2013 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SVPosted on November 20th, 2012
Five-passenger sedan combines style and value
By Nina Russin
I’m not sure that I agree with Nissan’s description of the Maxima as a four-door sports car. Although the Maxima’s standard 3.5-liter V-6 engine packs a powerful punch, the front-wheel drive platform and continuously-variable automatic transmission would not be this writer’s first choice for time on the track. What the Maxima offers buyers is luxury car style combined with sporty performance at a great value.
This year, Nissan boosts Maxima’s appeal with a SV value package which combines an upscale audio system, satellite radio, heated front seats and mirrors for $1000: $500 less than if a buyer purchased the components separately. Base price for the upscale SV model is $35,080 excluding the $780 delivery charge.
Other options on the test car include a seven-inch color monitor with rearview camera, iPod and USB connectivity ($700); rear spoiler ($380); high-intensity discharge headlamps ($400); navigation with real-time traffic and weather updates and Bluetooth streaming audio ($1850); floor and trunk mats ($195), bringing the final MSRP to $40,385.
Sporty aero body
Aside from the two-passenger Z, the Maxima has the sportiest exterior of any vehicle in the Nissan line-up. The sedan’s low stance and large fenders give it the appearance of a cat getting ready to pounce. A .33 coefficient of drag enhances fuel economy and reduces wind noise around the chassis.
Large wrap-around headlamps frame the grille, while the optional rear spoiler dresses up the back of the car. Bi-xenon headlamps on the test car provide brighter, longer beams of light than halogen. They make a big difference on poorly-lit suburban streets and rural roads.
Despite the car’s bullet profile and large wheel wells, access and egress to second-row seats is quite good. Once inside, average-sized adults should find ample headroom in the second row.
Test drive in Phoenix
I put about 200 miles on the Maxima over the past week, driving through some rush hour traffic in Phoenix’s east valley, rural roads in the foothills of the Superstition Mountains east of town, and in downtown Phoenix. The Maxima easily fills the squares for driving enthusiasts who need the four-season capability of front-wheel drive, but who want to have some fun on the daily commute. With its spacious interior and trunk, the Maxima is a good choice for a family of four who needs a car for extended road trips.
The 290-horsepower V-6 engine develops peak torque, 260 foot-pounds, at 4400 rpm, giving the Maxima excellent acceleration off the line and in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range drivers use merging into high-speed traffic. A high capacity muffler and dual exhausts enhance airflow through the engine for better power and reduced emissions.
A timing chain eliminates the expense of belt replacement at about 60,000 miles. Although the manufacturer recommends premium unleaded gasoline, it is not required.
Nissan builds some of the best continuously-variable transmissions on the market. The unit on the Maxima offers up crisp performance: head-and-shoulders above competitive units. If the driver shifts into sport mode, the transmission downshifts to raise engine revs by about 500 rpm. In manual mode, the transmission replicates gear shifts of a traditional step transmission.
Response from the speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion power steering system is excellent at all speeds, with plenty of assist at low speeds for maneuverability, and very good on-center response on the highway. Although most of the car’s weight is up front, I noticed no tendency to push during hard cornering.
The optional rearview camera projects a wide-angle view to the back of the car on the center stack screen. Lines superimposed over the image show the vehicle’s trajectory according to steering inputs. In addition to make it easier to drive in reverse, the camera eliminates blind spots to the back of the car and helps the driver monitor cross traffic in a parking lot.
The suspension consists of independent struts with coil springs up front and multi-link independent suspension in the rear with stabilizer bars on both axles. During the test drive, it did an excellent job of absorbing jousts from pitchy hills and uneven road surfaces, while maintaining a firm, sporty feel.
Standard 18-inch rims give the Maxima an ample footprint for high-speed driving. Drivers who want more road feel can upgrade to 19-inch rims and a sport-tuned suspension.
Visibility around the perimeter of the car is good. I had no problems monitoring traffic in the adjacent lanes, and when merging onto the highway.
Engineers did a good job minimizing wind and road noise intrusion to the interior. The only external noise I noticed during the test drive was a pleasant belch from the exhaust during hard acceleration.
Standard keyless entry and start enables the driver to open the door and fire the ignition without removing the keys fob from his pocket. A button on the door handle allows the driver to lock the door after exiting the car without using the fob.
Inside, front-row passengers get sport bucket seats. I appreciated the optional seat heaters during an early morning trip to the gym. They kept me warm before the heater kicked in and loosened up the muscles in my back.
The seats themselves were too hard for me. I was fine on shorter trips around town, but felt uncomfortable towards the end of a two-hour drive. Adjustable lower lumbar support on the driver’s seat helped some, but I still struggled with the firm thigh bolsters under my perpetually-tight hamstrings.
A tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel enables smaller drivers to maintain a clear forward view and a safe distance from the front airbag. Redundant Bluetooth, audio and cruise controls are intuitive to use.
Center stack controls for the audio, information, navigation and HVAC systems are easy to reach from either front seating position. A standard moonroof brings additional ambient light into the interior. Drivers who want more can opt for a dual-pane panoramic sunroof.
A locking glovebox provides secure storage inside the car. Vents behind the center console bin circulate air through the back of the cabin.
Outboard second-row seats offer ample head, hip and legroom. Despite a small floor tunnel, there’s enough legroom in the center position for shorter trips.
The Maxima’s spacious trunk has ample room for luggage, groceries and smaller camping equipment. Second-row seats fold flat to extend the cargo floor for longer items.
The Nissan Maxima comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction and stability control, and tire pressure monitoring.
Nissan builds the Maxima at its Smyrna, Tennessee assembly plant.
Like: A stylish, versatile sedan with a powerful engine, excellent suspension and steering response.
Dislike: Thigh bolsters on the seats are uncomfortable.
Model: Maxima 3.5 SV
Base price: $35,080
As tested: $40,385
Horsepower: 290 Hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 261 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 19/26 mpg city/highway
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