August 1, 2011

Nissan Maxima

                The Maxima is a car that has always held some nostalgic appeal for us.  There was a college road trip taken in a Maxima (Doesn’t quite come close to the Sentra trip, but still good.).  Seeing older Maximas tends to send us back to those glory days.  The newer models are much better than the one from our past, but they don’t stir our emotions the same.

                The interior of the 2011 that we drove was camel-colored.  It didn’t spit or smell horrific, but it still reminded us of a camel (We don’t recommend camels as a mode of transportation.  Every Man’s Top Tip of the Week).  The seat covers were cloth.  We didn’t mind that they were cloth. Being asked to pay $32,885 to own cloth seats in a Maxima was a stretch for us.  In the Charger 30 grand got you cloth seats, but you also got a 5.7L V8 with a touch screen, and in the Taurus there was less horsepower, but a sleek and innovative interior.  We wished that we hadn’t known the price of the Maxima up front.  A lot of what we struggled with on this car was due to the fact of how much it cost.
                The media center was easy to use.  It’s a “no brainer” as media centers go.  Then again it wasn’t really a media center.  In the Maxima you get AM/FM stereo, a CD player, and an auxiliary input for your iPod.  We reset most of the radio stations in the first couple of minutes.  Easy to use vs. 30 grand… 
                The sunroof is situated farther behind the driver than we’re used to.  When we opened it up, the driver didn't feel the warm rays.  We actually turned a couple of times to get more direct light on the driver and couldn’t pull it off.  We enjoyed it after a while; the sun didn’t hit us in the face and we received a light breeze.  This is the first 4 door sedan that we’ve tested with a sunroof, so maybe that’s where some of the money goes.  The Taurus and Charger both have options for it, but the ones we drove didn’t have them.
The atmosphere inside of the Maxima was quiet.  We could hear the angry hum of the V6 when we gunned it, but otherwise it was calm and tranquil inside.  We drove with all of the auto up/down windows lowered to really get a good listen of the V6.  It sounded angry when coaxed to, but otherwise was a normal sedate sedan engine.
The back seat of the Maxima has the least amount of legroom compared to the other vehicles.  It's listed at 34.6 inches with the Charger coming in at 40.1 in and the Passat (coming soon) at 39.1 in.  This doesn't ruin this car, but it makes it more difficult to pack and take a family vacation in the Maxima.  Everyone needs room between the kids on a long family trip.  The Maxima just offers less.

                The Maxima isn’t a bad car to look at.  Then again it isn’t going to be winning any awards for aesthetics either.  You could probably lie and tell someone that it’s German and they’d probably believe you.  It is a functional exterior.  We’ve always thought that the hood not coming to an edge of the car looked weird.  Almost all other manufactures bring the edges of the hood all the way to the font or to the back.  The Maxima’s hood is like a cookie cutter traced it out of the front end.  None of this changes the car, just an opinion we’ve formed…  We’re not really sure why either…
                There are nine different exterior colors and two interior colors.  We would have gone with the black over the camel every day, forever, if it’s a choice. 

The 3.5L V6 turns out 290 horsepower.  It’s quick.  We accelerated all the way to 70mph in third gear.  The transmission starting in second and only shifted once off the line before getting us all the way to 70mph.  It had the manual drive option and was more responsive in this mode.  If you have it in sixth and the car can’t respond to the pressure on the accelerator, it chooses a gear it thinks you should have picked and shifts for you.
                The ride was smooth.  You could feel the suspension smoothing out the bumps.  In some places on our drive it felt like we were on a mini roller coaster.  The whole car seemed to be making little up/down motions.  Chris gets sea-sick very easily and this was starting to feel like that.  We didn’t in fact get sick, but it was a weird sensation for a brief period. 
                In a straight line, torque steering wasn’t an issue.  We floored it and the steering wheel didn’t move.  We wished the steering was actually tighter than it was.  We had to really work the wheel around to get it through the tight corners.  The front wheel drive had so much power and the car would yank us through the corners.  We wished for a rear wheel drive version of this car at times (How old and lame is rwd?)
                The mileage for the Maxima was good.  It averages 19 in the city and 26 on the highway.  For those of you following along at home that’s 3 more in the city, but the same on the highway as the V8 Charger.  The Ford gets one less in the city, one more on the highway, but has 27 fewer horsepower. 

                Overall, we would put this closer to the Charger in style of car.  It’s more of the take the “kids to school during the week and then take the car to the track on the weekend” kind of car.  We liked the way the Maxima handled and the test was fun.  It just feels a little in between the sport sedan and the cruiser.  You would think the 290 horsepower would make it a sport sedan, but it just doesn’t feel that fast.  The Charger isn’t getting that much worse of mileage and feels insane compared to the Maxima.  The Maxima is faster than the Taurus, but the Ford is more refined and smooth.  The Maxima is in limbo.  We want it to lean towards the insane sport sedan side.  Nissan, please, try and drop a V8 in or use rear wheel drive, just don’t raise the price that much…  It’s a business, but we know you guys are creative enough to pull this off.

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