2012 NISSAN MAXIMA REVIEW
Vehicle Style: Large sedan
Price: $46,990 (plus on-roads)
Fuel Economy (claimed): 10.2 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 10.4 l/100km
Nissan’s J32 Maxima is a frequently-overlooked large car contender and only commands a tiny share of the segment.
But its shortcomings are few: the interior feels quite upmarket, the back seat is spacious, it rides well and that 3.5 litre V6 is a pearler.
Even at the flagship 350Ti’s $46,990 pricetag, it’s a very good car for the money. A minor update in late 2011 added even more equipment - leaving just one or two perplexing gaps in the 2012 Maxima 350Ti’s spec sheet.
Quality: Materials and build quality are well above par, and markedly better than the Maxima’s Australian-built competitors.
There are plenty of soft leather-upholstered surfaces and the quality of the hide is good, if a little slippery.
The centre console with its alloy-look console plastics is a little plain and featureless, but in keeping with the Maxima’s clean, flowing interior design.
Comfort: Both front seats are electrically adjustable (the driver’s is eight-way adjustable and has a two position memory) and heated, however the steering column only adjusts for tilt, not reach - a real oddity in this segment.
The front seats offer excellent support though, as does the rear bench.
Three smallish adults can easily sit across the back seat, and with just two people it’s positively luxurious.
Legroom and headroom is plentiful at the back, and a large centre armrest is standard.
Face-level air vents are also provided for backseaters, and a power-retractable sun blind in the parcel shelf (a new addition for 2012) helps deflect the harsh Aussie sun.
Equipment: The Maxima 350Ti is well-specced, coming standard with satellite navigation, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, trip computer, auto-on xenon headlamps and a proximity key.
The sound system is a premium 11-speaker Bose stereo with auxilliary audio inputs, and the Bluetooth phone integration on MY2012 350Ti’s can now be controlled via steering-wheel mounted buttons.
Other new features added for 2012 include a side-facing camera, which shows the kerbside front corner of the car to aid parking.
The xenon headlights now also turn into corners to help improve vision at night. Annoyingly though, front parking sensors are nowhere to be found on the Maxima’s spec list.
A rear view camera is standard on the Ti, but with the Maxima’s width, front overhang and large nose, the omission of front parking sensors is a real oversight.
Storage: The boot space is large, flat and measures a generous 506 litres.
Unfortunately, the back seats don't fold down to allow larger items to be carried. However, a small port hidden behind the centre armrest enables longer, thinner cargo (such as skis), to be carried.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The J32 Maxima’s 3.5 litre V6 is essentially a detuned version of the 350Z’s engine and serves the Maxima very well, producing 185kW at 6000rpm and 326Nm at 4400rpm.
Performance is strong with plenty of low-down torque, and the CVT automatic it’s coupled to is one of the best around.
The engine rarely needs more than 2500rpm during everyday urban driving, but both the engine and gearbox respond swiftly to demands for more power.
It’s capable of delivering a decent shove in the back too, and overtaking at highway speeds is a breeze.
The CVT features a six-ratio manual shift mode, which changes gears quickly and smoothly for a sportier driving experience.
Refinement: The cabin is well isolated from noise and vibration, with just a little bit of tyre roar on coarser tarmac.
The Maxima feels a lot more cosseting than its competitors,thanks to a quieter cabin and a very smooth ride.
Suspension: The Maxima’s front MacPherson strut and rear multi-link suspension delivers a good balance between ride comfort and roadholding.
The steering feels a bit lifeless around town, but firms up somewhat at faster speeds. Its 11.4 metre turning circle is a bit on the wide side though.
Grip is reassuring, but like all front wheel drive cars the Maxima carries more weight over its nose and understeers when pushed hard.
Braking: Braking performance is good, with the Maxima’s all-disc system stopping its 1600kg-plus weight with ease.
The pedal is responsive and with consistent feel underfoot.
ANCAP rating: Not tested.
Safety features: Standard safety features include stability control, traction control, ABS, EBD and brake assist.
Passengers are protected by dual front and front-side airbags, front active headrests, front pretensioning seatbelts and full-length curtain airbags.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/100,000km. An extended warranty is available.
Service costs: Servicing intervals are set for every six months or 10,000km, with the first 12 services covered by Nissan’s capped-price servicing scheme.
Under the scheme, a general service for the Maxima costs between $250 and $370, while more detailed services can cost between $550 and $650. The first major service is due at 60 months/100,000km, and costs $792.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Ford Falcon G6E ($46,735) - The G6 has the best-appointed interior of Australian built large cars, and has a torquey and effortless 195kW/391 4.0 litre inline six and six-speed automatic.
The Maxima outguns it however for features and refinement. (see Falcon reviews)
Toyota Aurion Presara ($49,990) - The most expensive of this lot, but also the least appealing. The Aurion is at the end of its lifespan and due for a replacement later this year, so it looks and feels dated in this company.
It’s also quite a dull drive, despite its powerful 200kW 3.5 litre V6. (see Aurion reviews)
Holden Calais ($48,290) - Blessed with a superb 210kW/350Nm 3.6 litre V6, the Calais has plenty of straight-line muscle. It handles very well for a car of its size too; but is bettered by the Maxima's pampering features and high-quality furnishings. (see Calais reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Nissan's Maxima range is misunderstood and underrated by Australian car-buyers.
It may not immediately conjure up images of luxury and refinement, but the Maxima 350 Ti offers exactly that and is a properly nice car to drive.
The lack of reach-adjustable steering and front parking-sensors count against it, but, those omissions aside, the Ti offers very good value for money when stacked against its key rivals.
Its individual and slightly ungainly styling may not be for everyone, but why it doesn’t sell in greater numbers (only 1923 Maximas left dealerships last year) is beyond our comprehension.