Weidel on Wheels: Maxima still a competitor in the mid-size world

Nissan sedan offers good performance and room
By: Jeffrey Weidel
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If a mid-size sedan is the vehicle of choice, be prepared to do some serious evaluation. Why? Because there is an abundance of very enviable cars in this category. One of them is the Maxima, the reigning flagship sedan in the Nissan lineup. The Maxima has plenty of admirable qualities and can be driven off the lot at a reasonable price. But definitely shop around, because the competition in the mid-size sedan class is fierce. Honda offers up the Accord, while Toyota counters with the Camry. The Hyundai Sonata is also a fine choice, along with the Ford Fusion. The Mazda 6, Subaru Legacy and Outback are also worth checking out. The Maxima has been around for years, originating from the old Datsun 810 that was a fairly sporty purchase some 30-plus years ago. Changes have naturally taken place over time, but don’t expect anything new from the 2011 Maxima, which underwent no meaningful changes over the past year. There’s nothing wrong with that, either. The Maxima offers quite a bit, so much in fact that it nearly matches some of the lower end luxury models that have a much higher sticker price. While at its core the Maxima is a family sedan, it offers enough performance and handling to please drivers who really value those two qualities. The Maxima has an inordinate amount of standard features, offers a modernized, comfortable interior, and the asking price of $30,810 for the S model and $33,530 for the SE is very reasonable. Gas mileage is good as well at 19 to 26 miles per gallon. What’s most memorable about the week of test driving the Maxima SE was performance. It startled me at first how sweet it ran. Equipped with a 3.5-liter, V-6 engine that produces 290 horsepower, the Maxima was quite fun to drive. Some buyers might be wary of the continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that sends its powers to the front wheels, but no problem was perceived here. The Maxima is quite quick, evidenced by its 0 to 60 mph clocking in 6.3 seconds. Sharing the same platform as the Altima, the Maxima provides extremely nimble handling and leaves the driver feeling confident and in control. Braking is strong and the Maxima is relatively quiet as well. What may draw some criticism is heading over bumps and uneven road surfaces — the Maxima performs much better on finely paved roads. The cabin hasn’t been through any recent changes, yet competes quite well against some other models that have been newly redesigned. Nissan puts high-quality materials in the Maxima and other pluses include comfortable seating, solid legroom and smart dashboard design. One complaint is the trunk is undersized. __________ 2011 Nissan Maxima SE Price: $33,530 Power: 3.5-liter, V-6 engine with 290 horsepower Mileage estimate: 19 mpg city; 26 mpg highway Standard features include:Automatic headlamps; sunroof; keyless ignition/entry; dual-zone automatic climate control; eight-way driver, four-way passenger seats; 60/40-split-folding rear seat; leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls; nine-speaker Bose stereo upgrade, satellite radio, in-dash six-disc CD-changer, auxiliary audio jack, Bluetooth; foglamps; leather upholstery; stability, traction control