There was a time when the Nissan Maxima could have been considered, dare I say it, cool. But then came its cooler cousin, the Infiniti G35, Japan’s attempt to take on the BMW 3 Series in the sports sedan war of the 2000s. And it managed to do the sports sedan better than its aforementioned cousin.
While Nissan was on a mission to make a four-door sports car and embodied it to a certain extent, it has strayed a bit like a student forced to major in pre-med, but they really just want to go there. ‘art school .
Around this time, Infiniti took over, creating the true embodiment of the four-door sports car: all the usability and convenience of a sedan with the driving dynamics of a sports car, rear-wheel drive, a manual transmission (less optional) and excellent driving dynamics.
First, you need to take a look at how and when the Maxima lost its four-door sports car mojo. From the start, Nissan had the right idea. Take a manual transmission and an engine used in a sports car and drop them in a sedan. This is exactly what Nissan did with the second generation Maxima. Produced from ’85 to ’89, it used the same 3.0 liters VG30E V6 engine used in the 300ZX. Both cars even had the same 160 horsepower rating, mated to a five-speed manual transmission and adjustable suspension completing the overall sports car. From there, Nissan fulfilled the fate of the Maxima and labeled it ‘sporty’ towards the end of the second generation.
The nickname “4DSC” continued from the third to the sixth generation of the car. As long as buyers chose the SE trim, they were equipped with a more powerful V6, manual transmission, and adjustable sport suspension.
The sixth-generation Maxima, produced from 1999 to 2002, however, really did the 4DSC sticker justice. SE versions have a 255 hp version of Nissan’s VQ35DE V6, a six-speed manual transmission and a Nissan variable exhaust system said was derived from the R34 Skyline GT-R
Over the years the Maxima lost its 4DSC window sticker and the car leaned towards the more family-friendly sedan / luxury side. Even though there was still an SE trim, it was more of an appearance package than anything else, even with more powerful engine options.
In the mid-2000s, the Maxima was in its seventh generation. It had become swollen to the point of being mentioned in the same breath as the Toyota Avalon and the Chevy Impala. Nissan spoiled it again with the new generation CVT transmission.
That’s when Infiniti engineers stepped it up and took off where the Nissan Maxima left off.
Infiniti took a platform that was used for a sports car and made it into a sedan. Simple. It’s strange that Nissan hasn’t done this from the start. Nissan’s FM platform was ideal for a sports sedan because of its favorable weight distribution. FM stood for mid-forward, which meant the engine was pulled back towards the firewall. The 350Z recently introduced at the time had an almost perfect 50/50 weight distribution because of this. When the G Coupe and Sedan debuted, they reflected that. The coupe had the same 53/47 weight distribution as Coupe Z. A feat considering the fact that the G had a back seat; the sedan was 52/48.
Add an available six-speed manual and a 3.5-liter V6 shared with the 350Z and you could call it a Z with a backseat. Or a four-door sports car. Infiniti even did it right by inserting Brembo brakes when you picked it up with a manual. Automotive journalists fell in love with it. Motor trend named the G its Car of the Year 2003; Car & Driver put it on their Top ten lists for 2003 and 2004 and she was nominated for North American Car of the Year (although she lost to the Mini Cooper).
Over the years the Maxima has gotten even bigger and smoother, like many of us in this pandemic, while the G has gained a second generation of kick-ass.
The G added a new 3.7-liter V6 shared with the 370Z in the late 2010s, compared to the Maxima’s 3.5-liter V6 and CVT. Oddly, Nissan brought back the 4DSC sticker for the ninth generation.
Infiniti also expanded the G lineup. Briefly, there was a model G25 with a 2.5-liter V6 and a short-lived IPL performance model (unfortunately only available on the G Coupe) in 2011 which just passed.
With the G now gone and replaced by the slightly better Q50 / Q60 (Red Sport versions are good, I still wish we got the Red water), the Maxima still bears the 4DSC sticker. And while that looks like a bit and the engine has 300 HP, it’s nowhere near what a sports car should be.
I contacted Nissan to ask if the G cars had ever been considered as a replacement for the Maxima, but I have yet to receive a response. However, if that had happened, a true four-door sports car from the brand that makes the Z would have been perfect. But at least we can look back fondly on the G and see that some engineers at Infiniti had the right idea.