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