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.
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.
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.
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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