Nissan North America’s Smyrna, Tennessee, plant has built its first production 2009 Nissan Maxima.

A full redesign has given the nameplate, sold in the US for two decades, a new look and a more powerful V6 engine for its seventh generation.

“The Maxima is an important car for Smyrna and for Nissan,” said Greg Daniels, senior vice president, U.S. Manufacturing, Nissan North America.

The 2009 Maxima is built on Nissan’s new D platform claimed to provide responsive handling and virtually eliminate the torque steer associated with high horsepower front wheel drive vehicles.

It has a new Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) with manual mode, tuned specifically for the new car. A new “Ds mode” (drive sport) has been added to the CVT for 2009. “Ds mode” is an electronic control logic that enhances sport driving through increased acceleration feel with higher engine revolutions, automatic engine braking, and maintaining engine speed during cornering.

The 3.5 litre DOHC 24-valve VQ series V6 engine is now rated at 290 horsepower and 261lb-ft of torque, increases of 35 horsepower and 9 lb-ft over the 2008 model

All engines are produced at Nissan’s Decherd, Tennessee, powertrain assembly plant

The Maxima was first introduced to the U.S. market in 1981 and Nissan claims four of five sold are still on the road there today. After production moved to Smyrna from Japan in January 2003, the plant had produced 384,303 units up to 15 May.

In calendar year 2007, Nissan North America sold 52,574 Maximas. The vehicles are also exported to Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Guam, and Saipan. In fiscal year 2008, Nissan expects to ship about 3,600.

Smyrna employs about 5,650 people after an investment of US$2.1bn to date.

It also builds the Altima mid-size sedan and its hybrid  and coupe variants, the Xterra and Pathfinder SUVs and the Frontier pick-up truck.