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
By Mike D. on Wednesday, September 17, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 29,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Powerful, reliable, tight, looks good, fast."
Cons: "The Bose sound system is not great."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"Have had my 2011 Maxima for 3.5 years now. I've liked it from the start, and I like it more every day I drive it. It's still tight and feels/smells like new. MPG avg is over 25, and all highway is over 27. I do use premium gas which costs more, yet it a cleaner fuel and better for your engine long term. Powerful, smooth, quiet, and feels like it costs much more than $30k. The 3.5 liter V6 is in this car is nothing less than excellent. The CVT trans has never been a bother for me. I have no problems with it. Next car: The totally new Maxima which is coming out soon"
1 person out of 2 found this review helpful
By Ryan on Tuesday, September 16, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 25,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"We've owned this car (2013 Max with premium, sport, and technology packages) for a couple of years now. Almost 25k miles and no mechanical problems to speak of. My wife is the primary driver and has a pretty light foot. When I get in to drive it however... I let 'er eat. I like to make sure all 290 horses are still present. And they are! It's a lot of fun to have refined power like that in a sporty sedan. Not a huge fan of CVT but I've grown to appreciate it. It really helps keep the torque right at the pedal, if that makes any sense. In other words, if you're driving along at 60mph and want to accelerate to 80mph, that process happens extremely quickly. Accelerating from a dead stop is also interesting but it's all RPM's man... The tach will instantly climb to the top and hang as the car accelerates from 0. It's a different feel. We opted for every option because the rebates were right. Glad we did as all of those options (including the cool undercarriage LED lights) help justify the higher price tag. Yes, I wish it had a manual and RWD but if we really wanted that, we would have paid $10k more for an Infiniti. Wasn't in the budget nor was the insurance cost for the Infiniti. The glass roof is awesome. The Bose stereo is amazing. Long trips in an incredibly comfortable, ventilated seat are great. We love this car and hope it lasts. I know several folks who have 2008+ Max's with 200k on them and no problems. That's encouraging as our last Max was an 2001 with 380k miles on it and still ran perfectly. You'll love the 2013 Max if you decide to get it. Just expect higher preventative maintenance costs (CVT tranny) and higher fuel costs (premium fuel required)."
By mac on Saturday, August 30, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 1,600overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "great price drives like a dream"
Cons: "cant find any"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"great over all car well built great gas milage 28 city 34 highway better than I thought all the toys and for the price a great deal"
5 people out of 9 found this review helpful
By oldguy on Wednesday, August 27, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 60,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "good MPG, decent ride"
Cons: "Worst transmission I've ever owned"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"I have owned 8 new Nissan vehicles including this one all with manual transmissions except the 2010 Maxima. The transmission provides no engine braking when going down hill and over-revs the engine when accelerating. reminds me of an old Buick Dynaflow the way it tries to manage torque and power. On top or the other faults the transmission requires service ever 30000 miles or the warranty is void (read this as the 300$ added operating cost.) The traction control is so aggressive that the car will get stuck since you can not get the tires to even spin enough to dig itself out."
4 people out of 6 found this review helpful
By Robert on Monday, August 18, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 87,000overall rating 9 of 10rating details
Pros: "Value of car, and performance ."
Cons: "Front wheel drive , takes a little away ."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"2nd maxima I have owned, last one had 180,000 miles and kept driving like New !! Interior , exterior , comfort , and ride are Great !! Hate to mention this but only thing I would change on this Maxima is to make it a Rear Wheel a Drive!! Engine has great punch and would be better managed by rear wheel drive. Other than that , car is amazing !"
By Jerry Oz on Saturday, August 09, 2014
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 37,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"You get a lot of car for the money. There really isn't anything about the Maxima that I don't like. It's a great everyday driver."
9 people out of 14 found this review helpful