Well it has been a little while, but I've been thinking about this subject for a while. Nissan is a company that not only has a great 6 cylinder engine, has a good design department. But they dont always hit it just right. Take the Maxima, thier top of the line sports-y lux-o sedan. This model has been around for a long time, through the years has kept up with the times technologically, even been a leader. However, the design of the car has had a varied degree of success. Early generations in the 80's and early 90's looked pretty good, but had an obvious Japanese look to them, especially compared to the American behemouths drifting around them on the road. But consider the more mature iterations:
1992-1994 (3rd Generation):
Hot. With an overall clean look, this car really seemed show Nissan was getting its design team in place. While this looks pretty generic now, I remember being impressed by the clean design where nothing appeared out of place. At a time when Pontiac as slathering their cars with ribbed cladding, scoops, and other unmentionables, this stood out as a better way to go.
4th Generation 1997-1999
Not too Hot. This gen brought in a more full body styling, with a more full look to the hood, the fenders and the roofline. At first I did NOT like it, but over the life of the body style I got to like it pretty well. I warmed up the generally muscular look, which wasnt over done.
5th Generation 2000-2003
Not. This iteration of the car just looked overweight and bulbous. It lost alot of its sporty look due to the high appearance of the roofline, and awkward treatment of the window shape around the c-pillar. The big random blob theory of design seems to have inspired the headlight and grill shapes as well. Take off those sporty wheels, and you have a gawky sedan.
6th Generation 2004-2008
Hot: This more recent design brings the Maxima back into good graces with a solid modern design that is not overly fussy. Certain details were fixed in the later years to help improve the original design, inculding removing the chrome nose guard in the grill, and subtle changes to the headlights. The one odd detail that always gets me is the tail lights (suprised?) that take me right back to a 1958 Impala.
7th Generation: 2009-?
Maybe... Am I alone on this? Did they go overboard? Those headlights just can't be for real. That alone makes me doubt the rest of the design. The ridges down the hood. The somewhat sinister looking grill shape. It seems odd. But the treatment of the doors and rear fenders looks promising. I'll have to wait to see it in person.
Need more? Consider the Sentra. This humble model held down the entry level spot for years, before being undercut by the Versa. But this model has a cinderella story all her own.
3rd Generation 1995-1999
Not so Hot. Not too bad, but no standing out in a crowd with this vehicle.
4th Generation 2000-2006
Definitely Not. What the hell happened. The Random Blob School got control of this redesign, and did not let go. While it may have grown and gotten some new upgrades, just do not look at this car or you will turn into a pillar of greehouse gasses.
5th Generation 200x-present
Hot. This model shows what a little transfusion from France can do. Ooo-la-la. Nissan is back in the saddle. We have family resemblance, style and a fun looking clean little car.