2012 Maxima New Car Test Drive
The Nissan Maxima is a sporty midsize sedan engineered for drivers. Sportier and more luxurious than the Nissan Altima, the Maxima is intended more for a couple or four adults on the town. A family of four or five would be better served by a Nissan Murano or Altima. The Maxima can seat five passengers, or four when ordered with rear bucket seats.
Maxima's 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine drives the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. Drivers who take driving seriously don't usually like CVTs for their lackluster performance and snowmobile-like behavior, but Nissan is particularly good at CVTs and this one allows the driver to switch into a manual mode with six pre-set ratios.
The Maxima shares its platform, its basic structure, with the Altima and Murano, but its major bits and pieces are stiffer, providing a firmer ride and more precise steering feel. The Maxima also features a notably wide track, which helps the car handle the corners on its wide tires.
The 2012 Nissan Maxima gets a freshened grille and taillights, as well as updated interior trim. A new Limited Edition package for the 2012 Maxima upgrades over the base model with sportier exterior trim and premium features.
The Maxima is a great looking, assertive sedan with high style and fine detailing. It doesn't look like anything else in the Nissan lineup.
Inside, the Maxima cabin is driver-focused and does a good job keeping its plethora of buttons in a logical, easy-to-use formation. Infotainment options include a Technology package with voice-activated navigation, real-time traffic and weather, DVD/CD player, Bluetooth audio streaming and 9.3GB of digital music storage.
Competitors to the 2012 Nissan Maxima include front-wheel-drive midsize family sedans such as the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Hyundai Sonata, as well entry-level trims of near-luxury midsize cars such as the front-wheel-drive Acura TL and the rear-wheel-drive Cadillac CTS sedan and Infiniti G25. The Maxima's dimensions are snugger than in some of the other cars in its class, most notably in trunk space and in rear headroom, the latter due to the car's low roofline.
Fuel economy for the 2012 Nissan Maxima is an EPA-estimated 19/26 mpg City/Highway or 22 mpg Combined. That's on the low end compared to V6 versions of the Camry and Accord, the Acura TL and the Infiniti G25.
However, for those who value driving dynamics over space, the Maxima is a solid choice.
The 2012 Nissan Maxima is available in two trim levels: Maxima S and Maxima SV, both with the 3.5-liter V6 and CVT.
Maxima S ($32,420) comes standard with cloth upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats (eight-way driver and four-way passenger), 60/40-split-folding rear seat and a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, auto-dimming mirror, trip computer, keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, automatic headlights, Bluetooth phone capability and an eight-speaker stereo with a six-CD changer and an auxiliary audio jack. It also comes with 18-inch alloy wheels and a sunroof.
The Maxima Limited Edition package for S models ($710) includes a unique grille and 18-inch dark silver alloy wheels, HID xenon headlights with smoke-tinted lenses, foglights and a rear spoiler. (All prices are Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Prices, which do not include $780 destination charge and may change at any time without notice.)
Maxima SV ($35,120) adds to the base S equipment foglights, leather upholstery, a driver-seat manual thigh-support extender and power lumbar support, and a nine-speaker Bose audio system with satellite radio. The Monitor Package ($700) adds a 7-inch touchscreen electronics interface, 2GB of digital music storage, an RCA auxiliary audio-video jack, a rearview camera and an iPod/USB audio interface. The Cold Package ($400) adds heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and heated mirrors. Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights are also available ($400). The Technology Package ($1,850) includes a voice-activated navigation system with real-time traffic and weather, DVD playback and a single in-dash CD player (which replaces the six-disc version), Bluetooth streaming audio and 9.3GB of digital music storage.
Maxima SV Premium ($3,300) package comes with upgraded leather upholstery, rear bucket seats with a center trunk pass-through for four-passenger seating, dual-panel sunroof, a rearview camera, the 7-inch touchscreen, a ventilated driver seat, rear-seat audio and climate controls, automatic up/down rear windows, a power rear sunshade, wood trim, RCA auxiliary audio-video jacks (replaces standard aux jack), an iPod interface, heated front seats and steering wheel, driver seat memory functions, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with paddle shifters, HID headlights, heated mirrors with driver-side auto-dimming.
Maxima SV Sport Package ($2,100) features a sport-tuned suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels, smoked headlights, a dark chrome grille, a rear spoiler, gray metallic stitching accents, and metallic-look interior trim; high-performance summer tires are available with the Sport package.
Safety features on all models include dual-stage frontal, side-impact and side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes with brake assist; Vehicle Dynamic Control (electronic stability control); Traction Control; tire-pressure monitoring; and active front head restraints.