Sacramento, California – The Nissan Maxima has always been one of my favorite passenger cars. Whenever one is available for testing, I snatch it up in a New York minute.
So, naturally, the 2011 Maxima 3.5 SV was a welcome sight in my driveway. Nissan calls it “the four-door sports car,” and its willing 3.5-liter V-6 power plant with 290 horsepower helps the Maxima live up to that billing.
But it’s more than that. The Maxima is pretty much a torquey Infiniti luxury car wearing Nissan badging.
Performance, smoothness, luxury and comfort. What’s not to like?
The latest Maxima has been jazzed up with some sporty touches, but rest assured that the basics that have long made the car so appealing remain locked in place. The book-length list of standard features is still a jaw-dropper.
It will take you five minutes just to read through the safety/security and comfort/convenience features. Superior safety standards include an energy-absorbing steering column, seat-and-roof side-curtain air bags and specially engineered crumple zones.
The top-drawer comfort and convenience features that come at no extra cost include leather seating surfaces (plus a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob), automatic on-off halogen headlights, a power sliding moonroof, a blasting Bose audio system and power everything.
You might think $40,000 would be an appropriate price for all you get, but the starting fare on the tested SV model is only $33,530. Numerous extras pushed the bottom line on the tester to $38,060, still below what you pay for an equivalent car produced by other automakers.
On the roll, the Maxima is a quiet comfort zone, even when the V-6 is asked to deliver the max. And when you do ask for the max, you get it right now. On dicey freeways, the Maxima darts out of harm’s way with just a blip from the right foot. It’s an agile, quick-reacting performer in city traffic. Climbing hills is a snap; brakes grab hard and hold on. A spacious trunk allows you to pack generously.
I had the opportunity to test the standard fog lights, which penetrated the mist admirably, and at just the right angle to make me feel secure.
Some colleagues gripe that the styling is a bit conservative, but that falls short in my book. I like the feel of a sports car, but the Maxima does not need a spoiler/wing glued to the back to make it look like one. I like its elegant, but sleek look just fine, thank you.
And I guess that’s the point. Given everything that I like about Maximas past, the 2011 version stands out to me as the kind of car you feel comfortable taking to the ballpark or the country club.
It plays all roles, and plays them well.