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Driven: 2010 Nissan Maxima Page 3

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The 2010 Maxima is good on gas for such a powerful sedan. Over about 140 miles, most of it city driving, we averaged a solid 20 mpg in the Maxima, easily meeting its EPA ratings of 19 mpg city, 26 highway.

Another big advantage: interior space. Quite possibly due to its front-wheel-drive layout, the Maxima is both roomier and more refined inside than most other rear-wheel-drive sport sedans that maintain more of a performance edge. The backseat is nicely contoured and great for adults, provided they're not too tall—though we weren't sure about the odd clouded climate-control display and stiff-feeling controls, which didn't seem to match anything else in the vehicle.

Rapid, but not so edgy

For real sport-sedan enthusiast types, there's really no reason not to pick the Infiniti G37 Sedan, which is roughly the same price (though admittedly louder and more cramped). Without hesitation, for luxury shoppers who are a little hotfooted, we'd recommend the Maxima over a top-of-the-line Honda Accord EX-L, and probably the Lexus ES350, even though you give up the Lexus dealership experience that's part of the price. The Maxima is also tough competition, with a sportier edge, than the Ford Taurus Limited, Buick LaCrosse CXS, and Volkswagen CC.

The Maxima SV Premium Package model that we tested stickered at $37,310. That's pricey compared to some of these rivals, but it's absolutely loaded to the gills with equipment that's optional even on many luxury-brand models—xenon headlamps, a power rear sunshade, a dual-panel moonroof, heated seats and steering wheel, a nav system with rearview monitor, and iPod/USB inputs, for example.

Back off a bit—just a little bit, really—and you'll see the Maxima for what it does well; it's a comfortable and refined, yet very responsive luxury sedan, with none of the overly cushy, boatlike feel. Think of it primarily as that, and you'll be continually delighted with its performance side.

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