A long time ago when the Grunge movement was reaching its zenith in the early 1990’s, Nissan not only launched a luxury brand in Infiniti that would soon become the Japanese BMW but they were also mad enough to still keep building a true four door family sports car in the form of the Maxima. Sure, it was front wheel drive but for the time it was not only fierce looking but fast and fleet on its feet. Or tires, we should say.
Back then Nissan referred to that Maxima as the 4DSC-the 4 door sports car. So when Nissan resurrected the name for the latest Maxima iteration recently, the ears of driving enthusiasts perked up. But wait, this is the same Maxima that may boast a 3.5 liter 290 horsepower/261 lb. feet of torque V6 once used by the mythical Z coupe but unfortunately it comes mated to Nissan’s quite hit or miss CVT automatic. Honestly, we would love to see the Maxima sold instead with the 370Z’s terrifically sporty 7-speed automatic that pops off downshifts like Mario Andretti on a straightaway. But as it stands, the CVT in our tester wasn’t very noisy and it didn’t seem to dampen the Maxima’s eager spirits all that much when time came to light up the front tires.
Having driven some of those classic, earlier Maxima sedans with perfectly functional and conventional automatics, it was easy to see that the CVT did blunt a bit of the epic rev hungry thrust that is part and parcel of this reliably bulletproof 3.5 liter V6. One side benefit of a CVT is good fuel economy with our Maxima boasting EPA estimates of 19 city/26 highway on regular gas. We averaged 22.6 over our week and given the fact that this roomy sedan has a 20 gallon gas tank we can safely say this is a perfect road trip car. The trunk’s also big at 14.2 cubic feet which is important when traveling with others and their stuff.
Although the Maxima has suffered from a few odd styling turns over the years, we can happily report that the 2012 3.5 SV variant we tested looked sporty, menacing and fast all at the same time thanks to attractive detailing in the lights and quarter panels. The interior of the SV models comes with very heavily bolstered leather sport seats that eat up rear legroom but will never leave you slipping and sliding during spirited driving. Build quality in the interior is definitely up to Infiniti standards but refined with a simpler and more straight forward dashboard control design. While most of the dials, buttons and switches are from the Nissan part bin, the Maxima still manages to evoke a suitably premium air from the cockpit.
Maxima traditionalists will of course only want the 3.5 SV model as it is aimed at enthusiasts although a $34,450 base price can put a damper on that notion quickly although it gets you every luxury like dual zone climate control, a smart key, Bluetooth, USB/ipod integration, leather power front seats, a power moonroof and an excellent Bose audio system with 9 speakers and two subwoofers. Our tester didn’t stop there as its MSRP ballooned to $40,930 thanks to the addition of an $1,850 Navigation Package and a $3,300 Premium Package which adds a dual pane moonroof, Xenon headlamps, heated/cooled front seats, uprated leather, paddle shifters and in the case of our vehicle the inclusion of deeply rich Atlantic Cherry Wood Trim. Hey, it had better be a real tree adorning the interior for $40,000!
We think that if you are cross shopping a Hyundai Genesis, Ford Taurus SHO, a Dodge Magnum or even the upcoming 2013 Toyota Avalon then you should definitely check out the 2012 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV. Sure, it’s more of a large size family cruiser but at its heart lies the power of the Z and much of its handling finesse as well which is remarkable.
The Maxima 3.5 SV, when pushed, will corner much like its forebears and give driver’s an engagingly entertaining experience while communicating with the road via its sporty three spoke steering wheel. And yes, being that this is still a luxury family car the same steering wheel also is leather wrapped with a multitude of secondary audio, cruise and phone controls at your fingertips. Sometimes in life, there are trade-offs and with age comes a bit more of a need for comfort and in that regard the Maxima is right on target.
Vehicle Provided by: Nissan USA