2010 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV

No four-door sports car.

Contrary to Nissan’s “4DSC” marketing campaign, the Maxima is no four-door sports car in my eyes. It’s definitely a sporty four-door, but it feels too heavy to be a true sports car. The 290-hp V-6 does make the front-wheel-drive Maxima quite peppy, but a consequence of this is that there’s a fair amount of torque steer under hard acceleration. It doesn’t help that a CVT (the only available transmission in this car) is the least sporty type of transmission out there. The CVT does its job pretty well, although the engine takes a while to wind out in “first gear” when you’re shifting manually through the six simulated ratios of the CVT (selectable via the console shifter or the column-mounted paddles).

The Maxima seems best suited not for the 370Z owner who now has a baby on the way but for someone (perhaps in middle management) who wants a big, comfy, luxurious, stylish car with a bit of sportiness stirred into the mix. Speaking of babies, I found it refreshing to slide into the Nissan’s back seat to install baby and baby seat in a car that has large rear door openings. To wit, a big corner at the top rear of the door allows easy ingress with no worry of bumping your head. Space in the back is pretty good, too, and the leather on all seating surfaces feels quite nice, especially for a vehicle at this price point.

The Maxima wouldn’t be my personal first choice for a car in the mid-to-upper $30K price range, but it is nonetheless a very nice yet fairly uncommon car with good performance and pleasantly striking styling.
– Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor

I was prepared to say that this, Nissan’s sportiest version of its so-called Four-Door Sports Car Maxima, was pretty appealing. But then I saw the price: $38,660. Um, no thanks. For that dough, I can get into a BMW 1-Series or even an Acura TSX, and at least I’ll have a premium brand and presumably a higher-end dealership experience.

The Maxima in lesser trim levels has its merits, but this SV Sport edition is simply too expensive for a front-wheel-drive, mass-market sedan. The V-6 is powerful but produces torque steer, and it doesn’t sound that great. That said, I used the Maxima all afternoon one day to run errands all over Washtenaw County, and it was comfortable enough, luxurious enough, and sporty enough, but the sum of the parts just doesn’t add up to what the Maxima used to be, which was the poor man’s BMW. The Maxima is a good car, but it’s no longer the great car that it was twenty years ago.

I was amused by the number of audio brands listed on the radio faceplate in the center stack. It’s a great stereo, but come on! Let me list all eight of them:
1. Bluetooth
2. DTS 2.0 Channel
3. DVD/Audio
4. Compact Disc Digital Audio
5. MP3
6. Dolby Digital
8. Gracenote
– Joe DeMatio, Deputy Editor

The Nissan Maxima hasn’t changed with the times. Fifteen years go, the Maxima lived atop a heap of sporty, front-wheel-drive big sedans. Since then, many competitors have either gone rear-wheel-drive (Chrysler 300) or bitten the dust (Pontiac Bonneville, Grand Prix). Even if you’ve decided you want front-wheel-drive and all the torque-steering compromise it brings, there are better-executed options, including the Acura Joe DeMatio mentioned and even the Buick LaCrosse CXS. But Maxima’s real problem, I suspect, is Infiniti. With the G and M sedans getting all the love from Nissan engineers, product planners probably think there’s not much room for a third sports sedan. They may be right, but I can’t help but wish for modernized, reinvigorated Maxima that could better battle the 300 and Hyundai Genesis.
– David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

Rather than the four-door sports car Nissan claims it is, the Maxima feels like a mainstream family sedan made to do battle with the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, and Chevy Malibu. Sure the suspension is a bit tauter and the power output a touch higher than your typical mid-size, but there’s not enough here (aside from the more muscular styling) to make the Maxima truly stand out from its showroom peer, the Nissan Altima. Like Joe, I find this particular Maxima’s price outrageous. Want a luxurious, sporty Japanese sedan for $39,000? An Infiniti G37 will do the job much better. The Nissan Maxima is nicely finished, behaves well, and has great lines, but to deliver on the name, Nissan needs to deliver a more focused mechanical package.
– Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor

For years, the Maxima was a car to aspire to for those legions of young buyers whose early automotive experience was with basic but reliable Nissan (or, before that, Datsun) stalwarts like the Sentra and the 210. Plush, powerful, and roomy, the Maxima was a logical and luxurious step up. The formula started to get muddied when the Altima began to encroach on the Maxima’s turf, and the Maxima resorted to somewhat garish styling and gimmicky features to set itself apart from its sibling.

The current-generation Maxima looks good again-with styling that won’t have it confused with the Altima — but one problem remains. As cars — all cars — have gotten bigger and heavier, it has become more difficult to make a sporty, front-wheel-drive car, because you need to send so much power through the front wheels that torque steer is the inevitable result. Such is the case here. The answer for the Maxima would be to at least offer the option of all-wheel drive (as Acura does with the TL). Nissan would have to adjust the pricing of the Maxima a bit, however; this example already exceeds $38,000, and with all-wheel-drive it might hit $40,000. That’s too much for a Nissan-brand sedan. But if Nissan could stir in AWD and keep the price in the mid-high $30s, the Maxima could recapture some of its former glory.
– Joe Lorio, Senior Editor

2010 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV

Base price (with destination): $33,900
Price as tested: $38,660

Standard Equipment:
3.5-liter V-6 engine
CVT transmission
4-wheel disc brakes with ABS
Traction control system
Vehicle dynamic control
Tire pressure monitoring system
8-way power driver’s seat
4-way power passenger’s seat
60/40 split fold rear seat
Leather-appointed seats
Leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob
Manual tilt/telescoping steering column
Cruise control
Bose audio system
AM/FM in-dash 6-CD changer
MP3/WMA CD playback capability
2 subwoofers
XM satellite radio
Auxiliary audio input
Bluetooth connectivity
Dual-zone automatic climate control
Power windows/locks/mirrors
Auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass

Options on this vehicle:
Sport package — $2030
Sport tuned suspension
19-inch wheels
Rear spoiler
HID Xenon headlamps
Premium leather seats
Power tilt/telescoping steering column
Heated front seats
Paddle shifters

Sport technology package — $1850
Hard-drive navigation system
7-inch touch screen display
9.3GB music box hard drive
DVD playback capability
19-inch high-peformance summer tires

Monitor package — $700
Rearview monitor
iPod cable
Auxiliary audio/video input jack

Floor mats & trunk mat — $180

Key options not on vehicle: None

Fuel economy: 19/26/22 mpg (city/hwy/combined)

Size: 3.5L DOHC 24-valve V-6
Horsepower: 290 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 261 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm

Drive: Front-wheel

Transmission: Continuously variable transmission

Curb weight: 3565 lb

19×8-inch aluminum-alloy wheels
245/40R19 Goodyear Eagle RS-A summer tires

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19 City / 26 Hwy

Safety (IIHS):


Horse Power:

290 @ 6400