2012 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV: Refreshed flagship combines sportiness and luxury
By Mike Blake Carlisle Events
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
The full-size flagship for the Nissan line is its Maxima, marketed as a "four-door sports car". Debuting in 1976 as an upscale version of the Nissan Bluebird, Maxima evolved into its own line in 1981 and has been on its own ever since.
Begun as a Japan-built vehicle, constructed and assembled in Oppama, Japan until 2004, the current North American Maximas are assembled at Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee plant.
Now in its seventh generation, Maxima has been refreshed for 2012 with an emphasis on sports sedan styling, luxury for passengers and a driver’s car demeanor from cockpit to performance.
Nissan has invigorated Maxima’s look and feel for 2012 with a new front grille design, angular rear combination lights and contemporary 18-inch and 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. The cabin has also had a makeover with a new audio segment display and innovative audio/HVAC knob design, modified meter cluster illumination color (white), three original inside trims -- Dark Piano-hairline, Atlantic Cherry wood tone and metallic-finish -- and a new Cafe Latte interior color.
Outside, Maxima’s styling cues are aggressive, athletic and powerful, with a deeply sculpted body/fender treatment similar to that of exotic sports cars, distinctive “Maxima-style” C-pillars and high trunk lid, large wraparound L-shaped headlights with “turbine” light surrounds, 12-LED L-shaped “stepped” taillights, a wide grille, large bumper opening, “catamaran-style” hood and a dual exhaust with chrome finishers.
Solidly built with a curb weight of 3540 pounds, the flagship Maxima 3.5 SV is a full-size sedan measuring 190.6 inches long, 73.2 inches wide and 57.8 inches high on a 190.6-inch wheelbase with minimum ground clearance of 5.6 inches.
Utilizing unibody construction, Maxima is corrosion-resistant, relying on the use of high-strength steel, an aluminum-alloy hood and 18-inch, 10-spoke aluminum-alloy wheels with a silver painted finish.
Maxima rounds out its elegant exterior with a front power tilt/slide glass dual-panel moonroof, fixed translucent rear panel with front and rear power retractable sunshades, manual folding outside mirrors, rear spoiler and dual exhaust with chrome finishers.
Power is delivered by a 3.5-liter aluminum block and head V-6 engine that produces 290hp and 261 lbs-ft of torque. The sequential multi-port electronic fuel injection system is mated to an Xtronic continuously variable transmission with adaptive shift control, manual shift mode, drive support mode and downshift rev matching. Premium unleaded fuel is recommended to fill its 20-gallon tank and the vehicle is rated at 19mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway. A four-day tour of Washington, DC, Maryland and Pennsylvania, in town and on the interstates, yielded an average of 22.3mpg.
In track tests, Maxima didn’t quite live up to its sports car marketing, but brawn is abundant in a broad scope and I was able to push the full-size sedan to a zero-to-60mph sprint in 6.2 seconds, en route to a 14.7-second quarter-mile.
On the highway, Maxima was responsive, secure and confident. The speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering offered minimal understeer and restrained body roll while the sport-tuned suspension components employed an independent strut front suspension with coil springs and stabilizer bar along with multi-link independent rear with stabilizer bar, to easily handle road imperfections.
The luxury sports car feel is conveyed within as Maxima’s “super cockpit” seats five, albeit five inhabitants under six feet tall. Interior headroom measures only 38.5 inches up front and 36.4 in the second seats; legroom is 43.8 in row one and a tight 34.6 in row two and shoulder room goes 56.3 and 55.1.
Cabin niceties include tailored, refined interior styling, use of the premium trim materials mentioned above, 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with manual lumbar support, leather-appointed seats, 4-way power-adjustable passenger seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, steering wheel mounted audio controls, Bose® premium audio system with nine speakers, AM/FM/CD6 in-dash CD changer and RDS radio function, two subwoofers and center channel speaker, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, dual-zone air conditioning with automatic temperature control and rear vents, Nissan Intelligent Key with push-button start, cruise control, “Daytime Illumination” electroluminescent meters with a rotated tachometer so engine redline is placed at 12 o’clock, auto on/off headlights, power door locks, power windows with driver and passenger auto-up/down feature; rear window auto-up/down feature, dual overhead map lights, dual rear reading lights and many other amenities.
Nissan also puts an emphasis on safety and Maxima earned a perfect 5 stars in National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration rollover tests. Safety items that are part of the 3.5 SV include Zone Body construction with front and rear crumple zones, Nissan Advanced Air Bag System with dual-stage supplemental front air bags with seat belt sensors and an occupant classification sensor, front seat-mounted side-impact supplemental air bags and roof-mounted curtain side-impact supplemental air bags, front-seat active head restraints and Vehicle Dynamic Control with Traction Control System.
My Brilliant Blue 2012 Maxima 3.5 SV base priced at $34,450. A 7-inch monitor package added $700; the Sport Package added $2100 for lots of tech, a spoiler, heated outside mirrors, sport-tuned suspension and smoked HID headlights; the Sport Technology Package added $1850 for the voice recognition navigation system and streaming audio. Destination charges of $760 brought the final sticker price to $40,055.
> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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