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2012 Nissan Maxima Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2012 Nissan Maxima was new.


Performance: 8.2

The 2012 Nissan Maxima features a refined V6 engine that’s more powerful than many upscale midsize cars. Performance is also abetted by competent brakes and good steering feel, but most test drivers agree that it’s not enough to make the Maxima live up to its “four-door sports car” title. Some say that the Maxima suffers from torque steer, while other reviewers note that it doesn’t corner quite as well as other sport sedans on the market.

  • "The engine emits a throaty, sporty note at higher rpm. All models have modest wind noise and tire thrum." -- Consumer Guide
  • "Overall, the Maxima does a great job in combining looks, power and practicality, but it might need a bit more power to really live up the ‘four-door sports car’ claim." -- Kelley Blue Book
  • "Once pitched as a ‘4-Door Sports Car,’ the opulent Maxima still zooms harder and turns sharper than most cars in its sphere, especially the sleepy Toyota Avalon." -- Car and Driver
  • "Sporting nearly 300 horsepower, the Maxima can show its taillights to pricier, entry-level luxury cars while its well-developed chassis offers a nice balance between sporty handling and a nice ride." -- Edmunds 
  • "One justification for the Maxima's pricey sticker is that lump of VQ goodness found under the hood. Heaping praise upon Nissan's wonderful V6 is like calling firefighters heroes - you just do it, and only the crazy will argue." -- Autoblog

Acceleration and Power

All 2012 Nissan Maximas come equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 engine that puts out 290 horsepower. Power is routed to the front wheels through its continuously variable transmission. The CVT features a manual mode, which simulates gears that can be selected by the driver.

While power is ample in the Maxima, some reviewers note that the front-wheel drive Maxima is prone to torque steer under acceleration. The EPA has yet to post fuel economy estimates for the 2012 Maxima. However, the similar 2011 model gets 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

  • "Maxima gathers speed quickly from a stop and once rolling. It has reserves of power at the ready for highway maneuvers. The CVT is seamless in operation but it doesn't impart a sporty feeling, despite Maxima's performance aspirations." -- Consumer Guide
  • "We can report that the Maxima's V6 engine delivers good low-end torque and smooth operation." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "You really do notice all 290 ponies. The sensation is like holding onto a horse's reins. And torque-steer - the engine's tendency to try and rip the wheel from your hands when you throttle out of a corner - is an all day event." -- Autoblog

Handling and Braking

Reviewers generally like the 2012 Maxima’s handling, noting its cornering ability and precise steering. However, some test drivers would prefer a more compliant ride.

  • "Generally nimble, though non-Sport Package models feel a bit ponderous in fast corners. The brakes are strong and responsive, but the pedal can be touchy. Some slight torque steer is noticeable during brisk acceleration." -- Consumer Guide
  • "The Maxima's steering is exceptionally nice, boasting light effort, plenty of communication and spot-on precision. For the money, though, we would forgo the optional Sport package, which stiffens the compliant ride without any appreciable performance gains." -- Edmunds 
  • "Power for merging and passing is more than adequate, but overall the car feels somewhat heavier in the turns, especially when compared to some other sport sedans we've tested." -- Kelley Blue Book 
  • "Should you choose to saunter through corners (instead of play Lewis Hamilton), the well-engineered chassis can carry plenty of speed around the bends. Just watch your right foot." -- Autoblog

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