The Nissan Maxima is a wolf in sheep's clothing, a real sleeper with 222 hp under the hood. It is the kind of car that sells itself once a potential buyer takes a test drive. The problem is getting the buyer behind the wheel. The Maxima's styling has its critics, but we proved with our long-term project that a body kit and big aluminum can cover a multitude of sins. The VQ30DE is a gem of an engine and could be one of the best V6s ever.
The 3.0-liter, 24-valve, double-overhead cam V6 proves that attention to small details can result in power. The four-valve-per-cylinder engine ingests air even more efficiently, thanks to improvements in intake and exhaust manifolds and a Skyline GT-R-derived muffler set-up. These mods were brought online when the car was redesigned for 2000. The intake features Nissan Variable Induction System (NVIS) that has long and short runners to deliver maximum output at all engine speeds. The exhaust manifolds are equal-length propositions that lead to the GT-R-style muffler. The muffler sports a flap valve, which opens at more than 2000 rpm to relieve backpressure and increase output.
The engine shines even brighter when the internals are closely examined. The crankshaft has been micro-finished at the journals, as have the cam lobes. The pistons feature a high-tech molybdenum coating and the ignition system is a six-coil masterpiece. As good as it is, the VQ30DE can be made even more aggressive by the use of forced induction.
Stillen positioned itself well ahead of the curve when the company put together a Maxima CART Pace Car in 1999. A supercharger was part of the plan and Stillen used this experience to R&D a package for street consumption.
Pressurization is provided by a Vortech V1-S centrifugal supercharger. The V1-S unit is capable of supporting 680 hp, has a maximum airflow of 1,000 cfm and max boost of 20 psi. Stillen has dialed-in its kit to a more realistic 6 psi.
Off To The Cell
Along with the Vortech V1-S-trim, our test mule was fitted with a Stillen exhaust system, custom intermediate pipes and a high-flow intake. Stillen's mods and 6 psi of boost increased output to 281 hp, which is quite a jump from the 187.7-hp baseline run. Maximum torque also jumped impressively from a base of 169 lb-ft to 231. On the road, power delivery is linear and the V6 feels more like a V8, displaying more low-end enthusiasm and better breathing abilities as engine speed rises. With an additional 93.6 musclebound ponies in the corral, the Stillen supercharger kit is a big bang-for-the-buck player.