2010 Nissan Maxima
The 2010 Nissan Maxima finds itself in a tricky position. While it used to be Nissan’s go-to volume seller in the midsize sedan segment, that position now belongs to the Altima, leaving the Maxima no place to go but up on the marketing ladder. As such, the seventh generation Maxima has moved a bit out of its comfort zone. It’s a familiar situation in the automotive realm – in fact, the Ford Taurus SHO
did the same thing this year – but it is a tricky proposition. Nissan seems to have stuffed a lot of goods from its upmarket Infiniti brand into the Maxima, and that certainly makes it feel more at home amongst some of its competitors. Nissan bills the Maxima as the “Four-Door Sports Car” and the suspension and steering certainly fit that bill, but putting all 290 horsepower to the front wheels can prove a bit too much at times, though the VDC system tends to smooth out most front-end kickback. Use of a CVT transmission gives the Maxima plenty of fuel efficiency cred, but as far as its sporting intentions go, a more conventional gear-based transmission would be preferred. Luckily Nissan programmed in some artificial gear ratios that feel pretty close to the real thing.
What's to Like
The Maxima comes across as more Infiniti than Nissan, and we mean that in the best possible way – it’s properly luxurious inside. Responsive and rev-happy, the 3.5-liter VQ engine in the Maxima makes us feel a bit nostalgic, as Nissan/Infiniti’s new and widely used 3.7-liter feels less refined by comparison.
What's Not to Like
3.5-liters of hefty V-6 can easily prove too much for the front wheels to handle, though the CVT does help to massage the power in low gears where a traditional gearbox would want to rev higher before shifting. We like Nissan’s touch screen system that controls audio and climate systems, but the resolution on the 7.0-inch screen could use some improvement.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
Fitted with the sport package, the Maxima feels firmly planted thanks to stiff springs and shocks. The Macpherson strut-based front-end is happy to turn in and the steering is quick and direct, something we’ve come to expect from Nissan. It’s a great platform, but at times the power of the V-6 can prove too much for the front-wheels to handle, especially if you drive it with the VDC stability control switched off. The CVT does a decent job of keeping the engine from revving too high at low speed, which helps keep the front end planted, and the false paddle-selected gear ratios are extremely convincing. Still, it’s hard not to want for a traditional transmission that would let you really drive the Maxima in anger, but most owners are probably fine without it, instead enjoying the fuel economy bonus afforded by a transmission that never shifts.
Engine and Drivetrain
The Nissan Maxima is powered by 3.5-liter V-6 engine that puts out a 290 horsepower and 261 lb-ft of torque. Power is driven to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with optional paddle shifters that boast surprisingly realistic gear ratios.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
The Premium Package adds a lot of appealing equipment to the Maxima SV, including a dual panel moonroof that provides plenty of natural light in the cabin, leather seats, rear seat air conditioning and audio controls, a rear window power sunshade, HID xenon headlights, heated front seats and steering wheel and a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel column. Plenty of other tech features are also added, highlighted in the next section.
Key Technology Evaluation
As a part of the Premium Package, the 7.0-inch Information Center sits atop the center stack and manages audio and climate control functions. The screen and interface will be familiar to those who have spent time in various Infiniti products, though here it seems like it could benefit from higher resolution. A USB jack, auxiliary audio and video inputs and a two GB flash drive for digital music storage are also included.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
By using a CVT transmission, the Maxima is able to make the best of its 3.5-liter V-6 engine around town. At 19 mpg highway, 26 mpg city, it’s neither extremely frugal nor overly thirsty. Emissions are rated at ULEV.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
The highlight of the Maxima is its interior, which in SV Premium guise feels properly luxurious and modern. A light interior color is recommended as it contrasts well with the dark dash, center stack and steering wheel, and we appreciate that the Maxima doesn’t overload you with buttons, even though the Information Center controller renders some of the dash controls redundant.
Behind its flat front-end is a ridged hood reminiscent of the Infiniti FX, which flows down onto the fenders where a beltline that runs the length of the car begins. Even though the Maxima is undeniably a large car, its many curves and ridges do a great job of hiding its proportions.
Market Segment and Pricing
While Maxima pricing begins at $30,460, the SV Premium runs a bit higher at $36,410. At that price, key competitors include the Acura TL Tech Package
($38,835), Lexus ES 350
($34,800), Lincoln MKZ
($34,115) and Ford Taurus SHO ($37,770).
What We Think
The Maxima comes up big in creature comforts, but unfortunately falls a bit flat on its sporting intentions thanks to its unconventional transmission and front-wheel drive setup. Inside, however, it’s ahead of much of its competition. If the Acura TL just isn’t your cup of tea, the Maxima makes for a fantastic alternative.