Driven: 2010 Nissan Maxima Page 2

March 17, 2010
The suspension doesn't disappoint either, whether you're maneuvering around city streets or taking on tight canyon roads or fast sweepers. The body motion is buttoned down and the steering feels even somewhat communicative. At anything but a provocative yank of the steering wheel, or going into a corner too fast—where the front end plows—the Maxima actually feels well balanced. Brakes also feel sport-sedan firm and easy to modulate.

Now for the side that does disappoint slightly: power delivery. Stomp down on the gas, especially out of a corner, and you'd better be holding on the steering wheel tightly—and be prepared for a little bit of wrestling if you're on a split surface. In case you didn't remember, the Maxima is front-wheel drive, and while that might be appreciated in some vehicles, in a relatively high-power sedan such as the Maxima, it's just an inferior option compared to rear- or all-wheel drive.

Minds its manners better than most front-drivers

That said, the Maxima does it about the best as it can be done. There's only the slightest bit of load change up front when you're very abrupt and goose the gas mid-corner, but luckily there's none of the light-in-front feel when you accelerate into the upper reaches of Interstate driving.

The flip side of our disappointment in the latest Maxima is that there's no manual transmission available—just a CVT. It offers a choice of six ratios through excellent, sturdy paddle-shifters—mounted on the steering column, not on the steering wheel—but even when you're clicking through the ratios it feels just a little slushbox-like when you press the pedal to the floor. The 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 pulls smoothly, and the CVT is a near-ideal companion for everything but very enthusiastic driving, but the latest version of Nissan's fabled V-6 doesn't sound as good, and doesn't seem as creamy-smooth, as its predecessors when full-throttling it.

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