The 2011 Nissan Maxima S and SV both come with a 290-hp 3.5-liter V6 engine and a continuously variable transmission with manual mode. Anti-lock brakes and electronic brake-force distribution are standard equipment, plus speed-sensitive power steering. The Maxima's sporty styling is evident in its dual mufflers with chrome-tipped finishers, LED taillights and power sliding moonroof. It's even got 18-inch alloy wheels, though 19-inchers are available with the Sport Package.
The Maxima isn't all about looks, though. All of its safety features are standard equipment, like traction control, tire pressure monitoring, an energy-absorbing steering column and the Nissan Advanced Air Bag System. Even with all these systems on board, the Maxima still manages a respectable 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.
The interior has leather seats, shift knob and steering wheel. The 8-way power driver's seat has lumbar support, while the passenger has to make do with a 4-way power seat. The rear bucket seats fold down with a 60/40 split. Dual-zone climate control with air filter is standard, including rear-seat air conditioning controls. Everything in the Maxima is power, from the push-button start to the remote windows-down function.
The packaged options for the SV add quite a bit to the already-long list of features. The Monitor Package adds a 7-inch monitor with rear-view camera and a 2GB Music Box flash drive, and the Cold Package heats the mirrors, front seats and steering wheel.
The Sport package gives the Maxima SV a sportier feel with a tuned suspension and 19-inch wheels, smoked headlights, plus a rear spoiler, dark chrome grille and unique shiny gray interior stitching and metallic trim. The Premium Package plays to the more luxurious side of the Maxima, with a dual-panel moonroof, heated and cooled driver's seat and eucalyptus wood-tone interior trim. Both the Sport and Premium packages include the Monitor package, plus paddle shifters and HID xenon headlights.
The Maxima occupies an interesting niche in the automotive world. Nissan describes its Maxima as the "four-door sports car," slotting above the midsize Altima, and supposedly offering higher doses of performance and premium touches. There's a lot to like, don't get me wrong. But despite a slight refresh for 2019, the Maxima is old, and doesn't pack enough sport or luxury to really stand out from the crowd.
With the current eighth-generation Maxima originally launching in 2016, it's about the right time for a little midcycle pick-me-up. For 2019, the Maxima gains a more prominent "V-motion" grille, updated bumpers, wheels, standard LED headlights and quad exhaust tip finishers. Along with a snazzy new Sunset Drift Chromaflare paint option, my SR test car looks attractive and aggressive with an imposing front end, flowing side character lines, rear haunches, "floating" roof and reworked spoiler.
Only minimal alterations take place inside, with all Maximas receiving upgraded materials and accent stitching for a slightly more premium feel. In the SR, the seats now feature diamond-quilted Alcantara inserts and a charcoal headliner. The "Zero Gravity" seats themselves remain comfortable and supportive and all the wrapped surfaces do make the surroundings feel a notch above the Altima. And while there's adequate space for adults in both rows, legroom in the backseat is snugger.
The Good Nissan's venerable 3.5-liter VQ V6 engine is still powerful and sounds good in the Maxima. Exterior styling remains attractive and aggressive. Comfortable seats.
The Bad The continuously variable transmission holds it back from being truly sporty. SR suspension package provides a firmer ride. Poor backup camera image quality.
The Bottom Line Nissan's flagship sedan is short on sport.
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