Quick Spin: 2012 Nissan Maxima car test drives reviews nissan
2012 Nissan Maxima SV. Click image to enlarge
First Drive: 2009 Nissan Maxima
DBDR: 2009 Nissan Maxima SV
Test Drive: 2009 Nissan Maxima Premium

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2012 Nissan Maxima Owner Reviews

Review and photos by Mike Schlee

Photo Gallery:
2012 Nissan Maxima

The Nissan Maxima is the aging franchise player in the current Nissan lineup. Once a key backbone to the Nissan lineup in decades past, the Maxima now resides mostly on the sidelines watching younger upstarts like the Altima, GT-R and Juke garner all the attention. On sale since under the Maxima name (Teana in the Australia and New Zealand) since 1981, the Maxima has been sold in several countries around the world and enjoyed varying levels of success.

To help keep sales of the Maxima alive in 2012, Nissan has dropped the MSRP $1,920 for 2012 bringing the base price to just $37,880. In the grand scheme of the automotive landscape, this is a bargain. Our test vehicle came equipped with the premium package which tacks another $2,800 the base MSRP. Add in a metallic paint job ($135) that brings us to as tested that just eclipses $40,000 before fees and taxes.

Quick Spin: 2012 Nissan Maxima car test drives reviews nissan
Quick Spin: 2012 Nissan Maxima car test drives reviews nissan
2012 Nissan Maxima SV. Click image to enlarge

So, what do you get for that price? Well, features such as HID headlights, a dual pane moonroof, rear window sunshade, 402 L of trunk space, a power tilt/telescopic steering wheel (which I kept hitting with my knee when driving) and a cooled driver seat. Passengers have to make due with only a heated seat. Making this arrangement stick out like a sore thumb are the controls for the two seats; the drivers cooled seat dial is the same as in the Infiniti’s, but beside it is the passenger heated seat switch which is an old school looking toggle switch. Other than that the interior is pleasant and bright, especially with the dual sunroof. The controls are basic and dated, but very user friendly. The seat is comfortable and driving position easy to get into and rewards you with great sightlines all around.

Powering the Maxima is Nissan’s excellent 3.5 L VQ V6 engine that develops 290 hp @ 6400 rpm and 261 lb-ft of torque @ 4400 rpm in this application. Sending power to the front wheels is Nissan’s Xtronic continually variable transmission (CVT). Now, before your eyes glaze over and you zone out after reading the blasphemes words ‘Continuously Variable Transmission’ know that the Maxima is the poster child of a CVT done right; and I hate CVTs. The transmission is constantly changing rpms, on hard throttle it simulates gear changes as it approaches higher rpms and soft throttle it steadily reduces rpms as you approach your cruising speed. In ‘manual’ mode gear kick downs and up-shifts feel like a regular automatic as there is none of the usual CVT spooling; as counter intuitive as it may seem, Nissan has engineered just enough ‘roughness’ in to make this transmission feel like it is sliding around gears. It is eerie in how perfectly it imitates gear shifts. In fact, if there wasn’t the big Xtronic CVT badge on the trunk, the untrained butt may not even realize there is no conventional automatic under the hood.

Quick Spin: 2012 Nissan Maxima car test drives reviews nissan
Quick Spin: 2012 Nissan Maxima car test drives reviews nissan
Quick Spin: 2012 Nissan Maxima car test drives reviews nissan
2012 Nissan Maxima SV. Click image to enlarge

Being a front-wheel drive only vehicle comes with its benefits and pitfalls. Being that there is no rear-wheel drive hardware, the large-sized Maxima tips the scales at a svelte 1621 kg which makes the available 290 hp feel like a lot more while returning a decent 10.7 L/100 km in observed fuel economy. The downside to this power being sent through the front-wheels however comes in the form of torque steer. Thankfully Nissan has done its best to tune as much torque steer out of the Maxima as possible. In a straight line, stomp on the gas and the wheel does not tug from side to side in your hands. Do the same in a corner though and you will incinerate the inside front tire into a howling display of tire smoke.

On the road the Maxima strikes a nice balance between ride comfort and sporty responses. The suspension consists of struts up front, a multi-link set-up in the rear and a thick 25.4 mm front sway bar (sport has 26.5) with 21 mm in the rear. The sport and premium models also add trunk reinforcements. This does pay off when hustling the Maxima through sweeping corners, but anything tight or bordering on a hairpin upsets the natural physics of a large front-wheel drive platform.

After a few days of driving the Maxima it became apparent that it hides it size, is easy to park, easy to drive and easy to maneuver. Add in exceptionally smooth (and excessive) power delivery and there is not much to fault with this big highway cruiser. Although, calling it a highway cruiser alone may be enough damnation as the Maxima used to be THE front-wheel drive sport sedan. Now it resides closer to the realm of those who want to take their friends golfing, or want a near luxury spacious family sedan with a bit of personality. Oh well, maybe retirement is on the horizon… or maybe, just maybe, an epic comeback?

Pricing: 2012 Nissan Maxima SV



About Mike

Mike Schlee is the former Social Editor at Autos.ca and autoTRADER.ca. He began his professional automotive writing career in 2011 and has always had a passion for all things automotive, working in the industry since 2000.