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3/4 Front Glamour 2012 Nissan Maxima

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Expert's Rating


MPG 19 City / 26 Highway
  • Upscale interior feel
  • Rides smooth
  • Good handling for large car
  • Base model comes well equipped
  • Limited trunk space
  • Cabin not as spacious as competitors
, Automotive Editor -
The Maxima has been the Nissan brand's most prestigious sedan for more than three decades and the newest version aims to return to its roots as the four-door sports car. While short of sports car, the Maxima is a lot more sporty than similar large sedans, with an athletic shape and a powerful 3.5-liter V6 to match. In addition, it's filled to the brim with standard features, namely, 18-inch alloy wheels, a fuel-efficient CVT transmission, power sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, keyless entry and start and Bluetooth with iPod integration. SV models up the ante with leather seats and a premium Bose audio system, as well as opening up options like Xenon lights, dual-pane sunroof and a Sports Package. The SV is also available with a Technology Package that bundles a 7-inch navigation system, streaming audio and a hard drive with music storage.


All Maximas get a 3.5-liter V6 with 290 horsepower, mated to a continuously variable transmission. It's a more powerful version of the setup used in vehicles like the Murano crossover, Infiniti JX and the new Nissan Altima V6. Every model gets front, side and curtain airbags, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, split-folding rear seat and tilt-and- telescoping steering wheel.

In terms of the competition, the Ford Taurus is available with three choices of powertrains and front or all-wheel drive. But the Taurus is much heavier and less agile than the Maxima. The Toyota Avalon is larger and quieter than the Maxima, but that works against the Avalon because it's not nearly as rewarding for the driver as the Maxima. The Buick LaCrosse offers an eAssist four-cylinder that gets up to 37 MPG highway. But it is also heavy and lacks the Maxima's sporting pretentions. The Dodge Charger offers a V8 and rear or all-wheel drive that will please enthusiasts or those living in snowy areas. But top-level Chargers are expensive.

Overall, the Maxima is one of the sportiest large sedans, even if it isn't as large as some other competitors. Its sporty nature and smooth CVT transmission set it apart from the class and it does offer a more premium feel than many mainstream branded sedans, but at a lower price than premium makes. It's perfect for sedan shoppers who want luxury features and good value.

Which Style To Buy?

2012 Nissan Maxima
Starting price

2012 Nissan Maxima 3.5 S

Recommended for: People looking for a sporty big sedan

The S trim level comes with a long equipment list, even though it's the base Maxima. Standard on all S models are 18-inch alloy wheels, leather- wrapped steering wheel that tilts and telescopes, Bluetooth with iPod integration, cloth seats with 8-way power adjustments for the driver and 4-way power for the front passenger, keyless entry and start and a trip computer. The optional Limited Edition package nets dark silver wheels with matching grille, xenon headlamps, foglights, rear spoiler and a compass in the rearview mirror.

2012 Nissan Maxima
Starting price

2012 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV

Recommended for: Those looking for the maximum Maxima

The SV not only includes another flood of standard features, but also opens up the Maxima buyer to options like navigation and sports suspension. All SVs get leather seats, 9-speaker Bose audio with satellite radio and Homelink. The Monitor Package adds a 7-inch screen with backup camera and a USB connector. The Cold Weather Package adds heated front seats, steering wheel and outside mirrors. The Premium Package packs in a dual-pane moonroof, power sunshade for the back window, a cooled driver's seat, ambient lighting, xenon headlamps, power adjustment for the steering wheel and bucket seats for the back that replace the 3-place bench. The Sport Package has a sport- tuned suspension, 19-inch wheels, premium leather seats and extra chassis reinforcement. And the Technology Package includes Nissan's excellent navigation system with SiriusXM traffic and weather.

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