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2012 Nissan Maxima

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2012 Nissan Maxima Review

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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.

You'll Like This Car If...

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.

You May Not Like This Car If...

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.

What's New for 2012

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 the Maxima

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.

Paddle Shift
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.

iPod Interface
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.

2012 Nissan Maxima Details
2012 Nissan Maxima photo Interior

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
2012 Nissan Maxima photo

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.

Notable Equipment
Standard Equipment

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).

Optional Equipment

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.

Under the Hood

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."

3.5-liter V6
290 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
261 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 19/26

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2012 Nissan Maxima Consumer Reviews

Overall Rating
8.8
Out of 10

Based on 279 Ratings for the 2009 - 2014 models.

Review this car
  • Value
    8.7/10
    Quality
    8.9/10
  • Reliability
    9.2/10
    Performance
    9.2/10
  • Comfort
    9.1/10
    Styling
    9.2/10

I love this car.

By on Monday, March 30, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 113,600

10 10.0
overall rating 10 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
10/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
10/10
Performance
10/10
Styling
10/10
Comfort
10/10

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10

"Driving this car compares to my 1969 GTO that I loved. It holds the road better and the gas mileage is much better, 25 to 29 on highway, 24 overall city and highway. THe acceleration feels almost as good but is actually better. THe motor lowering and positioning on the 2009 compared to the 2007 Maxima I had has removed the torque steer that the older car had. The 4 door sports car naming is very close to being an actual 4 door sport car!"

7 people out of 11 found this review helpful

Underrated vehicle in its class

By on Friday, March 27, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 23,000

10 8.0
overall rating 8 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
8/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
8/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Great value, stands out in its class"

Cons: "CVT a bit odd, gas mileage a little low"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 8

2014 Maxima SV

"A well put together car, but the CVT takes a little getting used to. It doesn't 'shift' like a normal transmission, so if you're thinking that this car is a racer, you might look elsewhere. Also, the car feels very heavy which is great if you're just cruising, but tough to handle if you're on a windy back road trying to have some fun. Interior is very cozy and the design in and out is very sporty. Overall, a very good car, but I will be looking again soon."

4 people out of 5 found this review helpful

2014 Maxima SV

Quick, Smooth, Comfortable and Good to Look At

By on Monday, March 09, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 27,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Fast, comfortable, and good value."

Cons: "Torque steer, looks too much like the Altima."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"Love the smooth powerful engine, comfortable seating, responsive handling. Car interior has higher end finishes and great leather. Only complaint is FWD torque steer at full acceleration. Will seriously consider buying another one."

9 people out of 12 found this review helpful

Nice car but loses value very quickly.

By on Thursday, March 05, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 39,000

10 7.0
overall rating 7 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
7/10
Value
5/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
8/10
Performance
8/10
Styling
6/10
Comfort
8/10

Pros: "fun to drive"

Cons: "does not hold value"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 6

"Not the car to get if u plan on trading in. Within 1 year of owning the vehichle the trade in value had dropped to over $10,000. Better off getting a Honda which is a little cheaper anyway."

4 people out of 5 found this review helpful

Fun to drive!

By on Sunday, February 22, 2015

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 54,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
9/10
Reliability
9/10
Quality
8/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "Lots of fun to drive, especially on curvy roads."

Cons: "CVT transmission leaves a little to be desired."

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"This Nissan Maxima is a blast to drive. My only complaint is with the CVT transmission. Once you're moving and want to accelerate, the CVT is great, but off the line it feels like the car bogs down and doesn't want to go. Keeping in mind this is a car that goes 0-60 in under 6 secs, it isn't exactly slow, but the "fun quotient" is lower due to the transmission. Also, the fact that NISMO doesn't offer any performance upgrades for the car is strange. You have to go outside of Nissan to find performance upgrades for their premier sedan??"

2 people out of 7 found this review helpful

bought new in 1998 still driving it 340,000 miles

By on Sunday, December 28, 2014

I own this car - My approximate mileage is 340,000

10 9.0
overall rating 9 of 10rating details

Reviewer Ratings

Overall Rating
9/10
Value
10/10
Reliability
10/10
Quality
9/10
Performance
9/10
Styling
9/10
Comfort
9/10

Pros: "comfort, ride"

Cons: "tires in wet weather"

Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9

"bought the SE model new in 1998 and still driving it , no major repairs til 200,000 miles , hard to find another car with that record. will most likely buy another one when that time comes. Fun to drive both in town and highway even at this age still gets 21/22 mpg in town."

9 people out of 17 found this review helpful

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Trading in or Selling? Know where you stand with the most up-to-date Kelley Blue Book Value at your fingertips. See your car's value

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