This documents purpose is to highlight the major differences between a 1990 and a 1993 Nissan Maxima.


There are 2 "versions" of the "3rd Generation" Nissan Maxima (produced from 1989-1994). There is the SE version, commonly referred to as the "sportier" version, and the GXE model, commonly referred to as the more "luxury/comfort" version of the Maxima. The differences between the GXE and SE from 1989-1991 are subtle.

In 1992 (through 1994), the SE models came with a different engine from the GXE. Until that time, both SE's and GXE's were utilizing the VG30DE engine [160bhp]. The 1992-94 SE's utilized the VE30DE engine [190bhp], which derived it's extra power from variable timing cams. One way of identifying a 1992-94 SE is if it has developed the "VTC problem" for which there is a Nissan issued Technical Service Bulletin. The "VTC problem" has to do with the variable timing cams and the timing chain used. Once a 1992-94 SE develops this problem, the engine develops a sound characteristic quite similar to that of a diesel engine. The noise is not always constant, it can come and go at certain RPM's. So when a Maxima's engine sounds like it is a diesel, it is most likely a 1992-94 SE using the VE30DE engine that has developed the "VTC problem" (the "VTC problem" usually begins to emerge around the 60K mark, though this is not always the case). [NOTE: the 1992-94 GXE's still utilized the 160bhp VG30DE engine.]

Highlighted Differences- Exterior

There are 4 main discernable differnces on the exterior between a 1990 and a 1993 Maxima.


The 1989-1991 Maxima grill had the word "NISSAN" installed to the lower right (as viewed from the front).

The 1992-94 Maxima grill utilized the circular NISSAN logo, located in the center of the grill.


In the rear of a 1989-1991 Maxima SE, the center portion of the trunklid is black (as shown below), whereas the center portion is red on GXE models. In this center portion is the "Nissan Maxima" labelling, which is merely a sticker. Also, the clear portion of the rear fascia wraps around the side of the turn signal/brake lights.

The rear of a 1992-94 Maxima SE has a red center piece to the trunklid; the clear lenses do not "wrap" around the sides but instead terminate on the rear of the trunklid; and the "Nissan Maxima" lettering is instead chrome lettering, and is placed on the clear portion in the center of the trunklid instead of in the red area.

Other minor differnces

These differences are not as noticeable from afar, but are differences worth pointing out. Mainly, the side mirrors. On the 1989-1991 SE, the mirrors appear more integrated in to the door. Also, they are not painted the color of the body of the car, they are black.

On the 1992-94 SE's, the side mirrors stick out a bit further from the body, and are painted the color of the body of the car.

Highlited Differences- Interior

The Steering Wheel

The 1989-91 Maxima SE steering wheel is a 4spoke design, utilizing the entire center area for the horn. Below the center portion of the steering wheel are the cruise control buttons. [Note: the 1989-91 Maxima radio area is slightly recessed, as shown in this picture.]

The 1992-94 Maxima SE steering wheel again is a 4spoke design, but the horn buttons are now located on the top two spokes of the wheel, because the car is equiped with a drivers side airbag. Also relocated are the cruise control buttons, which have been moved to the right side of the center of the wheel, between the two spokes of the steering wheel. [NOTE: the 1992-94 Maxima radio is not recessed in to the dash slightly, as in the case of the 1989-91 Maxima's. ALSO, below the main radio head unit, there is a 2nd pull out tray, that is a full size DIN unit, that has a sliding cup holder tray within. The 1989-91 Maxima's do not have the full size pull-out tray, nor do they have cupholders. The hazard flashers button is also recessed slightly in to the dash with the heating & air controls.]

The Dash

The 1989-1991 Maxima SE dashboard's main difference is in the speedometer. The speedometer on the 1989-91 SE's only goes up to 125mph. Note the slight difference in the electronic side mirror controls (see red arrow on the left side of picture). Also, the adjustment lever for the steering column (seen behind the headlight control stalk), appears to come from the actual dash in the 1989-91 Maxima.

The 1992-94 Maxima SE's speedometer reads up to 145mph. The tachometer's redline is 6500RPM, but there is no "gradual" red area from 6000-6500 RPM as there is on the 1989-91 Maxima tachometer. In this picture you can also see the slightly changed side mirror controls, and you can see the left side horn button on the steering wheel. Also, notice in this picture that the adjustment lever for the steering column has been moved on to the column itself (again, located behind the headlight control stalk).

Other Interior Differences

The trunk release on teh 1989-91 MAxima is on the same lever as the fuel door release, which is located to the left side of the driver, on the floor between the seat and the door sill. To open the trunk, pull up on the lever, to open the fuel door, push down on the lever.

The 1992-94 Maxima's trunk release is a button located on the drivers door, next to the door light. Push the button to release the trunk. The fuel door release is in the same place, on the floor between the drivers seat and the door sill, but since it is a single function lever, you now pull up on the lever to release the fuel door.

In the 1989-91 Maxima's, the center armrest cover is small, slightly under an inch in height.

In the 1992-94 Maxima, the same center armrest cover is now several inches tall.

Highlited Differences- Engine

We've already covered the differences in the engines for each trim level and model year, but are pictures of each. Each is easily identifiable and quite different from the other, making for a quick visual differentiation.

VG30DE 1989-91 SE's, 1989-94 GXE's

VE30DE 1992-94 SE's

[Ed. Note: The strut tower bar shown on both cars is an aftermarket accessory, and is not available as a dealer installed option. The same applies for the conical shaped air filter shown on the VG30DE engine presented here.]

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