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Base Price (MSRP):$30,460.00 / As Tested (MSRP): $39,860.00
2010 Nissan Maxima
View The 2010 Nissan Maxima Specifications
Review by: New Car Test Drive
A four-door sedan with sports-car performance. 

Model Lineup
The 2010 Nissan Maxima range consists of two models, the S and the SV. They are powered by a 3.5-liter dohc V6 engine and come with Nissan's Xtronic CVT. The Maxima is front-drive, and has four-wheel disc brakes with ABS as standard equipment. Nissan's Variable Dynamic Control (electronic stability control) and Traction Control System are also standard.

Maxima S ($30,460) comes standard with cloth upholstery, dual-zone air conditioning, power windows, locks, mirrors and driver's seat, trip computer, power moonroof, cruise control, intelligent key and starter button, an AM/FM/CD/MP3 eight-speaker sound system with an auxiliary jack, and Bluetooth.

Maxima SV ($33,180) upgrades with leather upholstery, a nine-speaker Bose sound system with speed-sensitive volume control, subwoofers and RDS, a driver's seat with a thigh extension and power lumbar, a compass, fog lights, HomeLink, turn signal repeaters in the mirrors, and XM Satellite Radio.

There are three major options packages for the SV: The Sport Package ($2,030) features a sport-tuned suspension, 245/40VR19 tires and 19-inch aluminum wheels, rear spoiler, HID xenon headlights, leather-appointed seats, heated front seats, heated leather steering wheel, power tilt/telescopic steering column, paddle shifters, automatic entry/exit system (with two-driver memory), driver-side memory (driver's seat, outside mirrors, steering wheel), rear bucket seats, rear-seat trunk pass-through, large rear-seat fold-down center armrest with finisher, heated outside mirrors with reverse tilt-down feature and auto-dimming on the driver's side, and metallic-link trim.

The Premium Package ($3,230) features the Dual Panel Moonroof with power retractable sunshades, power rear-window sunshade, premium mood lighting, front and rear power windows with one-touch auto-up/down feature, HID xenon headlights, premium leather-appointed seats, heated front seats, premium heated leather steering wheel, power tilt/telescopic steering column, paddle shifters, automatic entry/exit system (with two-driver memory), driver-side memory (driver's seat, outside mirrors, steering wheel), rear bucket seats, rear-seat trunk pass-through, large rear-seat fold-down center armrest with finisher, rear-seat audio and HVAC controls, outside mirrors with reverse tilt-down feature, heated outside mirrors, auto-dimming driver-side outside mirror, Eucalyptus wood-tone trim, seven-inch color monitor, RearView Monitor, Interface System for iPod, iPod net in center console, and auxiliary audio/video input jack. The Technology Package ($1,850) features the Nissan Hard Drive Navigation System with Voice-Recognition, 9.3GB Music Box Hard Drive, XM NavTraffic and XM NavWeather, and seven-inch touch-screen color monitor.

Stand-alone options include the Cold Package ($400) with heated front seats, outside mirrors and steering wheel; HID headlights ($400); a rear spoiler ($370); and 19-inch high-performance summer tires. Accessories for both models include floor mats and a trunk mat, splash guards, and a trunk sub-floor organizer with first aid kit and emergency kit.

Safety features include dual-stage frontal, side-impact and side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes, Vehicle Dynamic Control (electronic stability control), Traction Control, and tire-pressure monitoring.


Walkaround
The Maxima has a distinctive look that places it within Nissan styling themes but at the same time gives it an appearance that is all its own.

Every exterior body panel on the car shows adventurous and modern design and shaping. The grille, headlamps and 12-LED taillamps 2010 Nissan Maxima are large and fit well into the whole exterior design, and the fenders and hood have edges and bulges for a very sporty appearance. The wheel arches are pronounced, and the door skins are pulled in from the fenders and flattened out so that the whole body has what the designers call a Coke-bottle shape, with a short nose, a short deck, a long, sloping roof and a BMW-style C-pillar curvature.

The Maxima is a great looking, assertive sedan with high style and fine detailing, and it doesn't look like anything else in the Nissan lineup.


Interior Features
Inside the Maxima, the design, materials, and execution of the interior are first-rate throughout.

The interior features of the Maxima are all about concentration of controls and information around the driver. The interior includes a few items right out of the Nissan parts bin, like the radio and navigation control panel on top of the center stack, backed up by lower 2010 Nissan Maxima controls with large, very readable labels and markings, daytime-lighted instruments, a hefty three-spoke steering wheel with redundant controls for the audio system, and huge paddle shifters for the CVT transmission, with very long upper and lower arms that assure you will never be out of reach of a quick shift. The floor shifter is located over to the left, for those who want quick shifts using the stick instead of the paddles.

The driver's seat is multi-adjustable, especially in the Sport package version that we drove, and very huggy and comfortable.

In the rear compartment, the seat can be ordered either as a 60/40 fold-down for cargo hauling, or as a fixed seat with a cargo pass-through in the center for occasional hauling or ski trips.


Driving Impressions
The Nissan Maxima comes with a very strong, very responsive 3.5-liter V6 engine. At 290 horsepower, the Maxima's V6 is right at the top of the class in terms of power development for its size, but it's not peaky or cranky because the valve and intake systems keep it optimized for whatever gear and rev range. It has both variable valve timing and a variable intake system, a system that opens wide at about 4500 rpm, wide enough that you can hear the engine sound change dramatically, adding to the driving enjoyment.

Maxima is EPA-rated at 19 mpg City, 26 mpg Highway. The engine is rated at 290 horsepower at 6400 rpm and 261 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. The continuously variable transmission, or CVT, includes a manual mode so different drive ratios can be selected.

We found the engine smooth and quiet, right up to the 6200 rpm redline, and it delivered plenty 2010 Nissan Maxima of punch throughout the rev range. This makes the car enjoyable to drive, and if you can keep your foot out of it, you can get better mileage than the 26 mpg EPA-Highway label. If you keep your foot in it, expect 0-60 mph times of 5.8 seconds or less.

The only transmission available, much to the chagrin of some critics, is the CVT (continuously variable transmission), a much-improved Nissan innovation. Maxima's CVT offers a manual mode, and we found it a joy to use in either mode. According to Nissan, the Xtronic CVT software contains more than 700 shifting algorithms to cope with every driving situation in every gear from idle to full-throttle, and the transmission can shift 30 percent faster than a human. In the Sport Drive mode, the shifts were lightning quick, and included a very sporty throttle blip on every downshift.

The front-drive Maxima has six engine mounts, and the engine is mounted quite low in the chassis for a lower center of gravity and better handling. The suspension uses aluminum components, and a geometry chosen for handling capabilities. The front-drive system has virtually no torque-steer, even on full throttle.

We found the Nissan Maxima SV Sport always felt agile, glued to the road and ready to play, with no hint of harshness in the ride.

The speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering system is shared with the 350Z sports car, and it makes the driver feel truly connected, truly part of the steering and driving process, and it's never over-boosted. The ABS brakes have vented rotors both front and rear, for superior fade-resistance and added braking power under severe conditions.

The only time this Maxima gets sporty and rorty is when the engine intake system switches over into high-flow mode above 4500 rpm. The rest of the time, the car is very quiet inside, with very little intrusion from the outside world.


Final Word
The Nissan Maxima is one of the most fun-to-drive cars in the class, and one of the best-engineered front-drive sporty sedans available, from its 2010 Nissan Maxima accurate, quick steering to the engine power to the remarkably good performance of the CVT. It isn't the roomiest car in the class, and it isn't the least expensive. Instead, it's designed as a premium car for drivers who want something sporty.

Jim McCraw filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report from Cary, North Carolina.

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