2012 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV First Impressions Review

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2011 Nissan Maxima
By contributing editor David Colman


  • The Maxima returns to its sports sedan roots
  • Well appointed interior and creature comforts


  • Be ready with a strong grip to handle the torque steer
  • Yearning for a firmer suspension setup reminiscent of true 4DSC performance
  • elephant-ear sized shifter paddles behind the steering wheel

Nissan has long touted the Maxima as a four-door version of the company’s Z sportscar. In fact, early versions carried the moniker “4DSC” on the rear windows to let cognoscenti in on the secret that this sedan was really a “4 Door Sports Car” in camera. But as Maxima morphed through subsequent iterations, its styling lost the hard edge of the original. Its power-to-weight ratio also suffered, as Maxima gained size and weight without corresponding boosts in horsepower. Pretty soon, the 4DSC stickers disappeared and the Maxima became just another big sedan without the sporting pretensions of the original.

The introduction of the 2011 model, however, indicates that the tide has turned at Nissan. The old 4DSC decals are once again affixed to the rear windows, and if you watch Nissan’s current TV ads for Maxima, you’ll see a prospective customer transforming the car he wants (370Z) into the car he needs (Maxima) by wrenching the sedan body out of the Z shape with just a couple of big heaves.

2011 Nissan Maxima

The real world transformation, however, isn’t quite that simple. The Z is a front-engine, real-wheel-drive two seater with quick reflexes and light weight. The Maxima is front-engine like the Z, but front-wheel-drive instead. Though it uses a slightly detuned (290hp), smaller 3.5 liter version of the Z’s 3.7 liter V6 for power, it still produces enough torque (261 lb-ft) to snatch the steering wheel out of your hands when you stomp the throttle if the front wheels are turned. This is antithetical to 4DSC behavior, as the Maxima performs a series of torque-steer induced tank slappers before you finally get course direction straightened away.

That caveat aside, the Maxima comports itself with admirable composure, not only on smooth roads, but over potholed irregularities. The all-season Goodyear RS-A tires are adequately sized for a good compromise between comfort and grip at 245/45R18 all around. While the suspension could stand to be a bit firmer for true 4DSC performance, your passengers won’t be complaining about a lack of ultimate grip since they’re so well looked after by the interior. Nissan’s made-in-USA (Smyrna, GA) Maxima is an imposingly well constructed vehicle, from its finely tailored waffle-weave headliner to its elegantly stitched premium leather seats. The handsome pebble- grained instrument cluster matches the similar material covering the dashboard and upper door panels. Eucalyptus wood-like accents look rich and unobtrusive.

2011 Nissan Maxima interior

The driver’s seat features 3-position heating and ventilation, the rear seats slouch invitingly, and a double length sunroof covers the length of the cabin. Although the rear windows only decline halfway, the reason must be that Nissan refused to allow the 4DSC sticker to disappear from view. Also to that end, they have equipped the driver’s compartment with elephant-ear sized paddles to control shifts of the 6-speed CVT automatic gearbox.

The steering wheel is thick and enticingly tactile, with perforated leather pistol grips covering the area most used. The 160mph speedometer, flanked by the 8,000rpm tachometer (redline:6,500) add to the performance buzz. While Maxima expertly mimes the Z car, what it really does best is to carry 4 (or 5 in a pinch) expeditiously, comfortable and spaciously. In that regard, it has few peers at any price.

paddle shifters and steering wheel mounted controls Nissan Maxima center stack Nissan Maxima Xtronic CVT

ENGINE: 3.5 liter DOHC, 24 Valve V6
TORQUE: 261 lb-ft


David Colman has been writing vehicle tests for 24 years. His work has been featured in AutoWeek, the San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, and Marin Independent Journal. In 1987, he helped start Excellence, The Magazine About Porsche, which he edited for many years. He has been an active participant in racing and Solo events since 1961. More car reviews written by Colman can be found at autoeditor.com


2009 Nissan Maxima

2009 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV Review – the original 4-door sports car continues to deliver

Rating: 4.4 stars
by Danny Chang

“The Maxima is a very good and solid sedan. It is plenty powerful, handles relatively well, and has lots of room and a plethora of high tech amenities.”

NissanThe official site for Nissan cars, trucks, SUVs, crossovers and hybrids – www.nissanusa.com

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  • Gregory Jackson says:

    I have bee a Nissan owner for quite a few years to include purchases for children. On seeing the 2011 Maxima SV with premiumn sport package, the wheels in my mind began turning. After 3 days or test drives, I fell in love the car….needless to say it went home with me on that third day. I absolutely love the handling and responsiveness….as well as the many extra creature comforts. A very sleek, sporty energetic car. The 4DSC is back !!

  • Anil Lopez says:

    Just test drove the Maxima 2011 full options. Great handling and responsiveness. Enjoyed the drive and fell in love with the macho sporty looks.

  • francois says:

    The rear is starting to look better. But the front looks ghastly. It may be a nice car but I heard something like 80% of the buying decision is based on looks of the car. And this car doesn’t look appealing.

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