Home » Remember When You Could Pay More Money To Make Your Nissan Maxima Less Practical?

Remember When You Could Pay More Money To Make Your Nissan Maxima Less Practical?

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It’s easy to forget how strange Nissan was between, say, 2003 and 2015. Not only was the Japanese automaker on the road to recovery after nearly going bust, it also cranked out some of the oddest automotive touches in recent history. The Murano CrossCabriolet jacked-up convertible somehow made it to production, the 2004 Quest had the dashboard from a spaceship, and the Cube was the first car sold in the U.S. with available dealer-installed pubic hair. However, perhaps the most idiosyncratic feature came on the 2004 Nissan Maxima, and I’m not talking about the coin slot sunroof.

2004 Nissan Maxima Rear Seats

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Vidframe Min Bottom

It’s easy to forget just how gadget-laden the 2004 Nissan Maxima was. After all, this was a family sedan you could order with a heated steering wheel, a then-competitive navigation system, power-folding mirrors, and a 320-watt stereo. However, the most intriguing extra existed at the absolute top of the optional extra pyramid. For an extra $850 over a Maxima SE with the Journey package, you could swap out the rear bench for two individually-adjustable heated buckets with a full-length console between them. Oh, and to complement that upwardly-mobile seating arrangement, Nissan threw in automatic rear windows and a rear sun blind.

While most plutocrat-owned continent crushers like the Mercedes-Benz S-Class and the Range Rover SV offer dedicated four-seat configurations, this seating arrangement is decidedly weird in a Nissan Maxima because no Maxima owners gets chauffeured in their vehicle. This is a family car, not one for planning hostile takeovers from the backseat. It gets even weirder when you think of this four-place arrangement’s background. Seats are incredibly expensive to engineer due to safety requirements and comfort goals, and Nissan was rabbit-earing its pockets at the altar of Carlos Ghosn when this Maxima was being developed. Dedicating a chunk of development budget to a low-volume, low-margin seating option in a time of unprecedented brokeness just seems absurd from a product planning perspective, especially since no Infiniti with rear doors was a dedicated four-seater at the time.

Nissan Maxima 3

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Unsurprisingly, the four-seat configuration didn’t last for the entire production run of the sixth-generation Maxima. By 2007, every new Maxima was a five-seater, and the whole idea of executive rear seating for retail money had essentially vaporized. You certainly didn’t see Toyota or Buick stepping up to fill these shoes, probably because individual rear seats is an undesirable proposition in this segment.

Nissan Maxima 2

Still, the four-seat Nissan Maxima makes us happy. There’s no reason why it should’ve existed, yet it happened anyway. Finding one is like winning a Wonka-like golden ticket in the used car classifieds, except instead of the keys to a chocolate factory, it could end in timing chain rattle. Still, depending on the asking price, it might be worth rolling the dice on one of these mid-aughts oddities.

(Photo credits: Nissan)

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MikuhlBrian
MikuhlBrian
8 months ago

This was also the same time, in addition to the spaceship dashboard in the Nissan Quest, that you could get not 1, not 2, not 3, not 4, but 5 sunroofs in your Nissan minivan. (4 fixed, 1 opening).

https://wieck-nissanao-production.s3.amazonaws.com/photos/6f11a9c4c2b959d5af7bc5deceb42bc31ad07852/preview-928×522.jpg

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
8 months ago

> the Cube was the first car sold in the U.S. with available dealer-installed pubic hair.

Explain

PresterJohn
PresterJohn
8 months ago

I wasn’t aware of this either, but some risky googling produced this:

https://www.reddit.com/r/CrappyDesign/comments/ic4wrq/the_nissan_cube_has_a_300_option_that_adds_this/

And…wow… that’s….something

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
8 months ago
Reply to  PresterJohn

Hopefully it’s merkin sense now to those that didn’t know before.

Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
Bongo Friendee Harvey Park
8 months ago
Reply to  PresterJohn

Wat

NebraskaStig
NebraskaStig
8 months ago

I was going to recommend this as a “Holy Grail”!! Short run status where you could get an Avant Garde-styled 6-speed manual V6 4DSC with burnt orange thrones for 4. Yes, yes there are better cars out there within the brand family (G35 had RWD+manual, M45 had RWD+V8), but I like the fact it existed and is an odd option out there for us hunting for a ‘different’ 2nd car option.

Squirrelmaster
Squirrelmaster
8 months ago

I knew someone who got an ’04 Maxima new from his parents as his “college” car. He didn’t appreciate it at all and complained that his parents didn’t buy him the version with the four buckets, totally ignoring that they sprung for all the other options like the coin slot sunroof and heated steering wheel. The car was legit quick, though of course the guy was an idiot and abused it. My “college” car was a $300 piece of junk that I bought myself and spent more time fixing than driving, so I was a bit unsympathetic to his complaints.

NebraskaStig
NebraskaStig
8 months ago
Reply to  Squirrelmaster

Coin slot skylight was standard on these, the regular sunroof that opened was extra.

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
8 months ago

Had no idea they did this, and it’s cool, but seems pretty out of market. I had a 97 Maxima SE and had 4 happy passengers quite a few times, but I always got better reaction to my 88 Grand Prix with the 2+2 style rear buckets. There’s just something a little bit cooler about being in a rear bucket then in a rear bench.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
8 months ago

The Grand Prix from that era was a great design, esp before the squinty hooded headlamps of the later version. Wasn’t it also the one with the button-covered steering wheel?

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
8 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Lots of buttons on the steering wheel, but my favorite part was the 7-way adjustable front seats with all the controls on the down slope of the middle arm rest.

GreatFallsGreen
GreatFallsGreen
8 months ago

A 4-door with only 4 seats never seems to go over well in a “regular” brand. I remember a lot of teeth gnashing over the Chevy Volt being only 4 seats, and when they eventually added the 5th seat there wasn’t really legroom for that extra passenger.

It was worth a try though, as a party trick. They didn’t really know where to go with the Maxima after the Altima added space and a V6, and if you really needed practicality for people or cargo, you probably weren’t looking at sedans by then especially in a Nissan showroom when they were also touting the new Murano and Quest. Larger/executive cars were slumping globally and brands were experimenting to try and breathe some new life into cars of that positioning – like Renault and Opel/Vauxhall trying the weird hatchback route with the Vel Satis and Signum respectively. To that end, it might have made some sense globally but this gen was actually North American-only while other markets got the softer Teana, derived from the same platform.

Avalon had pretty well established itself as something more than a Camry, and also did add reclining rear seats, so they were trying to spruce that up too. Going smaller and leaner than the Altima had already been an issue for 02-03 when the new Altima launched. (Though they did go smaller the generation after, and did offer “rear bucket seats” but made a point to say 3 passenger capacity, it was mostly more aggressive bolstering on the inboard section too). So it was already in a tough spot, and then loaded up you just have a weird Nissan sedan north of $30k, which could buy you an Infiniti G35 or Acura TL instead or any number of other cars with more panache.

MrLM002
MrLM002
8 months ago

To be fair I’d pay for less seats in certain scenarios. I’d pay to delete the front passenger seat in 2 door 4 seat automobiles like the Fiat 500e, Jeep Wrangler, etc.

I rarely have more than 2 passengers in a car at a time and in small cars and SUVs I’d much rather have the extra storage space and the ease of getting into the rear seats. Also it’s mostly my dogs who sit in the front passenger seat, they’d probably be much more comfy in dog beds built so they can both stick their heads out the window.

RKranc
RKranc
8 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

Oddly enough, I sort of did this when I bought my 1990 300zx 2+2 a few years ago. I had a 80 pound German Shepherd at the time who went to work with me daily; she was way too big for the Z’s passenger seat, so I simply unbolted it and stuck it in storage. I then put down a couple of layers of memory foam bed-topper, covered that with a sheet and blanket and presto, big, comfy dog bed. Had the added bonus of being low enough she could just step into the car (she was getting older at the time). We rode back and forth to work every day for about 2 years like that. To cap things off the car was RHD, so when she sat up we got some confused looks from other drivers.

Last edited 8 months ago by RKranc
MrLM002
MrLM002
8 months ago
Reply to  RKranc

That’s a wonderful story and you sound like a wonderful Dog Dad. Thank you for sharing!

Ted Fort
Ted Fort
8 months ago
Reply to  MrLM002

I was driving my 67 Mini years back and a person walked up and said “Oh, do you play cello?” My wife is a cellist so I was very confused how they’d made that connection. It was because there wasn’t a passenger seat in the Mini (I’d taken it out to do some wiring) and they just assumed that I had removed the seat for hauling a large stringed instrument. Quite the leap.

Bob Boxbody
Bob Boxbody
8 months ago

I recently was behind a Murano Cross-Cabriolet, and I was fascinated by how hideous it was! The owner had removed all badging from the back, except an AWD badge, so I had to google it, though I could sense somehow that it was a Nissan..

Motorhead Mike
Motorhead Mike
8 months ago

Every time I read about one of these things, it sends me down a Craigslist rabbit hole. I almost can’t believe that it only took about 30 seconds to turn up a golden ticket. Anybody really want one?

https://milwaukee.craigslist.org/ctd/d/zion-2004-nissan-maxima/7673924003.html

Last edited 8 months ago by Motorhead Mike
Bjorn A. Payne Diaz
Bjorn A. Payne Diaz
8 months ago
Reply to  Motorhead Mike

Ha. Oh Milwaukee.

Goof
Goof
8 months ago

If you have 3 kids, a sedan wasn’t even a common choice then, never mind now.

If you had 2 kids though? Might’ve been a good choice! Rear seats are always way worse than front seats, so upgrading the rear seats you actually use is a BIG upgrade. As if you became empty nesters, and wanted to go somewhere with other empty nester friends — the people in the back definitely appreciate a much nicer seat.

This isn’t about chauffeuring. This is about making things less crappy for kids/friends.

Honestly? I approve. The take rate was probably still meh because this was when everyone was moving into crossovers en masse, if not still buying a lot of minivans.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
8 months ago

I have a feeling these cars were for the traveling salesperson to haul their customers around to those vendor-paid off-site lunches back when that was still a thing. Is it still a thing? I dunno. Anyway, I recall having one as a rental and it had a ginormous gas tank. It got something like 600 miles before I had to fill it up. I remember thinking this would be perfect for one of our sales monkeys that is always traveling to and from our customers that have plants in the middle of nowhere. I’d bet Nissan was trying to tap that market a little more with those seats.
Edit: Maybe I’m thinking of a different car. I dunno. I remember it was something equally bland whose oversized gas tank was its only redeeming quality. This seems to fit the bill.

Last edited 8 months ago by Rad Barchetta
TXJeepGuy
TXJeepGuy
8 months ago

Cool feature but this was definitely the gen where the Maxima lost its cool factor. Probably didn’t help that the Altima at this time gained V6 power with a manual transmission.

Taco Shackleford
Taco Shackleford
8 months ago
Reply to  TXJeepGuy

You are correct, this is exactly when the Altima became more desirable because of the V-6, and a little while later they had the V-6 coupe. A cousin in NJ right outside NY had one of these model Maximas and the headlights kept getting stolen, so that was downside of this model.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
8 months ago

As long as it has a manual transmission, it’s a “good Maxima”.

Toyota_Twatsicle
Toyota_Twatsicle
8 months ago

yep from 2004-2006 you could get it with a manual. In 2007, it became CVT exclusive (unless you did a transmission swap)

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
8 months ago

I had an ’04. With a manual, the final drive ratio was 4.38:1. It was way faster than it was supposed to be.

Joe The Drummer
Joe The Drummer
8 months ago

Jesus, that’s steeper than a Mopar A34 “Track Pack” on a 1969 Charger with a big block – it had “mere” 4.10 gears. How terrifying would top speed be in THAT thing with two more forward gears and overdrive?

It’s funny to me how over my lifetime (51), I’ve watched American cars go from more power than the car could handle; to finally getting the handling and braking improvement that could have handled that power, except with no power; to both finally coming together and vastly exceeding anything that came before – thus producing cars that are more than many drivers can handle. I’m sure there was somebody back in the day who totaled his SS396 Camaro, who wouldn’t have if it stopped and turned the way even a 15-year-old base Camaro does, who would nevertheless get completely squirrely in a late model ZL1 1LE and put it straight into the wall, if not a bus stop. If a 1969 Camaro SS396 was a beast, a ZL1 1LE is an unholy monster.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
8 months ago

My Maxima would chirp the tires going into third at 62 MPH. And no traction or stability control, so yeah it was a little bit like a muscle-era car that was easy to get squirrely in.

Cryptoenologist
Cryptoenologist
8 months ago

This is especially bonkers because it’s a FWD platform. At least on the Infinitis you have a driveshaft running through that area. In this case it’s just a waste of space, since you could achieve the same adjustability AND retain a combo center seat/armrest.

Stig's Cousin
Stig's Cousin
8 months ago

I like the idea of optional rear bucket seats. The only problem with this vehicle is that the roofline slants sharply downward toward the C pillar. I presume this means headroom is very limited. A better seat is kind of pointless if you have to tilt your head to the side due to the lack of headroom.

Chronometric
Chronometric
8 months ago

Wasn’t this the Maxima that had the full length longitudinal slot sunroof?

Dogisbadob
Dogisbadob
8 months ago
Reply to  Chronometric

yes

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
8 months ago

I guess engineering a fold-down armrest was to hard at the time

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
8 months ago

My ‘67 Dodge Charger did that seating thing, though I suppose not too many of those pulled family duty like the Nissan.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
8 months ago

I’d forgotten how meh the overall styling was on this generation. The current one is so much better looking to my eyes (though I’m still partial to the “4DSC” model of my teenage years).

Chris Stevenson
Chris Stevenson
8 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

It’s the blandest Maxima by far.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
8 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

Personally, I find the 8th generation totally hideous, it looks like a fat man
wearing Spanx, lots of random lumps and bulges everywhere.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
8 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

The wheel arches are def. a little overdone, but I love that rear roofline. As far as I’m concerned, that semi-fastback sedan style that the Ford Fusion ushered in is sedan gold. Sad that it doesn’t grace any current Ford.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
8 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

The current Chinese market Ford Mondeo has a bit of it, but the details are maybe getting a little fussy.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
8 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

Just looked at it, and you’re right – it’s getting a little Maxima-ish back there. Reminded me of the current Mideast market Taurus, which has a similar increasingly cluttered look.

Cool Dave
Cool Dave
8 months ago

“Dedicating a chunk of development budget to a low-volume, low-margin seating option in a time of unprecedented brokeness just seems absurd from a product planning perspective“

I mean weird, questionable decisions are how they got there in the first place right?

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