2012 Nissan Maxima – The Luxury of Economy

2012 Nissan Maxima

The Maxima is Nissan's luxury sedan that represents the highest combination of sport and luxury the company has to offer before going to their premium brand's lineup. It's a plush, comfortable, and fun drive that engages you immediately. 26 mpg on the highway doesn't hurt either.

The manufacturer says

Are you looking for some soul in your sedan? Welcome to the 2012 Maxima,® the 4-Door Sports Car.® Fender flares crouched over 19" wheels are your invitation. A 290-hp V6 is ready to reel in the horizon. Inside, room for five and all the luxuries and technology you’d expect. But you won’t confuse Maxima with any other 4-door. Because at heart, it’s a sports car. And that makes all the difference in the world. The 2013 Maxima is ready to rev up your life.


  • Manufacturer: Nissan
  • Year, Model: 2012 Maxima
  • Class, Type: Luxury mid-sized sedan
  • Propulsion system: Gasoline
  • Base Price: $32,780 (3.5 S)
  • MSRP as tested: $38,780 (3.5 SV Premium)
  • Availability:
  • National


The Maxima is the top-line car for the Nissan model lineup before going to the Acura brand. It is an extremely luxurious ride that, with all those posh accoutrements, still manages a respectable 19mpg in the city and 26mpg on the highway. It's a true mid-sized sedan in size and space, marking it apart from some others in the segment which are much smaller.

The Maxima sports a refined, but aggressive look. Inside, it's all about comfort and ergonomics, with plush seating, smooth lines and tones, and luxury perks like a shaded rear window and optional Dual Panel Moonroof – which opens the rooftop to the sky in a way you have to see to believe. It rides comfortably, but not so thickly that you can't feel the sportiness under the hood and on the road.

The 2012 Maxima is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 putting out 290 horsepower. This pipes through a continuously variable transmission (CVT) which has driver-selectable modes for driving style and situation. For most drivers, putting it into Drive mode will mean better economy and a smooth drive, but for those times when exhilaration is what you want, DS is the way to go. Optional paddle shifters add to this experience.

The suspension and handling of the Maxima are a perfect blend of sports and luxury car, meeting somewhere in the middle to provide both comfort and fun. The steering system responds dynamically to the driver based on vehicle speed, with less play at higher speeds and more play during lower, city speeds. This gives less driver "wobble" on the road and improves both fuel economy and road feel.

Most of the Maxima's appeal lies in its mix of luxury and sport driving. Yet the underlying fuel economy standard it holds seems to belay the normal perception in both luxury and sport vehicles. Most of the economy is thanks to the high-performance engine and the next-generation CVT. The Maxima is not a light car, weighing in at nearly 3,600 pounds, so the mileage gained by the engine and transmission are significant. In the mid-sized luxury market, 16/26 is about average, though some other competitors (most at a higher price) beat this by 3 or 4 mpg.

What we like

Extreme luxury for a small price when compared to some of the competition. The Maxima is at the low-end of the luxury mid-sized sedan price range, but delivers some excellent competition for the higher-priced competitor.

A fun drive all around, with a sporty feel and strong acceleration. Despite being a luxury car, it's still fun to drive.

What we don't

Fuel economy could improve and likely will with successive model years. The engine and CVT have really come into their own, though, and economy improvements are likely to come from light weighting.

Not easy to eco-drive in this car. While putting the transmission into Drive mode does most of the work for you, in order to maximize economy, you must work for it by feathering the pedal and taking it easy despite the definite need for speed this car exudes.


The Maxima is a great car that sells extremely well in this class. Once you sit in one, it becomes obvious why this is. Definitely a well-built car with a lot of appeal.

Test Period Length and Limitations
Car was driven at a Nissan-sponsored ride-and-drive event. We had the car for about forty-five minutes and drove it on both city streets and highways.

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