We picked up the 2011 Nissan Maxima SV at the Orlando airport, ready for some warm times in central Florida. But the weather had other ideas and there we were, reviewing seat and steering wheel heaters instead of sunroofs on Nissan’s flagship sedan.
While it might seem very close in stature and amenities to the Altima front-wheel-drive sedan, Nissan’s Maxima is really a great alternative to those seeking an entry-level luxury FWD sedan that can take driver and four passengers comfortably and quickly from place to place with excellent road manners that harken to the day when Nissan first tagged the Maxima as its “four door sports car.”
To keep that adage alive, Nissan placed similar front and rear light treatments to its 370Z sports car and imbued the Maxima SV with extremely direct steering, exemplary brakes and yes, the corporate 3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve V-6 engine that puts out an exciting 290 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 261 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm. As a reference point, redline is 6500 rpm and, at 70 mph (the legal limit in Florida), we’re hitting 2150 rpm. Delightful.
The Maxima comes with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Nissan was an early adopter of this type of tranny and has aided in the CVT’s development. In the Maxima, it’s truly imperceptible and changes ratios quickly and quietly, even when used in manual mode on the floor or with the optional steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters that give it a more sporting feel.
The result is powerful and refined performance in an affordable family sedan. The well-developed chassis features MacPherson strut and multilink independent suspension with stabilizer bars and rack and pinion, speed-sensing power steering that is precise, direct and not too light to the touch. Nissan utilizes all-wheel ventilated anti-lock brakes with the customary electronic brake force distribution and brake assist. This sedan stops right here, right now.
The 2011 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV carries a list price of $34,280 including freight fees and Nissan gives this machine a few options. There’s a Monitor package with a seven-inch rearview display and a 2GB music box with 800MB storage that replaces the six-CD changer ($700). There’s a five-piece floor and trunk mat set for $180.
The $2080 Sport package comprises the balance of the add-ons with a lengthy list of items: sport-tuned suspension P245/40VR performance tires riding on 19-inch twinned five-spoke aluminum wheels, smoked HID xenon headlights, heated premium leather-appointed seats and steering wheel, power tilt/telescope heated (yes!) steering wheel (audio/phone controls on the left, cruise on the right), paddle shifters, two-position memory seating for the driver with automatic entry/exit, auto-dimming driver’s outside mirror, heated outside mirrors with reverse tilt for both, rear bucket seats for three, rear seat lockable trunk pass-through and fold-down central armrest, metallic link trim and dark chrome grille/rear spoiler.
The final cost of this vehicle is $37,240 and truly, all it lacks is a navigation system, something that’s becoming a regular option on most near-luxury sedans.
The 2011 Nissan Maxima is a good-sized vehicle, standing 190.6 inches long, 73.2 inches wide, 57.8 inches tall and riding on a 109.3-inch wheelbase. Curb weight is a stated 3565 pounds and the turning circle is a rather large 37.4 inches. It boasts an advanced air bag system with front seat-mounted side impact, roof-mounted curtains and the customary front air bags. The well-finished trunk holds 14.2 cubic feet of luggage and feels larger than its stated dimensions.
In addition to the items named above as options, the Maxima comes standard with Bose audio system that includes nine speakers (two subwoofers and a center channel speaker), XM satellite radio with speed-sensitive volume control, radio data system, auxiliary audio input jack, hands-free phone system, trip computer, one-touch windows and tilt/slide moonroof, dual zone temperature and pushbutton start/stop.
The package is a great one and Nissan should be proud to advance this machine as its top-of-the-line sedan, in particular one that is so much fun to drive. Despite its size, the 2011 Maxima 3.5 SV sedan scoots about almost as if it were smaller and lighter than it is and treats all roads like dessert to be devoured. Its ability to merge in traffic and to leave that traffic behind is exemplary; the Maxima even has a growling exhaust notes from its double pipes to let the world know it’s here.
Both exterior and interior fit and finish are world-class and the materials used in the 2011 Maxima are worthy of cars costing much more than it does. Even as it scoots to 60 mph in just over six seconds, the Maxima still returns 19/26 mpg from its 20-gallon tank; Nissan recommends premium unleaded fuel to keep this powerful engine happily humming.
The Brilliant Silver Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV driven here has a charcoal interior that is quite businesslike. Made in Smyrna, Tennessee, Nissan’s flagship sedan is a worthy pick for many years of happy motoring. It would have been nice to keep the sunroof open during our entire Florida trip and enjoy some good weather but that wasn’t meant to be. Still, we were happy to have the steering wheel heater, seat heaters and excellent overall heating, ventilating and air conditioning controls.
Nissan’s Maxima model has been around for quite a while and has improved tangentially with the entire range of Nissan vehicles. With its willing and peppy engine, outstanding chassis dynamics, excellent steering and braking, the 2011 Nissan Maxima is a sports sedan that can give pleasure with every drive.