2012 Nissan Maxima SV

The Nissan Maxima is a car I hadn't given any thought since I last saw that commercial where a father-to-be tugs the sheetmetal of a 370Z into the shape of a Maxima. Despite what the ad implies, the four-door Maxima can't match the excitement of a rear-wheel-drive sports coupe. It is, however, a solid and competent sedan that will satisfy plenty of buyers. The Maxima does everything you ask of it without fuss, has a generously sized cabin, and is styled to neatly toe the line between looking boring and looking exciting. Unfortunately, the Maxima errs too much on the side of caution. The car is almost fun to drive and almost attractive, but in neither category does it get a thumbs-up vote from me. I probably won't think about the car again until the next time I see that 370Z-into-Maxima commercial.

Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor

I also disagree with Nissan marketing the Maxima as a Four Door Sports Car. The Maxima is a fine large sedan with plenty of space and comfort, but it offers nothing in terms of driver involvement. Nissan has given us a big car that sends its ample power to the front wheels through a CVT - perfect for smoothly shuttling around four or five adults but far from the idea of a stretched 370Z. Of course a commercial showing four older men getting out of a Maxima is a lot less interesting than seeing the dad-to-be stretch out a sports car.

Once you get past the weird marketing, the Maxima is a very comfortable near-premium car. It's still not terribly different from a V-6 Altima, but it comes across as a bit more grown up. The Maxima offers much better visibility and a nicer interior than the Ford Taurus, although a newer Taurus is on the way for 2013. Hyundai has just refreshed the Azera for 2012 and it now offers 293 horsepower as well as a much more curvaceous design - both of which directly target the Maxima.

Like Nissan's Murano, the Maxima offers a very pleasant cabin. Buttons and knobs still reside on the center stack, which makes adjusting the climate controls or the stereo easy to do without taking your eyes off the road. This logical control layout probably does more to lure in buyers than the Four Door Sports Car commercials do.

Phil Floraday, Senior Web Editor

While we auto journalists may have a hard time categorizing the Maxima, due in no small part to Nissan's insistence on calling it a sport sedan, buyers don't seem all that confused. Of the several cars that might be cross-shopped with the Maxima - the Buick LaCrosse, Acura TL, Volkswagen CC, Volvo S60, Ford Taurus, Chrysler 300, etc - the Maxima's sales figures stack up pretty well (as of the end of November, Nissan had sold about 54,000 Maximas this year, putting it near the top of the pack among the aforementioned competitors).

With the premium package on this Maxima SV, one gets all the luxury amenities you expect in a $40,000 car: leather, heated seats (the driver's seat is also cooled), an electrically adjustable and heated steering wheel, a very large double sunroof, HID headlights, navigation, and Bluetooth. As an added benefit, the Maxima turns out to be fairly satisfying to drive. Its 290-hp engine means it's no slowpoke, and the CVT can be left in automatic or the driver can use the large, easy-to-grab paddle shifters if he wants to take things into his own hands.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

The Maxima is definitely one of the sportiest car in its class thanks to the powerful V-6 engine; however, it may be too powerful given its front-wheel drive, as torque steer kicks in, especially during highway passing. What can't be beat though is the luxurious, Infiniti-like interior. As the sales numbers show, buyers seem to like both of those aspects, despite the fact that the Maxima is also one of the most expensive cars in the large, front-wheel drive, V-6-powered class. Our test example rung in between two to five grand more than the competition when similarly equipped.

Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor

The Maxima is difficult to categorize because its entire category has disappeared. Fifteen years ago, the sporty, large front-wheel-drive sedan was a staple in several automakers' lineups: Ford Taurus SHO, Pontiac Grand Prix GTP, Mazda Millennia, Chrysler 300M. What happened? Rear-wheel drive made a minor comeback, and all-wheel-drive proliferated across the industry. Putting aside the physical limitations of a heavy, front-wheel-drive sedan, it now just seems odd to pay $40,930 for one. Heck, even within the Nissan family the Maxima faces more appealing competitors, like the slightly smaller G37. None of this, of course, is the Maxima's fault. It remains reasonably fun-to-drive, handsome, and luxurious. I'd rather not have a CVT automatic transmission, but it actually performs well here. The steering is sharp and decently weighted, though it lacks much feel. Nissan's venerable VQ V-6 provides its usual strong performance and along with its usual coarseness - the 3.5-liter in the Toyota Avalon and the 3.6-liter V-6 in the Dodge Charger are much better in the latter regard.

David Zenlea, Assistant Editor

As Amy suggested, if one doesn't sit and analyze the Maxima's purpose or place in the market -- a much-loved pastime of automotive journalists -- this is a very good big sedan. It doesn't necessarily appeal to enthusiasts but for the average consumer it offers a stylish alternative to competitors from Toyota and Ford. As with the Murano, the Maxima's interior is an agreeable place to spend time; the heated steering wheel -- part of the $3300 premium package -- made it that much more pleasant on the cold morning I drove it. It's also an extremely uncomplicated place, as Nissan/Infiniti has become a master at clearly labeled, logically arranged center consoles.

Jennifer Misaros, Managing Editor, Digital Platforms

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I just purchased a 2012 Maxima SV with sport and technology packages. MSRP $40500 for $31000. The dealers are giving huge discounts on the 2012 models to make room for the 2013s. I think beauty is in the eye of the beholder and in my eyes, this is bar none, the sexiest looking sports sedan in the 30-40K price range. As far as the CVT is concerned,I think people are just afraid of changes. It is smooth, and does have a auto-manual mode with paddle shifter that works twice as good as my 2008 VW Passat VR3.6. If you want to feel the changing of the gears, get a car with manual tranny.The interior is as good as the infiniti G37 minus the analog clock.For those who do not think this is a true sports sedan, need to go to driving school. I used to race, and this car will allow more than the average 'professional' reviewer will give it credit for. But, don't take my word for it; test drive one for yourself and really drive the snot out of it...you'll get hooked.
Eh, Nissan doomed the Maxima as a 4DSC when they dropped the manual transmission option. Enough of the CVTs already.
I've (almost) always loved Maximas. Nissans in general have been my favorite cars to own, and i've owned all the major japanese brands. I have a '92 maxima and fondly remember the 4DSC stickers on the windows. 4 door sports car is just an old maxima thing and they're trying to bring it back. I also appreciate center consoles. I've recently sat in a prius, and a modern bmw. They have screens that MAKE you promise not to be distracted by a screen whilst driving by beeping and bothering you when you set off driving. It's completely absurd, and with the prius, all the climate controls were on the touch panel? I'm sorry but that is REDICULOUS!! Give me a phyisical button to adjust everything with and i'll NEVER have to take my eyes off the road. I know my dash enough to control anything without looking, just as i am typing now. Go nissan! and GO BUTTONS! And drive a 5-spd mid nineties maxima, it's pretty sporty.
Georg Schacht
@Paisan7 You are dead on.  I just leased my second Maxima, a new 2012 SV with premium package and some other goodies - $397/mo, no down payment, 12k miles a year for 39 months for a $40k car - an advantage of not driving a snob brand is that the dealers will negotiate a very competitive pricenobody should pay MSRP for this car.    I had a 2010 (leased) and two MAJOR changes that none of the "experts" caught are a major re-programming of  the CVT transmission and much more pleasant ride, but still retains cornering and steering qualities of 2010.This car is classified as an entry level luxury car - competes with Volvo, Buick, Hyundai and Acura models and is tied with Buick for most unit sales.  It has been a top seller in this catagory for multiple years in fact.  The Audi and BMW in this size have a  price range  more like $40-50k - A6, not the much smaller A4 do not have the seats, interior nor ride for way more money.  These brands will not dicker much because they have lines of people who will pay list price for the brand.   I drive on vacation to SF from Portland, Oregon and it is one fine traveling machine as well as doing freeway and stop and go driving.NOTE:  My comments ONLY apply to this car optioned with the Premium package - I call it the Infinity package - you will too when you compare it to the S or SV models - upgraded seats, leather, winter pkg, front/rear sun roof, etc.People buying this type of car want a very quiet, comfortable luxury car - not a race car - those complaining reviewers need to get over the CVT - it is now a very responsive and smooth transmission as of 2012.  Most reviews seem to miss the performance - acceleration and braking and top notch Bose music system with USB port for iPod or memory dingle as well. And the heated rear view mirrors that adjust to a lower position when reversing so you can see the curb while parking - we won't get into the rear window shade or the cooled drivers seat or the ...  No you cannot fit a motorcycle in the back seat so the reviews should ding the car for that for sure.Performance - I enjoyed drag racing and beating a Porsche Boxter  - should have seen the look on his face!Negative - the torque steer at maximum acceleration is way to excessive at higher speeds and needs to be addressed.  I need a front or 4 wheel drive as I live in snow/ice country and rear wheel drive will leave you stranded in the winters.  I use ice tires in the winter and all is well.

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