Nissan takes it to the Maxima
Nissan Canada has been on a roll in the first half of 2012, with sales up 6.9 per cent over the corresponding period in 2011.
Most of the model lineup has experienced sales gains, including the flagship Maxima sedan, which is up 47.2 per cent over last year, including a jump of 88.2 per cent in the month of June alone.
That’s certainly good news for Nissan, as there’s a lot of competition in the mid-size sedan market these days.
What makes the sales gains a bit surprising though is the fact the Maxima hasn’t changed a whole lot since 2009, when the seventh-generation debuted.
For 2012, the Maxima has a few tweaks here and there. A refreshed exterior brings a new front grille design, new rear combination lights and new 18- and 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheel designs.
Inside, interior enhancements include a new white-coloured meter-cluster illumination, a variety of new trim materials and a new beige interior colour.
There is also a new audio segment display and audio/HVAC knob design.
Nissan bills the Maxima as a “four-door sports car” — that may be stretching things a bit, but there’s no denying it caters to the driving enthusiast who wants a sporty, everyday sedan with decent interior room and plenty of trunk space when it’s required.
Some things get better with age and the Maxima may be a perfect example of that.
It started life in 1981 as a somewhat “plain Jane” Datsun 810 and has evolved over the years to the sporty front-engine, front-wheel drive sedan it is today.
The styling has come a long way, too.
Today, it is one of the better-looking sedans in the class, with its “liquid-motion” design theme that focuses on the flow of its surfaces like an undulating wave.
The distinctive character lines run from the front to the bulging rear flanks, part of the wave-shape design. The look starts with the aggressive stance and the deeply sculpted body and fender treatment.
With a front end that features supercar GTR-like styling, the Maxima has large wraparound L-shaped headlights that add a unique dimension to the overall design.
Nissan refers to the hood as having a “catamaran” style — high on the sides with a bulge in the middle.
The interior has an upscale look and feel.
In fact, you’d think you were in an Infiniti rather than a Nissan. It has what Nissan calls a “super cockpit” to give that sports car look but with more space for driver and passenger alike.
Lots of soft-touch materials, chrome surrounds on the gauges and other trim accents add to the luxury
When the new generation debuted in 2009, it came with a huge boost in power thanks to the 3.5-litre DOHC V6 that came with it.
That engine remains today, producing 290 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque.
The exhaust has been tuned to provide a sporty, satisfying sound.
All 2012 Maximas come with a revised continuously-variable transmission (CVT) that Nissan engineers say has been finessed to improve responsiveness and strike a balance between sport and comfort.
If better driving dynamics is your goal, stick it in Ds mode (Drive Sport) that enhances sport driving through increased acceleration feel with higher engine revs, automatic engine braking and maintaining engine speed during cornering.
In short, the system matches vehicle speed with engine r.p.m.s with the driver’s intended acceleration input.
I’ve mentioned before I’m not normally a fan of CVTs, but this is one of the better performing units on the market, thanks to the finetuning Nissan engineers have done.
Advancements have also been made with the suspension, steering and braking system to produce a more sports-car-like feel on the road.
Despite this being a front-driver with lots of pep, you’ll notice torque steer has been virtually eliminated.
The end result is a vehicle that is quick, stable in all driving situations, easy to manoeuvre and quiet inside.
The speed-sensitive power steering works well to get you where you want to go, even in tight parking-lot situations.
For 2012, the Maxima is offered in Canada as one well-equipped model, starting at $37,880.
However, three are three option packages — Premium ($2,800), Sport ($2, 350) and Navigation ($2,200) — that add a lot more bells and whistles to the base car.
As tested, our Maxima topped out at $40,530 with the Sport Package, which featured upgraded 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels, sport-tuned suspension, high intensity discharge (HID) Xenon headlights, outside mirrors with reverse tilt-down feature, automatic entry/exit system, paddle shifters, XM satellite radio, premium leather seats and more.
The Premium package includes all Sport features plus heated and cooled front seats, cherry-wood trim, power rear-window sunshades, fold-down rear-seat armrest, premium mood lighting, dual panel moonroof and 18-inch alloys.
The Navigation package includes a hard-drive based Nav system with voice recognition and touch screen, Bluetooth streaming audio and rearview monitor.
It all adds up to a driver-friendly sedan that offers a sporty feel and look.
Even in its seventh generation, the 2012 Nissan Maxima still has what it takes to excite the driver in all of us.
— Lorne Drury