2014 Nissan Maxima
2012 Nissan Maxima SV
2014 Nissan Maxima
Nissan Maxima, 2009–2014. Click image to enlarge

Review by Justin Pritchard

Vehicle Type: Sedan

History/Description: Nissan’s top-dog sedan, the Maxima, entered its latest generation after decades of affordable sports sedan supremacy a larger and more accommodating car than ever. To the Maxima’s original recipe of snorty V6, front-drive performance, the latest model turned the dial up on luxury, connectivity and feature content while maintaining a sensible level of hot-rod performance and firepower.

Feature content included climate controlled seats, a rear window sunshade, automatic lights and climate control, navigation, a BOSE stereo system, push-button start, driver computer, paddle shifters, a back- up camera, CD changer, and more.

Engines / Trim: There’s no engine more award-winning on the road today. Nissan’s sports sedan benefits from the latest generation VQ series V6 engine – which has been recognized more than any other powerplant on the Wards 10 Best Engine List over the years. The unit displaces 3.5L and generates 290 horsepower. Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVTCS), variable induction system, and electronically controlled throttle all ensure smooth output, optimized fuel efficiency, and instant access to Maxima’s full performance capabilities whenever called upon. Notably, engineers ensured the CVTCS and variable induction systems build off of each other’s benefits – opening up the breathing passageways and rushing air into the combustion chambers at full throttle in support of the powerplant’s trademark high-RPM surge of thrust.

Maxima’s continually variable transmission with paddle-shifters is standard. Dubbed the XTronic transmission by the engineers, this type of gearbox has no gears to shift, so it delivers power on an endless surge with no pauses to change up. Drivers can call up quick and precise simulated upshifts or downshifts via the shift paddles, or simply leave the transmission in Drive or Sport shift modes to fully capitalize on the V6 engine’s peaky surge of high-RPM power. Driven gently, the XTronic transmission is imperceptible and optimizes refinement and fuel efficiency. Driven hard, it allows the engine to lock into its powerband for massive acceleration free of interruptions.

Where nomenclature is concerned, the Maxima SL is top-dog where features and content is concerned, with S, SE and SV models available, too, depending on the year. Technology and Premium packages were available, depending on the model selected.

What Owners Like: Build quality, above-average handling and steering response, an attractive cabin, plenty of space, a generous trunk, and a slick navigation system were all highly rated by owners. Maxima seems to strike an ideal balance of handling and comfort that satisfies on long highway drives and in winding back roads alike. Powertrain refinement is also highly rated.

What Owners Dislike: Some owners wish for a manual transmission option, saying that the CVT transmission takes away some of the sporty edge of the V6 engine. Higher-than-expected levels of wind and road noise were also reported.

Here’s a look at some owner reviews on autoTRADER.ca.

2014 Nissan Maxima2014 Nissan Maxima
Nissan Maxima, 2009–2014. Click image to enlarge

The Test Drive: Though Nissan’s been using the CVT transmission for years with what seems like only minimal issues, shoppers are advised to be on the lookout for potential signs of trouble, even if unlikely. Limited throttle response, limited performance, a whining sound, any unwelcomed sensations during shifting (including banging or lurching) are all good reasons for further investigation. The CVT should deliver power smoothly at light, moderate and full throttle.

Note that some owners say entering failsafe mode, which engages limited power output and a safer shifting pattern, can be a result of overheating transmission fluid, low fluid levels, or use of aftermarket fluid in the CVT. Here’s some discussion. Best advice? Have a Nissan mechanic check  the CVT fluid  level (there’s a special procedure to do it properly), budget for a fluid change if you’re unsure when one was last performed, and ensure the model you’re considering isn’t running an aftermarket radiator (perhaps installed after a collision), as these are said not to provide enough cooling to the transmission.

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