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2012 Nissan Maxima Review
Styling: The appearance changes anticipated for the 2012 Maxima would count as a midcycle freshening for a car that traces its current design to model-year 2009. That’s when Nissan restored Maxima’s pulse by refocusing on the sporty character that won this sedan a legion of fans in the early 1990s. The changes anticipated for the 2012 model would aim to sustain interest as the seventh-generation Maxima heads into the sunset. Midcycle updates – as outlined above -- seldom involve major changes, and these probably won’t, either.
The 2012 Maxima will remain a square-shouldered four-door, distinct in styling, personality, and price from the similarly sized Nissan Altima sedan with which it shares its basic underskin design and V-6 powertrain. Credit Nissan with getting two cars that have the same basic architecture to look and drive so differently. Maxima feels heavier and more refined on the road than the Altima. And it asserts its upscale nature with a plusher cabin, one that emphasis a command feel for the driver and a privileged station for the front passenger. Indeed, the more family-oriented and lower-priced Altima has slightly more rear seat room than the Maxima despite having the same wheelbase (the distance between front and rear axle).
Expect the 2012 Nissan Maxima to return in just two trim levels, the 3.5 S and 3.5 SV. The 2012 Maxima 3.5 SV should again snare the lion’s share of sales and get favored treatment in terms of styling and features. Most 3.5 SV buyers opt for the Sport Package option, and Nissan could well continue to distinguish Maximas so equipped by giving them their own styling details. On the Sport Package-equipped 2011 Maxima 3.5 SVs, these details included unique grille, headlamp, and dashboard trim.
Mechanical: The 2012 Nissan Maxima isn’t likely to get significant mechanical changes. It’ll return with one engine, the same 3.5-liter V-6 available in the Altima, but again with at least 290 horsepower, 20 or so more than in the Altima. Maxima will continue to use only a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Unlike a conventional automatic transmission, which shifts through a defined set of gear ratios, a CVT employs a belt-and-pulley arrangement to continually adjust the amount of power that gets to the wheels. The advantage is a better balance between engine output, acceleration, and fuel economy. Not all CVT powertrains work as effectively as this one, though Maxima still is affected by the odd CVT sensation of the engine revving ahead of the actual pace of vehicle acceleration.
Nissan could team the expected 2012 Maxima facelift with some suspension updates to sharpen handling and fine-tune ride quality. These changes would likely be minor and hopefully would not jeopardize Maxima’s historically pleasant trade-off between comfortable ride and secure handling.
The 2012 Nissan Maxima will continue solely as a front-wheel-drive car. Front-drive places the weight of the engine over the drive wheels, which assists traction in rainy or snowy weather. Front-drive handling, however, can’t match the better weight and steering balance of rear-wheel drive. Still, Maxima has plenty of grip and its road manners are more than competent. And it’s hardly affected by torque steer – the condition in which the front wheels pull to one side or the other during full-throttle acceleration – a nuisance with many powerful front-wheel drive cars.
Features: Nissan will likely keep the 2012 Maxima lineup simple, retaining the 3.5 S and uplevel 3.5 SV trim levels. Each should continue with a fine array of standard features. These include 18-inch alloy wheels and traction and antiskid systems to help control wheel slip on takeoffs and minimize changes of sideways slides, respectively. Also included in the base price of every 2012 Maxima will be a tilt-telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel with illuminated audio controls, power front seats, automatic dual-zone climate control, a power sunroof, and keyless access and starting.
The 2012 Maxima 3.5 SV should remain the best choice for the most content, with Bose audio , exclusive leather upholstery, mirror-mounted turn signals, and other high-end features as standard. Given Nissan’s past practice with the Maxima, expect only the 3.5 SV model to be available with optional Bluetooth wireless connectivity and a USB iPod interface, a navigation system with voice recognition, a rearview camera, and a 9.3GB audio hard drive.
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