Nissan steps up to the plate for 2012 with freshened Maxima loaded with goodies to reinforce its value-for-money equation. With its silky-smooth V6 under the bonnet, the good-looking Nissan Maxima stands its ground against newer rivals and makes some look over-priced and short on equipment.
High-tech inclusions like a side-view camera and adaptive headlights confirm the Nissan Maxima must be on the shopping list for savvy mid-size sedan buyers seeking maximum bang for their bucks.
Nissan Maxima Overview
Nissan’s pricing pencils are among the sharpest in the business and with the Maxima starting at $33,990, and our range-topping 350Ti stickered at $46,990, some rivals are looking expensive. To be honest, as the ultra-competitive mid-size segment has evolved, Nissan Maxima actually shapes-up better than ever.
Without doubt for many buyers in this league those extra two cylinders under the bonnet provide the Nissan Maxima with extra appeal. And it’s no hum-drum V6 either – Nissan’s 2.5-litre and 3.5-litre powerplants have both won multiple international awards and are as refined as they get.
One of the larger mid-size sedans, our 2012 Nissan Maxima 350Ti test car came fully-loaded with quality leather seats with electronic adjustment, climate control air-conditioning, BOSE audio and DVD player, side-view camera, adaptive headlights, DVD satellite navigation with a seven-inch touchscreen and a glass sunroof – all standard.
Nissan Maxima Engine
Our range-topping Nissan Maxima Ti test car, and mid-grade ST-S, employ Nissan’s VQ35DE, 3.5-litre V6 petrol engine. Nissan’s VQ lineup is a multiple winner of ‘Ward’s 10 Best Engines’ and there’s no denying this silky-smooth V6 scores large in the refinement department – a match for Europe’s best in fact.
Maximum power is 185kW at 6000rpm and peak torque of 326Nm is delivered at 4400rpm, although 80 per cent is available from as low as 1600rpm. Nissan mounts the engine on six mounting points for reduced NVH.
Fuel consumption (combined cycle) is rated at 10.2l/100kms.
Drive is to the front wheels via Nissan’s six-speed M-Mode X-TRONIC continuously variable automatic transmission.
Nissan Maxima The Interior
Nissan Maxima highlights its value with a very classy interior. There’s lots of leather and quality look/feel.
Front seats are typical Nissan – large and comfy. There’s electronic adjustment for both in the front and although the steering wheel only adjusts for rake, we were able to find a comfortable driving position.
To the left is the seven-inch touchscreen for the satellite navigation, reversing camera and 11-speaker BOSE audio system (with Bluetooth and MP3/WMA connectivity).
Included in the 2012 upgrades is an excellent side-view camera (switch on the centre console) which displays an image of the left side of the vehicle - very handy to avoid ‘curbing’ the alloys when parallel parking next to a gutter – and an electronically operated rear sun blind to cut UV penetration from the rear window.
Rear seat accommodation is excellent with more legroom than many rivals and luggage capacity is impressive at 506-litres.
Our only negative score is the centre console design which is a tad square and at odds with the rest of the interior curves.
Nissan Maxima Exterior & Styling
Styling for the latest Nissan Maxima evolves from the previous model and time has actually been kind to Nissan’s mid-size sedan. Where previously the Maxima’s curves may have been quirky, later arrivals like the Ford Mondeo, Hyundai i45 and Kia Optima share similar looks – maybe Nissan’s designers were ahead of the game.
We like Nissan Maxima’s curves and sculpturing and the Xenon headlights and bulbous tail-lights are contemporary and effective.
New for 2012 is Nissan’s Adaptive Front Lighting System (AFS) which turns the lighting pattern according to steering input and the indicators. Unlike many similar set-ups, Nissan’s system also includes the left-hand light for better illumination at crossroads.
Nissan Maxima On The Road
With its 11-metre turning circle, reversing camera and side-view camera the Nissan Maxima was a breeze to operate around town. The 3.5-litre V6 provided plenty of acceleration for freeway merging and the refinement levels were impressive.
Over our high-speed mountain roads test loop those refinement levels were also on display with good suppression of even the harshest bumps. Again the V6 impressed with its smooth performance although over the twists and curves, CVTs aren’t friends of performance drivers and we opted for manual shifts.
Nissan Maxima isn’t in the Ford Mondeo league for handling. Ford’s German-sourced mid-sizer delivers the firmness and steering precision associated with European cars whereas Nissan Maxima – like Honda Accord – is a bit softer all-round.
Nissan Maxima Challenges
While the Nissan Maxima doesn’t quite match the Ford Mondeo in the high-speed twists, there’s really nothing else to quibble about the Maxima.
But we just wonder…given the strong sales of Ford’s Mondeo and the Mazda6, is the lack of a diesel engine costing Nissan Maxima sales in this segment? Of course neither Honda Accord nor Toyota Camry has a diesel alternative.
Nissan Maxima The Competition
Depends how many cylinders you want under your bonnet. In this segment, only Honda’s sharply-priced ($43,731) Accord V6 Luxury matches the Nissan Maxima’s V6 (in fact Honda’s 202kW/339Nm, 3.5-litre V6 marginally out-performs Nissan’s 185kW/326Nm).
Of course sales in this segment are dominated by Toyota’s Camry and the all-new model just-launched drives like no other Camry before it – flat and precise. Full of kit, Toyota’s locally-built newcomer is a pearler and at $39,990, the range-topping Toyotas Camry Altise is remarkable value.
For driving dynamics, Ford’s German-sourced Mondeo is regarded as the mid-size benchmark but is only available as hatchback or wagon (Nissan Maxima, Toyota Camry and Honda Accord are sedans only). The range-topping petrol-powered Ford Mondeo is the Titanium grade hatchback, priced at $44,900 and employing Fiord’s 149kW/300Nm 2.0-litre petrol engine (fuel consumption of 8.0l/100kms does beat Nissan Maxima’s 10.2l/100kms and 10.0l/100kms for the Honda Accord V6 Luxury).
Likewise Mazda6 – hatchback or wagon only and a 125kW/226Nm, 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine under the bonnet. Mazda6 Luxury Sport hatchback carries a $43,115 sticker (five-speed automatic).
Subaru Liberty sedan might be a millimeter or two smaller than the Nissan Maxima but its all-wheel-drive chassis stands out in this segment. Liberty employs Subaru’s 123kW/229Nm 2.5-litre boxer engine and the 2.5i Sport Premium is priced at $43,490.
And if you’re shunning a hatchback for sedans, the Koreans have some enticing choices. Kia’s Optima looks the business, is powered by a 148kW/250Nm 2.4-litre, four-cylinder, boasts lots of kit and is priced at $36,990. Hyundai enters the game with its likewise good-looking i45, the range-topping Elite (enjoying a 148kW/250Nm 2.4-litre four-cylinder) will set you back $34,590.
Probably best to skip Holden’s $30,490 Epica as 2012 sees the arrival of the all-new Malibu which not only looks brilliant, it is also significantly larger with a much better, more spacious interior.
Car Showroom has driven Nissan Maximas extensively over the years so we can say without hesitation, the 350 Ti is the best yet. We like the looks inside and out, that 3.5-litre V6 is as refined as ‘High Tea’ with Royalty, and Nissan’s pricing and product planning departments have really delivered in terms of standard kit and value-for-money