By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.6
Every car company needs a flagship car that represents the company's core values and true automotive heart and soul. For Nissan, that car is the 2012 Maxima Sport Sedan. While the GT-R may be the superstar of the Nissan lineup, it's not a car for the masses, nor is it very practical. The 2012 Maxima Sedan, on the other hand, has room for four adults, delivers Z-car-like performance and can be had for around $30,000. Going head-to-head with cars such as the Ford Taurus SHO, Chrysler 300 and the VW CC, the Maxima isn't alone in its quest for performance-oriented drivers. But, unlike the Taurus and 300, the Maxima retains a mid-size shell that feels more agile and easier to maneuver, more like a 4-door sports car than a large sedan with sporting intentions. We also think that in these tough economic times, those looking at much more expensive premium sport sedans might find the 2012 Nissan Maxima Sedan's combination of performance, luxury and price compelling.
If you're seeking a car that offers the style of a luxury sedan with the heart of a sporty coupe, the 2012 Nissan Maxima Sedan will tickle you pink. The Maxima's unique sheet metal stands out in a crowd, and its very reasonable mid-$30K price tag makes it as affordable as a loaded Honda Accord or Toyota Camry.
If you're of the opinion that a true sport sedan must offer a manual transmission, the 2012 Nissan Maxima Sedan won't be making your test-drive list. Those seeking a large back seat and spacious trunk might be happier in a Chrysler 300C or Ford Taurus SHO.
Nissan gives the 2012 Maxima Sport Sedan a mild makeover, with new front and rear fascias, new wheel designs and some interior trim and lighting enhancements. Also new for 2012 is the Limited Edition Package, which features such highlights as smoked front headlight lenses, 18-inch Dark Hyper Silver alloy wheels and dark metallic trim.
Driving Impressions Our test drive of the 2012 Nissan Maxima Sport Sedan took us on some very curvy mountain roads, as well as an extensive trip over long stretches of California highway....Our take on the Maxima is that it delivers on almost every promise, from the robust power of its snarling V6 engine, to the impressive cornering and firm but comfortable ride. If we felt let down in one area, it's the Maxima's CVT transmission. Although good, it just doesn't work for us in this car. Even with the paddle shifters, we yearned for the feel of a manual shifter like the one in the 370Z. The 3.5-liter V6 is a dream of an engine, providing instantaneous power for passing and merging, all while emitting a sweet, low growl. The Maxima Sedan handles curves like a champ, although not as adeptly as in the Volkswagen CC or BMW 3 Series. Overall, the Maxima does a great job in combining looks, power and practicality, but if it really wants to be dubbed "the 4-door sports car," Nissan might want to reconsider the car's transmission choices.
In the absence of a proper manual transmission, the available paddle shifters add to the Maxima's "4-door sports car" image and can be used at a moment's notice without needing to shift into a "sport" mode. This feature comes in handy when passing, descending a steep hill or just doing some spirited driving.
Better than a standard auxiliary input, and leaps and bounds beyond any form of standard radio, having complete control of an iPod through the car's audio system is much safer than driving with one hand while fumbling to control your iPod with the other.
Nissan says it wanted the Maxima Sedan's driver to feel as though he or she were sitting in a cockpit. We think they've achieved their intention, although we are pretty sure most pilots will tell you even the 787 Dreamliner's cockpit isn't as plush and inviting as the 2012 Maxima. From the premium leather sport seats to the thick-grip steering wheel with paddle shifters, the Maxima's interior screams "let's go driving!" Along the way, the Maxima's impressive array of electronics will aid in your journey. Rich-sounding music emanates from the Bose speakers, while Bluetooth connects you to the outside world. And for those times when you choose to lose the outside world, the Maxima's cool bird's-eye-view navigation will help you find your way back. For those along for the ride, there is adequate, but not great, head and legroom in the rear-seat area. Unfortunately, the 2012 Nissan Maxima's hollowed-out rear seatbacks don't offer the same firm lumbar support as the excellent front seats, and some of our taller testers found their head brushing against the Maxima's low headliner.Exterior
Defining the 2012 Maxima's styling as "liquid motion," Nissan engineers have found a way of incorporating coupelike elements into a mid-size sedan shell. You can definitely see traces of 370Z in the Maxima, especially in the headlight and taillight treatments. The liquid theme continues with a gentle wave connecting the aggressive hood with the bulging front fenders, and continuing rearward where the tapered roofline meets the elegantly sculpted rear end. A subtle spoiler and tasteful chrome accents on the door handles and door surround complete the design. The 2012 Maxima Sedan's short wheelbase and low, wide body contribute to its coupelike stance and are a significant reason for the Maxima's impressive handling. Among the Maxima Sport Sedan's more appealing options is a huge dual-panel moonroof. By allowing the front panel to slide over the fixed rear glass panel, the Maxima's moonroof can be opened without blocking the rear-seat occupants from the sun's rays.
The 2012 Nissan Maxima Sedan has a 3.5-liter V6 engine, Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), power windows, power door locks, power moonroof, automatic halogen headlights, 18-inch aluminum wheels, 8-way power driver's seat, 4-way power front passenger's seat and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. Other standard features include dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless start and entry, AM/FM/6-CD/MP3 audio system with eight speakers, Bluetooth, dual front and side-curtain airbags, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and Traction Control System (TCS).
Many options for the 2012 Nissan Maxima Sedan come standard with the higher SV trim, which includes leather-appointed seats, 9-speaker Bose audio system, HomeLink Universal Transceiver, foglights and manual thigh support on the driver's seat. Other options can be found bundled in packages, including a dual-panel moonroof, a sport-tuned suspension, 19-inch wheels, a rear spoiler, premium leather seating, paddle shifters, heated steering wheel and seats, Nissan Hard Drive Navigation with voice recognition, iPod interface system, RearView monitor, metallic trim, and a power rear-window sunshade.
Nissan's latest iteration of its already-brilliant 3.5-liter V6 engine turns out an impressive 290 horsepower and 261 lb-ft of torque. Improvements included maximizing the air intake and exhaust flow to not only gain power and enhance performance, but also to create a sporty engine sound to evoke what Nissan calls an "exhilaration feeling."
290 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
261 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26
The base 2012 Nissan Maxima S Sport Sedan has a Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price starting around $32,500 and pushes just over the $35,000 mark for the better-equipped SV trim. Check off all the option boxes and the SV can easily push past $40,000, placing it in the same price range as the V8-powered Chrysler 300C and Volkswagen CC and more costly than a fully loaded Honda Accord, Kia Optima Sport or Mazda Mazda6. Before you set out to purchase your new Maxima, be sure to check the Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price to see what consumers in your area are currently paying. As for its long-term depreciation prospects, we expect the Maxima to have residual values slightly below the Honda Accord, on par with the Toyota Camry and Volkswagen CC, and better than the Ford Taurus, Mazda Mazda6 and Chrysler 300.
By macx5 (CA) on Monday, October 21, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 23,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"2011 Maxima SV. sport package - 290HP I'm avg; 24.5 MPGs in mix every day California Traffic. And have gotten as high as 28 Hwy Driving. My Maxima has been trouble free now for 2years. 23Kmiles just oil and gas & tire rotation. That’s it. It drives smooth, more than enough passing power. Bose stereo is assume, Handling is like a 370Z. Leather seats are comfortable. Almost a perfect car..... Expect for one thing,....................CVT. Mix thoughs. The Pros of CVT: 1) It really does save gas, 2) its good when your in traffic. 3) Floor it, and hold on for a smooth Linear Launch. The Cons of CVT: 1) It robs Nissan’s VQ Power on the long run, 2) When I full throttle over and over, the CVT feels like it’s slipping. 3)Manual shifting Mode? Why bother 4) After Driving it for two years, I wish it would just shift like a normal Transmission. You will get tried of the high RPMs thorn."
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By rc on Saturday, October 12, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 7,100overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"After two Lexuses, a BMW, and a 350 Z, I thought I would give the Maxima a shot and I am not disappointed. Surprised is a better word. After adding all the bells and whistles, it was still about $10K less than comparable vehicles so it was essentially a true luxury car at a better price."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By Ryan (CA) on Monday, September 23, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 8,600overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "beautiful design, solid feel, quality interior"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I have owned 6 Maxima's since I started driving. I had an 87, 89, 95, 2000, 2004 and now a 2010 SV w/sport pkg. This one is my favorite. I love the CVT tranny, and most of all the unique exterior design. The fit and finish is spot on, the quality of the interior is as nice as an Infiniti, which I have owned 3 of as well as 2 Lexus'. I have lowered it, put 19" TSW zolder wheels on it, full tint all around. I get complements all the time. I would buy another and when the next model comes out I will most likley buy it. Most of all I own mine and I only paid $24,500 for a fully loaded car, after my trade in and the dealers end of year discount of $5,500."
By Minickel (FL) on Sunday, September 15, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 40,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Awesome to drive!"
Cons: "w/ panoramic roof there's no sun glass compartment"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Responsiveness & packed with many options not found in more expensive sports sedans. This is a great sedan that's fun to drive on all roads especially back roads w/ many curves."
By Nayo (TX) on Monday, September 09, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 33,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Excellent drive"
Cons: "Gas recommended is 91 octane"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"I got this car after my wonderful corolla of 11.5 years gave out. I have had it for 9 months now. This car was great for me since I now have 2 children and a husband. I knew I could fit 3 carseats in the back if I needed to, albeit a little tight but still. No plans for a third child however. The look and feel of this car was definitely worth it. Great handle on the road and looks good doing it. Awesome pick up speed. It goes so fast but doesn't feel like it. The only drawback is that my car is black with black interior and in the desert, you can't keep it clean enough. If I had to do it over again, I would wait a few years when my children were older so they couldn't dirty it up so much (Cringe!!) Otherwise, can't really see myself without it. Glad to have joined the Nissan family."
3 people out of 3 found this review helpful
By MAXIMA ICW (AK) on Saturday, August 17, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Looks,Driving Position Comfortable, Fun to Drive!"
Cons: "Tight Back Seat & Not Heated; MSRP too High by $6K"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8
"This Maxima can walk the dog, and bobs and weaves around them like they're sitting still. I'm half way to Fairbanks while the slower bunch are dragging around North Pole more than 5 miles behind me. I took this on an 800 mile winter trip down the Parks Hiway to Los Anchorage and it handled great on ice and snow for a FWD sled! The MPG was 29 southbound, and 27.6 northbound. Got so many great remarks about the car at the pit stops along the way. The Navy Blue looks great, and the charcoal interior is nice on the Premium SV. Paint does seem to scratch too easily! The rear seat would be too tight for my 6ft 242# frame, but I'm the one doing all of the driving. I bought this over an Audi A5, and I like it almost as much as my 2006 A6 Avant Quattro that costs $10K more. Now if only the rear seats were heated,folks might not mind climbing back there on a cold (-40) winter day! This has to be the best car that Nissan makes, but it comes at a heavy price, which is about $5,500 more than its worth. I paid $35,300, after about $5,000 in rebates and a $1,000 back from the dealer to sweeten the deal!"
4 people out of 4 found this review helpful