Most of this large sedan is spiced like Mrs. Dash. The Maxima has something for every part of a driver's taste in one package. It has a dash here in the handling, a dash here in the tactile feedback and a dash there in the brakes. It is dynamically more than what you would get with a typical vanilla family sedan.
It is under the hood where Nissan puts all the spice, however. When you buy this car, this is what you?re really
buying, the Nissan VQ V6. This engine is a powerhouse that gives meaning to all the other elements of the car. You can
almost forget the interior cheapness when your right foot is buried into the accelerator. Who cares if it is front
wheel drive? The chassis lays the power down smoothly and effectively. That is not the typical experience that I?ve had
in cars like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The Accord especially feels like the front wheels attack the air
instead of the tarmac. No, the Nissan lays down the power effectively.
So how does it handle? It handles quite impressively for such a large family sedan. The Maxima doesn?t feel like the pig it appears to be. Body lean is well controlled, while the rest of the suspension feels surefooted and under control. It is a pretty nice compromise for the price, all things considered.
I got the opportunity to take the car to this little stretch of road that I consider to be a decent proving grounds for handling. It has constant elevation changes, stretches of rough road, long straights, and tons of challenging turns. There are even some nice off camber blind corners and some really tight hairpins. Overall, it is a nice mountain pass that sees little traffic. So, how did it do? The Maxima handled the whole bit extremely well, and I would say much better than my old 2003 Mustang GT or my Integra GS-R. It was fun and rewarding without having any nasty habits. Of course, you have to drive it differently. The car?s brakes and relatively sharp turn-in allow you to bury the car into a turn, swing around, and punch it to the next turn. The front wheel drive limits your ability to power out of turns without some major push, but that?s the nature of the beast. The automatic transmission also worked very well, when left in D anyway.
The Maxima has a five speed automatic, which offered that ability to shift it yourself. I tried it for a while. I found out that it wouldn?t always obey your commands. If you held a gear for too long, it would up shift. If you didn?t downshift when slowing down, it would do it for you. I found it better just to let it operate like a normal automatic. Just talk to it with your right foot, and the transmission would do pretty much what you ask of it.
It was an enjoyable drive. I did not want to stop, but I packed it up and went home. I would get another day with the Maxima before it would be taken away.