There have been 8 generations of the Maxima. They span the following years:
- 1976 - 1980
- 1981 - 1984
- 1985 - 1988
- 1989 - 1994
- 1995 - 1999
- 2000 - 2003
- 2004 - 2008
- 2009 - beyond
Early models came with an I6 engine and a diesel I6 in some markets. The front wheel drive Nissan Maxima was introduced as a 1985 car. This was really the start of the Maxima that Americans would recognize. It had a V6 engine and was sold as a sedan or a station wagon.
By the 4th generation Nissan was selling the Maxima as a sports car with the 4DSC badge. The SE models got the same VE30DE engine used in the 300ZX.
Although the Maxima has become more powerful throughout the years, it's still based on the same compact and efficient sporty car that it started out as over 30 years ago.
A diesel version of the Maxima will be introduced in 2010. It is part of Nissan's effort to move away from a gasoline-only engine lineup.
There are plenty of Maximas out on the used car market. If you want to buy a used Maxima the best place to look is on eBay, where you can also find lots of parts, both original and aftermarket custom mods.