Nissan Maxima, 2012: Flagship sedan has sports car tendencies

James Raia

Now more than 35 years since it origins as the Datsun 810, the Nissan Maxim is in its seventh generation as a full-sized sedan also marketed as a four-door sports cars.

The Maxima name began in 1981 when the car was primarily built in Oppama, Japan. It manufacture transitioned to Smyrna, Tennessee, in 2004 and that's where it's currently built.

The Maxima remains the flagship sedan of Nissan, with the 2012 edition receiving only minor changes from last year. The exterior adjustments include tweaks to the front grille and new 18-and-19-inch alloy wheel designs. The minor interior changes include newly designed knobs and dials and new color patterns for the cabin trim and gauges.

Nissan Maxima, 2012: Flagship sedan has sports car tendencies 1

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

Like numerous other vehicles I've test driven during the nearly 10 years of The Weekly Driver reviews, I drove the 2012 Nissan Maxima round-trip from Sacramento to the Monterey Peninsula. The 400-mile journey features fast, open stretches of Interstate 5, the winding, off-cambered two-lane road on Highways 152 and 156 and plenty of city streets in often-frequented locales in Monterey, Carmel and Pacific Grove.

The Maxima, which features a 3.5-liter, V6 with 290 horsepower, prowled along the Interstate with acceleration available at will, and it advanced ideally in cruise control. And the winding, hilly and sometimes narrow road approaching the San Luis Reservoir might as well have still been the flat, straight sections of Interstate 5 . . . the Maxima never flinched.

The Maxima features an automatic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), with a manual sport mode and available  steering-wheel paddle shifters. I didn't use the paddle shifters since the automatic gearing performed well.

With its quality leather seats and more than adequate interior space, the Maxima combines strong driving with comfort, and that's a combination easy to like.


The engine is surpassingly powerful with brisk acceleration and tight handling.

Handsomely designed exterior.

Well-appointed interior.

Unique, but efficient navigation system, although maps aren't the easiest to follow.


Trunk operation is not smooth, and it's particularly difficult to close.

With the option packages in my test vehicle, the price exceeded $40,000. That's high for a non-luxury sedan.

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Facts & Figures: 2012 Nissan Maxima

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 5.7 seconds.
Airbags: Front and rear head airbags, dual front side-mounted airbags.
First aid kit: No.
Fuel economy: 19 mpg (city), 26 mpg (highway)
Government Safety Ratings: Rollover 5 out of 5 starts; Front and side crash, not rated.
Horsepower: 290
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $34,450.00
Manufacturer's Web site:
Price As tested: $40,055.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Power train, 5 years/60,000 miles Corrosion, 5 years/unlimited miles; Roadside assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles.

What Others Say:

"Adding expensive option packages escalates the sticker price to the point where a comparable investment will get you an Infiniti G, which offers superior interior materials, warranty coverage, and customer service. It's also more entertaining to drive." — Consumer Guide.

"The price of the Maxima may be its biggest drawback as it puts it into range of many of the more esteemed auto makers." — Automobile Magazine.

"With pricing in the mid-$30,000 range for a fairly loaded example, the Maxima gets you a lot of car – in some cases, more than you'd get from luxury sedans costing thousands more." — Edmunds

What The Wife Says:

"It has a nicely designed interior, good visibility and accelerates quickly when needed."

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

"Touted as a four-door sports car, the Nissan Maxima isn't quite there. But it's a fine touring sedan with a price point a few thousand dollars too high."

Article Last Updated: February 17, 2012.

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