They're great cars to drive, very fun and very torquey (relatively speaking, of course). The weakpoint on the cars seem to be the transmission. The engines are diehard, with some Maximas seeing over 250k miles without rebuilds.
The man to talk to about Maximas is SF member doug.
For the money you really can't beat it. The next step up would be something like an ES 300 which, of course, is going to run you a bit more. V6 power, 4 doors, decent gas mileage, and sharp looks doesn't come cheap with the exception of the Maxima. Great car !! Good luck !!
My Maxima is a 95, I love it to death. 180k miles and no problems whatsoever. The 02-03's are truely sleepers. A guy on Maxima.org broke into the 12's NA w/ his 02. Definantly don't sleep on these cars.
Put a turbo kit on it, these egines are pretty damn nice. A member here, that has a couple of posts had a Maxima with like 500WHP. Running custom turbo kit with 10-12PSI~ and nitrous. He even drove it a long time on stock clutch/transmition. Talk about sleeper! For the turbo kit you would need the 5-speed though.