- Responsive handling and great steering
- Stylish interior
- Quiet, absorbent ride
- Excellent (optional) sport seats
- V-6 doesn't feel sporty with CVT automatic
- Lacks headroom in back
The 2010 Nissan Maxima might look like a sport sedan, but it lacks the edgy, high-performance feel necessary to complete the package.
For the 2010 model year, the Nissan Maxima remains relatively untouched, although Bluetooth capability is now standard on all Maxima models. Nissan's flagship sedan, the Maxima, was completely redesigned last year. Built on the same platform as the Altima mid-size sedan, the front-wheel-drive 2010 Nissan Maxima takes a sportier and more luxurious direction than the Altima.
Redesigned for 2009, the Maxima got an exterior to match its sport-sedan reputation, with curvier sheetmetal, an aggressive front-end design, and an overall stance that makes it seem like it could have rear-wheel drive. The Maxima's interior design carries the look and feel of a vehicle with a luxury-brand badge, thanks to a mix of matte-metallic and soft-touch surfaces along with two different grades of available leather. The Super Cockpit instrument panel design in the 2010 Nissan Maxima especially stands out, and it resembles that offered in several vehicles from Infiniti, Nissan's upmarket brand.
The 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine that propels the 2010 Nissan Maxima is extremely smooth, and it allows relaxed acceleration in normal driving with the automatic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Fuel economy is good with the setup, at 19 mpg city, 26 mpg highway. The CVT also includes a manual sport mode and available steering-wheel paddle shifters to access a series of simulated gear ratios for high-performance driving. However, no manual transmission is offered on the Nissan Maxima, and the CVT doesn't allow the level of control in high-performance driving that conventional transmissions do. The Maxima still has one of the sportiest suspension calibrations for a front-wheel-drive sedan, and Nissan retains last year's improved suspension geometry that reduces torque steer—the tendency for high-powered front-drivers to pull to the side on hard acceleration. Overall, the Maxima has a firm yet supple ride, allowing good handling response without sacrificing comfort. Stabilizer bars are included front and back, and a new Twin Orifice Steering System helps provide good feedback from the road in spirited driving, while remaining rather light around tight corners.
Front occupants get great seats—especially with the Sport Package—but backseat occupants will likely find headroom tight. The sculpted interior of the 2010 Nissan Maxima is designed to seat five, but the interior dimensions mean that in practice, it seats only four average-sized adults. Otherwise, interior refinement, materials, and build quality are quite good.
The Nissan Maxima impresses in NHTSA tests, where it earns the highest possible rating of five stars in every impact category. That includes five-star ratings for front and side impacts, as well as a perfect five-star rollover protection rating. In IIHS tests, the Nissan 2010 Maxima performs equally well, earning the highest rating of "good" for the IIHS's frontal offset impact test. Electronic stability control is now standard, as are front side airbags, side curtain bags, active front headrests, and anti-lock brakes.
Two different models of the 2010 Nissan Maxima are offered—S and SV—with the SV modestly expanding the standard equipment list to include leather upholstery, fog lamps, and a Bose premium audio system, among a few other items. Both models have a standard-equipment list that also would be fitting for a luxury car, including a power moonroof, dual-zone climate control, power front seats, keyless entry, an Intelligent Key entry and starting system, a six-disc changer, and steering-wheel audio controls. New for 2010 is standard Bluetooth on all Maxima models. The list of available options in the 2010 Nissan Maxima doesn't disappoint either, as it includes such comforts as a heated steering wheel and cooled front seats. Other technology options include a Bose premium audio system, a navigation system with 9.3GB Music Box hard drive, XM NavTraffic, XM Satellite Radio, and iPod interfaces. Just keep in mind that most options are only available in the more expensive SV.
For 2010, Nissan adjusts the way these options are sold as packages. Rather than offering three different Technology packages like last year, the 2010 model sees just one available Technology package. There is also a new Monitor package that allows buyers to option a 7-inch monitor system in the Maxima. Especially of note in the 2010 Nissan Maxima is a Sport Package, which brings firmer suspension tuning, larger 19-inch wheels, paddle shifters, upgraded front seats, and a host of other upgrades. We recommend the package for enthusiasts, despite its $2,300 price, because of its superior seats and crisper handling response without significant effect on the ride.