I kind of forgot Nissan even still makes the Maxima; all of the attention lately has been paid to the Altima. This 2012 Nissan Maxima's $40,000 sticker makes me laugh but for a price, say, in the lower $30,000s, this car would be a temptation. That is if it didn't have the droning CVT, which I hate. It reminds me of my snowmobiling days.
Nissan touts this car as the four-door sports sedan, but I don't know if I'd go that far. Aren't they supposed to be rear-drive for the most part? The front-drive Maxima felt good on the road though nothing I would consider really sporty. I thought the Maxima had a nice relaxed ride/handling balance and a wieldy fluid chassis. Nissan's own Infiniti G lineup is far sportier and, in my opinion, a better sports value.
The V6 sounds good when you boot it and the car is quick enough, but again, the CVT is a letdown. The drive would be hugely improved if it had a responsive dual-clutch transmission. I liked the interior, with comfortable and wide front bucket seats, though I did find the location of some switches annoying, like the heated-seat controls that are located in front of the gear shift and tucked in under the radio and climate switches.
Overall, the Nissan Maxima is not really on my shopping list. There are too many other, better sport-sedan choices that cost less.
DIGITAL EDITOR ANDREW STOY: The cow says, "Moooo." So did our Nissan Maxima.
Thanks to its continuously variable transmission and some unfortunate exhaust tuning, acceleration in the Maxima, while brisk, was accompanied by the exact sound of bovine lowing. Put your foot in it from a stoplight, and "Moooooo." The noise dulled to an obnoxious background roar at freeway speeds, made more noticeable by the Maxima's otherwise quiet, solid interior and ride quality. It wasn't the same Dodge Neon-missing-a-muffler drone that befell our Lexus RX 350, but more of a commercial ride-on lawnmower-type thrum that would have made me insane over the long term.
I'll confess I wasn't taken by the Maxima before I even set foot in the car. Attractive bronze paint and cream leather on our tester couldn't mask what's essentially a bland design with plenty of family resemblance to the more pedestrian Altima. The inside is comfortable and roomy and does benefit from Nissan's easy-to-operate infotainment system--one of my favorites in the industry. But the black dash, swaddled in some sort of reptilian vinyl, cheapened the otherwise luxurious cabin.
That "yes, but" conundrum plagued the Maxima throughout my time with it. It was quick but decidedly unsporty, thanks to the CVT. It was roomy but not as large as some similarly priced competitors. It was quiet on the highway but twitchy in my favorite high-speed sweeper.
The Maxima's biggest problem is that it's playing in a segment, and at a price point, with some truly good competitors. For $41,000, a Ford Taurus SHO would be more fun and just as roomy, a Toyota Avalon would be roomier and not much less exciting, and a few bucks more a month would put you in an Audi A6.
That leaves the Maxima in a bit of a lost land, which just happens to be where it's toiled for decades now.