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). 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 current 2010 Nissan Maxima boasts the same V-6 engine that we saw in last year's model. ConsumerGuide feels that "acceleration is strong from a stop, and Maxima has reserves of power at the ready for highway maneuvers." Autoblog also praises the "seamless acceleration" afforded by the V-6, while Car and Driver notes that the Nissan Maxima is "a peppy performer, sprinting to 60 mph in 5.8 seconds."
Very few reviewers have much positive to say about the CVT automatic, especially for enthusiastic driving. Autoblog reviewers confess that, "as enthusiasts, [they] were totally unable to embrace the CVT." While the CVT does offer "a new 'drive sport' ('Ds') mode for enthusiasts designed to increase acceleration feel and maintain engine speed during cornering," the Autoblog reviewers still feel that "the response was frustrating." Automobile Magazine is somewhat more impressed with the CVT, but "for all the CVT's cleverness," they can't help "wishing for the option of a manual gearbox."
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 in spirited driving, a new Twin Orifice Steering System helps provide good feedback from the road, while remaining rather light around tight corners.
Though the CVT might provide the right driving feel for the Maxima, the transmission—in theory, at least—helps improve fuel economy. Autoblog is impressed to find that, "Nissan is claiming fuel economy of 19 mpg in the city." The official EPA numbers bear out that claim, as they estimate that the 2010 Nissan Maxima will get 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway for a combined total of 22 mpg.
Power and acceleration tell only part of the performance story; the other aspect of performance centers on a car's handling characteristics. In this regard, the 2010 Nissan Maxima doesn't disappoint. ConsumerGuide says that the "ride is firm, but not overly so," and they call the Nissan Maxima "composed and comfortable in most situations." Cars.com reviewers love the "four-wheel independent suspension" and Nissan's "Twin Orifice Power Steering system" that "allows one-finger steering at low speeds but firms things up to a satisfying, weighty feel on curvy roads." Road & Track also notices the "crisp turn-in abilities" of the 2010 Nissan Maxima and the fact that "body roll is well controlled." Stopping is a hallmark of the new Nissan 2010 Maxima as well, with Autoblog reporting that "the brakes clamped down on the four ventilated rotors with pit-bull aggression" and "only after repeated sadistic abuse did they start to show signs of fade."