2010 Nissan Maxima Review

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The Car Connection
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The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
January 18, 2010

The 2010 Nissan Maxima might look like a sport sedan, but it lacks the edgy, high-performance feel necessary to complete the package.

To create a review that will be extremely useful to shoppers, TheCarConnection.com has consulted with a range of professional reviews covering the 2010 Nissan Maxima. The editors of TheCarConnection.com have also included their own firsthand experiences with the Maxima in creating this Bottom Line summary.

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.

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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.

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2010 Nissan Maxima

Styling

A racy exterior and gorgeous interior bring the 2010 Nissan Maxima back from styling obscurity.

Fortunately, last year's complete redesign of the Nissan Maxima model still seems fresh; it's a really head-turning sedan. With the redesign came curvier sheetmetal, an aggressive front-end design, and an overall stance that makes it look like it could have rear-wheel drive.

Referring to last year's redesign, Automobile Magazine says that "the Maxima is completely restyled, and we're glad to say that the effort has been largely successful." Other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com agree that the new exterior on the Nissan Maxima is "designed to exude sport over luxury," in the words of Autoblog, and "it does so with more than a hint of the Nissan GT-R in the front end." According to ConsumerGuide, "two trim levels are available" on the Nissan Maxima, the "3.5 S and 3.5 SV," though there are no external differences between the two. Both share what Cars.com calls "L-shaped headlights and crouched-forward grille" that are sure to "generate strong reactions." Also on the exterior of the 2010 Maxima are fenders that "flare wide around the wheels" in a way that reminds Car and Driver reviewers "of Seventies-era IMSA racers."

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 looks like that offered in several vehicles from Infiniti, Nissan's upmarket brand. Road & Track reviewers report that the exterior's "sporting influence also applies to the interior with what Nissan terms a 'super cockpit' approach" to the interior. Autoblog loves the interior on the 2010 Nissan Maxima, claiming "Nissan nailed the cockpit" with an "adjustable steering wheel [that] offers the proper diameter" and a "NAV screen [that] is easy-to-read." ConsumerGuide also appreciates that the Nissan Maxima's "controls are clear and logically placed."

Other reviewers are a little disappointed by the Maxima's sporting pretensions, which some find misleading. According to Automobile Magazine, "the Maxima might look convincingly like a rear-wheel-drive car from the outside," but that "illusion dissipates when you're sitting behind the wheel," thanks to a windshield that "slopes far away from the driver, in the manner of a classic cab-forward, front-wheel-drive sedan."

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2010 Nissan Maxima

Performance

The 2010 Nissan Maxima lacks a manual transmission, and that's a big deficiency for a sport sedan.

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."

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2010 Nissan Maxima

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Nissan Maxima, especially in SV trim, is beginning to feel more and more like a vehicle from the Infiniti lineup, and this is definitely a good thing.

The 2010 Maxima offers a comfortable interior and good details, and shoppers are unlikely to have any issue with the cabin appointments.

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. The front seats receive raves in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com, and ConsumerGuide calls them "very comfortable and supportive." Cars.com reviewers also find that "the front seats have ample bolsters for ambling along a winding road...and their soft inserts provide good long-haul comfort." Autoblog's reviewer is impressed that his "six-foot two-inch frame found plenty of leg, shoulder, hip and headroom in the generous front seats," and they recommend that "if you can't get comfortable in the front seats of this car, make an appointment with a chiropractor." The rear seats on the Nissan 2010 Maxima are comfortable as well, if not quite as much as the front buckets. ConsumerGuide says the rear seats offer legroom that "is adequate for an average-sized tester, but headroom can get tight because of the sloped roofline," while "the narrow center position is not suitable for adults or even large children."

The smaller overall dimensions of the new 2010 Nissan Maxima are most noticeable when it comes to available cargo space; other areas of the Nissan Maxima's daily practicality show some problems as well. Cars.com notes that "full-size cars like the Avalon and Chrysler 300 have larger cabins and trunks—the Maxima's measures just 14.2 cubic feet—so if you frequent the golf course," you might want to look somewhere else. On the positive side, ConsumerGuide observes that the trunk on the Nissan Maxima is "wide-opening" and has "a moderately low liftover height," but the SV suffers from "a fixed seatback with a not-so-useful ski pass through." When it comes to interior storage on the Nissan Maxima, ConsumerGuide feels that the "storage spaces are decent and include a large, wide glovebox, deep center console, and small scattered cubbies."

Otherwise, interior refinement, materials, and build quality are quite good. For the 2010 Nissan Maxima, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com unanimously praise the interior materials and build quality, with Road & Track saying that "the materials are of a high quality and the fit and finish are generally good." Cars.com reports that "dashboard quality rivals a Volkswagen Passat or Lexus ES, with gap-free panel fits around the glove compartment, center controls and steering wheel." ConsumerGuide also praises some of the interior materials, especially the "quality-looking red contrast stitching" that accents the seats.

The 2010 Nissan Maxima isn't the quietest vehicle on the road, but the sounds that enter the cabin aren't all of the bad variety. Autoblog is quick to point out that "the intake roar, to which Nissan paid special attention, is very apparent under nearly all throttle increases," but the engine note "is satisfying." ConsumerGuide agrees, reporting that at "around 4500 rpm, Maxima emits a throaty, sporty note," but they also mention that the Nissan Maxima suffers "from moderate wind noise and tire thrum."

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2010 Nissan Maxima

Safety

The 2010 Nissan Maxima performs well in crash-test results and has an impressive array of standard safety features, as well as some useful safety options. 

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. The only segment where the Maxima falters is in roof-strength testing, which yields the IIHS' second best rating of "acceptable."

In addition to great crash-test results, reviews read by TheCarConnection.com show that the Nissan 2010 Maxima boasts quite a few standard safety features. Electronic stability control is now standard, as are front side airbags, side curtain bags, active front headrests, and anti-lock brakes.

One of the characteristics of the 2010 Nissan Maxima that helps improve overall safety is that the driver's seat affords good visibility. Reviewers at Autoblog find that "outward visibility was good" during their time with the Nissan Maxima, but "the exterior mirrors with their massive plastic housings could offer a wider field of view." Further increasing driver awareness and visibility is an optional "rearview camera" that ConsumerGuide says is available as part of the Premium Package.

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2010 Nissan Maxima

Features

The 2010 Nissan Maxima's packaged options make selection a snap but offer limited combination possibilities—and the price climbs steeply for a loaded car.

The Maxima stays true to its name and offers a tremendous list of standard features and available tech features.

The standard features list on the Nissan 2010 Maxima differs considerably between the S and SV trim levels, though Cars.com explains "Nissan expects just 10 percent of customers to get the base Maxima 3.5 S." For those who do choose the less-expensive version, Cars.com says to expect standard features that "include dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats, Nissan's Intelligent Key access system, a moonroof and an eight-speaker, six-CD stereo with auxiliary MP3 jack." New for 2010 is the addition of standard Bluetooth on all Maxima models, including the base Maxima 3.5 S.

On the upscale Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV, ConsumerGuide notes that the standard features list grows to include "leather upholstery" and a "Bose sound system," along with a convenient "driver-seat thigh extender." One of the features that reviews read by TheCarConnection.com find fault with is the upgraded Bose sound system, which Autoblog calls a "disappointment" because of its "distant" and "muddy" sound quality.

The 2010 Nissan Maxima also offers a long list of optional features, but the vast majority of them come only in packages. Road & Track reviewers note two major option packages, "Sport and Premium," though they are also mutually exclusive. For those opting for the Sport package on the Nissan 2009 Maxima, Cars.com says to expect "19-inch wheels, a sport-tuned suspension and a rear spoiler," while the "Premium Package adds rear climate control, the dual-panel moonroof and upgraded leather." The two other options packages that are available exclusively on the Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV are the Technology package, which ConsumerGuide says includes a "navigation system, voice recognition, traffic information, [and] satellite radio," while a Cold package brings "heated front seats, heated power mirrors, [and] heated steering wheel." New for 2010 is the Monitor Package—this adds a 7-inch color monitor and a rearview camera system, along with some extra audio features.

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 Technology package available. 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.

Review continues below
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