Dubbed the "four-door sports car" (4DSC) by Nissan when the then-new Maxima debuted for the 1989 model year, the 2012 Maxima doesn't quite stick to that mission some 23 years later. But that's not to say it's a bad car or even a bad driver's car. On the contrary, the Nissan Maxima is a competent, luxurious, well-built midsize sedan. Just don't call it a sports car, four doors or not.
With 290 horsepower and 261 lb-ft of torque on tap from its 3.5-liter V-6 engine, the Maxima has plenty of getup and go when needed. Hampering the Maxima's performance aspirations is Nissan's continuously variable automatic transmission. While smooth and efficient, it doesn't allow the engine to rev freely. However, magnesium paddle shifters are available behind the steering wheel for when a little more control is desired.
Where the Maxima really shines, though, is in interior accommodations, providing ample room, luxury amenities usually reserved for upscale luxury cars, and an available dual moonroof setup that allows passengers in all seats to enjoy a piece of the sky.
Body style: Four-door sedan
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic transmission
Models: Nissan Maxima 3.5 S, Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV
The Nissan Maxima receives a refreshed exterior with a new grille, taillights, and a choice of newly designed 18- or 19-inch wheels. A white-colored meter gauge joins the interior, and piano black and cherry-colored interior trim become available in addition to a new beige interior color. Stereo and climate controls have been redesigned for 2012. This model year, Nissan is adding a Special Edition package to its lineup that includes smoked headlight housings, high-intensity Xenon headlights, dark silver 18-inch wheels, a rear spoiler, and other otherwise optional equipment. Two new colors join the Maxima's color palette: Java Metallic and Dark Slate.
The most striking things you'll immediately notice on the Maxima are its L-shaped wraparound headlights and 12-LED taillights, daring touches and quite stylish in execution. New this year, the headlights and taillights have been reworked, and the grille has a new design with wider, flatter crossbars in either bright chrome finish or a darker satin finish on the Limited Edition. With sculpted creases and curves, the Maxima has large and imposing looks that coincide with its sporting pretensions.
Nissan refers to its interior concept as a "Super Cockpit, but with Space," aiming at providing a clean, functional layout. Still, however, Nissan manages luxury features galore including a newly redesigned audio display and HVAC control, a Bose audio system, and satin metal, piano-finish, or cherry wood-toned trim throughout the interior. The Maxima can take further customization through the availability of premium options like a 9.3-gigabyte hard drive for music storage, a seven-inch touch-screen navigation system with DVD capability, XM NavTraffic with the satellite radio option, voice recognition software, and the Sport and Technology packages in addition to the Limited Edition.
Performance & Handling
Competent and swift, the Maxima goes around corners eagerly. With crisp steering and decent feedback, Nissan's largest sedan definitely has a sporty side. Calling it a sports sedan may be a misnomer, though, because acceleration occurs best in fully automatic "D" mode. When in "Ds" mode, drivers have six selectable gear ratios in a manumatic-like setup, but the transmission will not let drivers hold "gears" to the engine's 6600 rpm redline.
The Maxima comes with dual-stage front airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, and roof-mounted curtain airbags for front and rear passengers. It also features a tire pressure monitoring system, traction control and Vehicle Dynamic Control as standard equipment.
EPA Fuel Economy
Maxima S and SV: 19 mpg city/26 mpg highway
- Stand-out styling
- Strong V-6 engine
- Build quality
You Won't Like
- Short on sports car promise
- May take time to get used to CVT
- Similar money to Nissan's very sporty Infiniti G37 sedan
Nice premium sedan; just forget about the 4DSC moniker
If You Like This Vehicle
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