2012 Nissan Maxima 3.5S

Brake Performance & Feel – Claim: Class leading brake. Check.

The passive measures are supported by the stopping hardware that consists of a pair of 12.6” x 1.1” vented discs in front, and 12.1” x 0.63” vented rear discs. 4-channel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Brake Assist (BA), and Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) completes the passive safety feature.

Both pedal effort and feel are simply perfect. We always say Nissan brakes are the text book standard. . The mechanism is capable of halting the Maxima from 70 mph in respectable 175’. The foot-operated e-brake does disappoint the real enthusiasts like us though.

We didn’t have the opportunity to work the brakes hard enough to experiment its fade resistance. We simply blasted through the downhill portion of the test route admiring the Maxima’s awesome handling. Brake pedal was rarely used. From all of our track day experiences, we have not once seen any Maxima there. Given the hardware spec, the massive discs are plenty sufficient to soak up the heat from spirited high performance driving through the canyons.

Powertrain Performance & Refinement – Claim: Class leading acceleration. Check.

Capable brakes are needed as the 3,540 lbs Maxima can accelerate from a dead stop to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds, and reach the quarter miles mark in 14.5 seconds @ 98 mph. Allowing this ferocious acceleration is Nissan’s renowned VQ35DE engine that pumps out 290 hp @ 6,400 rpm (12.2 lbs/hp) and 261 lb-ft of torque @ 4,400 rpm (13.6 lbs/lb-ft). This Decherd, TN built engine had been on Ward’s 10Best Engine list from 2002 to 2007.

This V6 powerplant consists of 95.5 mm x 81.4 mm oversquare bore-to-stroke layout totaling 3,498 c.c. in displacement. Each cylinder is served by 4-valves and its 10.6:1 compression ratio warrant the use of premium fuel. The valves are controlled by dual overhead camshafts with Electronic Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control (E-VTC) on the exhaust camshafts, and hydraulically activated Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVTCS) on the intake side. Fresh air is received from a high-flow intake manifold that made out of lightweight nylon material. The explosive power strokes are handled by low-friction molybdenum-coated pistons and forged steel connecting rods. The vertical reciprocal forces are carried by a microfinished one-piece forged crankshaft.

Mated to the end of the crankshaft is Nissan’s Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) transferring engine output to the front wheels via a pair of the previously mentioned equal length driveaxles. The Xtronic has Adaptive Shift Control (ASC), manual shift mode with six preset gear ratios, Ds mode (Drive sport) and Downshift Rev Matching (DRM) functions. The transmission has broad gear ratios range from 2.371 to 0.439 with 5.173 final drive that enhance both acceleration and fuel economy.

On the road, there is plenty of power from idle to the 6,600 rpm redline. At 3,500 rpm, there is the second swell of power as the dual path intake manifold opens up the shorter run to aid filling the cylinders with fresh air. This similar character was also noticeable in the VQ37VHR equipped Infiniti G37 that features variable valve lift that the VQ35DE lacks. Regardless VHR or not, going up the windy sections of the Grapevine incline on I-5, in combine with its great handling and the responsive manual shifting mode, one can lose their driver’s license as quick as an inmate losing his load on his conjugal visit by a blockbuster adult film star.

It is just addicting to push the car harder and harder as the engine emits this exciting, means business purr. Not only you get an earful of this excitement, you could feel the engine power as it sinks you into the seat as you squeeze the pedal harder toward the floor. Just before you thought that’s the end of the acceleration, there is a kick down switch near the bottom of the accelerator; mate the pedal to that more power is on its way.

Coasts at 60mph, the dial on the elegant tachometer points at 1,900 rpm with luxurious calmness in the interior. Our observed fuel economy ranged from 21.3 to 25.6 mpg which falls within EPA’s published 19 City, 26 Highway, and 22 combined rating.

Comfort & Workmanship – Claim: Class leading craftsmanship and cockpit. Check.

Glancing at the gauge cluster via the leather-wrapped steering wheel, the GT-R inspired tachometer is uniquely tilted to align the engine redline at the 12 o’clock position. The electroluminescent illuminated gauges offer as much as elegance as the ones in the Infiniti. Like all Nissan, the switchgears, center display are logically designed, and intuitive to use.

We have always been saying situated in a Nissan’s cockpit, there is always this at-home feeling. It doesn’t mean the familiarity is from the cookie cutter cockpit layout. In fact, all Nissan models have distinct interior design.

The automatic temperature dual climate zone HVAC with rear vents is capable of keeping the driver and passengers happy in their comfort zone. The standard 8-speaker sound system offers concert hall quality sound. Bass is sharp and deep. Mid and high notes are clearly defined with separation – very dynamic audio system. We would be very interested in knowing how good the standard 9-speaker Bose system in the top-of-the-line SV trim is.

The comfort zone is further enhanced by a cabin that has minimal wind noise from its 0.33 coefficient of drag, and the solid structure makes the listening to lively music a joy. Road noise and vibration transmitted into the cabin are communicative. Tire noise is a bit apparent on washboard surface but given the Goodyear RS-A are known being noisy. Road noise is not really that bad in the Maxima thanks to the adequate underfloor insulation.

In terms of workmanship, the interior is nicely assembled with minimal panel gaps. Rattling was not noticed. The dash and door panels consist of strategically placed soft material. Driving position is easily found from the 8-way power seat with manual lumbar adjustment, and the tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel.

The exterior flaring at the wheel wells are used to give the Maxima both a low profile look, and physically magnifying its width. This increased girth is filled by a pair of L-shaped projector-style headlights to wraparound the frontend accompanied by – as how Nissan put it –“catamaran-style” hood. Catamaran is a boat consisting of two hulls with the main body of the ship joined at the upper structure where the occupants dwell. It must have something to do the resemblance of the profile between the hood and the boat. For this resemblance, in the rear corners are fitted by the 12-LED L-shaped attractive tail lamps.

Overall Impression
Scoring System:
Powertrain Performance & Refinement

Handling & Ride Characteristics

Brake Performance & Feel

Comfort & Workmanship

Features & Technologies

Will I buy one factor

My recommendation factor

Lamzgarage factual ratings. Dollar-to-Horsepower: $115.15/HP; Dollar-to-Trunk Space: $2,351.76/cu-ft.

Afterthought – Claim: Best performing front engine, front-wheel drive car in the world. Depends.

The “…best FWD in the world,” statement was definitely put together by the marketing folks. Best performing front-wheel drive car in the world???? Even though, the Maxima is great but we would not go that far with this statement.

This statement may be more factual though, “the Maxima presented the best cannibalism in the world.” On the lower end of the Maxima’s $30k spectrum is the Nissan Altima 3.5SL that is closely equal in performance and feature; for evidence Nissan sold only 1 Maxima for every 4.5 Altima sold in 2011. On the upper spectrum is the Infiniti G37 that offers the driving dynamics only a properly executed rear-wheel drive performance sedan can; Nissan sold as many as G37 as the Maxima in 2011.

The Maxima is clearly in the limbo. On the plus side however, the Maxima doesn’t really have many non-premium brand competitors. Toyota Avalon, Hyundai Azera, Ford Taurus, and Chevrolet Impala are the only few but the former is going after the grave-bound retirees, and latter to flood rental fleet lots. Market segment problem aside the Maxima itself is a great car, probably one of the best in the segment. It is just simply awesome; it is truly a 4-door sports car.…yeah… yeah… Nissan bias again, you might say!

Maybe a little, since we proudly owned a ’83 Datsun 810/Nissan Maxima. Of course, the ’12 Maxima ain’t no Mercedes-Benz C55 AMG but it is definitely the most sporty front wheel drive based sedan in this price range from the Land of the Rising Sun. To demonstrate our unbiased nature, for those who are looking for a sporty sedan in this price range, check out the 2006 Benz C55 AMG, or go for the Infiniti G37 (bias again!), fine… Altima 3.5SL then. End

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