

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Q: What is the 2000 VQ30DE-K engine?

A: Again, the automotive journalists heap praise

Car and Driver, June 1999

The K is for kaizen, which translates to "improvement". 217 pound-feet at 4000 rpm. This improvement in performance was achieved by extensive revisions, including the lightening of reciprocating parts and the adoption of a new, thin-wall aluminum block. Induction resistance was reduced and that, along with the adoption of a rotary-valve variable-volume intake system, led to a seven-percent improvement in engine filling. Nissan engineers also claim a 40-percent reduction in exhaust back pressure, due largely to a variable-capacity muffler, which uses a blow-off valve to open a less restrictive path through the muffler at middle to high revolutions.

Road and Track, June 1999

Despite the styling and suspension revisions, the heart of the Maxima continues to be Nissan's 3.0-liter aluminum block V-6. This is one of the most flexible and smoothest-revving powerplants around-the car will actually pull away from rest in 5th gear without juddering. And Nissan has bumped up the horsepower of the lightweight 24-valve engine to 222 bhp at 6400 rpm (up 32 bhp) and increased torque from 205 lb-ft. to 217 at 4000 rpm. The increases are the result of a higher-flow induction system and a variable-capacity muffler.

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Q: What is the deal with the 4th Generation beam axle replacing the fully independent rear suspension of the 3rd generation Maxima?

A: Here's what Motor Trend said about the new multi-link beam suspension when they awarded the 1995 Maxima the Motor Trend Import Car of the year:

The new Maxima benefits from a generous helping of suspension wizardry. MacPherson struts carry over up front, but the rear struts with parallel links have given way to a new Multi-Link Beam configuration with trailing arms. Lighter, more compact,, more space-efficient, and less expensive to produce, the new system also delivers tangible dynamic improvements over the one it replaces. Nissan will use this patented rear-axle design on many of its upcoming front-drive vehicles, including the new Sentra.

The challenge facing Nissan engineers was to devise rear suspension that would deliver a properly compliant ride while preventing unwanted camber change and suspension jacking under cornering and eliminating scuff change (transverse movement of the body relative to the axle) over uneven road surfaces. Both are common problems in a conventional beam-axle design located by a simple Panhard rod. Nissan's variation on the basic theme involves two key modifications. The first substitutes a special oversize lower bushing in the Panhard rod that's stiff vertically but pliant laterally. The second piece in the puzzle is a control link (formally known as a Scott-Russell link) that connects the Panhard rod with the axle to provide additional stability. This combination ensures that the axle will only move up and down, thereby maintaining proper camber in the rear tires at all times. This unique hardware also maintains a more consistent relationship between the vehicle's roll center and its center of gravity, which contributes to a better cornering feel and less body roll, regardless of loading. Since the springs and shock absorbers no longer have to contend with as much lateral force, they can be made smaller and lighter. The result: Both ride and handling are improve. And, as an extra bonus, fewer suspension mounting points result in less noise being transmitted back into the body structure.

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Q: So was there a change to this multi-link design for the 2000 model year?

A: Yup! From the June 1999 Road & Track:

The suspension is upgraded as well for 2000. So what's the secret behind the car's improved handling? According to the Maxima's product planning director, John Yukawa, all it took was a slight readjustment to the rear suspension. "By moving the lateral link aft of the rear axle, we found that the front end of the car behaved in a more predictable way because it allowed the rear tires to track better through corners. This also resulted in better steering response and a more stable rear end so the car would not have a tendency to spin if you were to lift [off the throttle] abruptly while turning," he said.

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