WTF? A S2000 is a 2 seater sports car - the Maxima is a 5 seater family sedan that puts out some ponies. Why are you comparing the two? I might as well throw in a Camaro Z28 w/ 305 hp @ $23k if we're going to throw random cars in.
My dad has a '98 maxima and I absolutly love it. I'm only 16 so I'm not quite up to that class yet. Me driving that car is some pretty funny stuff, because my car is a '95 Sentra, whew it's nice stepping up from those 4 cylinders! Holy geez I usually don't even mean to drive so fast when I'm in it..
My soon to be wife and I loked at the Maxima and the Accord Coupe V6 EX. We decided to get her the Accord. It is one sweet car for the price. The 200HP is real responsive I try to trade her my Tacoma 4x4 for it all the time. So far it has been a no go.
The Maxima is awesome and not nearly as popular as it should be. The SE handles better than a GLE but the GLE has a smoother ride. They look a bit odd but it's nearly impossible to care while you're driving. . . The interior, especially the center console, is a work of art, as is the engine (DROOL) the sweet, sweet engine.
I used to sell them, so I have plenty of experience with 99-2000 Nissans. You can definitely get a dealer to discount one nearly $2000 from list. The Lexus IS300 would be a few thousand dollars more, is a smaller car, and you can't get one with a manual transmission if that's what you like to drive. OTOH, the service you'd get at a Lexus dealership would be top notch, while a Nissan dealership might be so-so, depending on the location.
Until my dad wrecked his '95 GXE I loved the thing. Maximas are no sports car around the corners...they have a tendency to skitter - although I have yet to drive an SE - but for the price, quality, size, and power (especially with the 6.7 0-60 of the new ones if you get a manual trans) Maximas are beautiful and I intend to buy one in 18 months when the soon-to-be wife gets out of school (until then we're looking at an echo for her to drive hehe).
No other foreign family-sized sedan comes with this power for this price. They look nice, run nice, nice and big, nice and fast!
I know the skitter well. The SE is much much better in the corners than the GLE or GXE, especailly the 95-99 models. All of the 2000-2001 models are improved from a few minor changes to the rear suspension. The structure is also more solid and there is better roll control.
If you add a Front Strut Bar to the Maxima...it will handle better around the corners..much better! The Max should have come with this from the factory..its a totally different car with it.
The skitter around corners is there if the road is not smooth. If there are bumps on the road, then the back wheels will skitter. This has to do with the suspension method used for the rear wheels. Its one beam that goes across the rear.