2011 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV

The thing about the 2011 Maxima 3.5 SV: The word voluptuous comes to mind.

The thing about the 2011 Maxima 3.5 SV: The word voluptuous comes to mind.

And that’s not a bad thing.

The four-door—and it should be noted that Nissan has brought back the tagline “The 4-Door Sports Car” for this gen Maxima, having strayed to more pedestrian and less sporty paths in recent times, thereby not providing a sufficient amount of space between it and the run-of-the-mill family sedan—has such a distinctive style, with its broad front and rear shoulders and shark-like aggressive front end, it brings to mind something like Scarlett Johansson as a comic book character: bigger than life and almost exaggerated. But in a good way.

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The car is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that provides 290 hp and 261 lb-ft of torque and is fitted with a continuously variable transmission. As a front-driver (which, as purists will note, makes it somewhat iffy vis-à-vis sport car-ness) the car is setup so that I didn’t notice any torque steer during hard(ish) acceleration. As the car, unfortunately, is recommended to run on premium unleaded gas, I’m thinking that being lighter on the throttle is something that is going to be happening more rather than less often. The car is stickered at 19/26 city/highway; I eked out 22 in combination driving.

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Inside, the car is almost German in terms of the materials, from the quality soft-touch, nicely grained IP and other trimmed surfaces to the leather on the seats, steering wheel, and shift knob to the metallic trim. . . although it should be noted that the car as Driven had the “Sports Package” option which upped the ante on all of those materials: they’re standard equipment, but the ones in the Sport Package are nicer. And it is worth noting that the Sport Package adds some nice touches, like the alluring (to go back to the ScarJo metaphor) smoked lens for the HID xenon headlamps to paddle shifters for the transmission (which is sort of a bizarre thing if you think about it: stepped-gear transmissions—be they manual or automatic—have set gears; a continuously variable transmission is. . .continuously variable, so the paddle shifters are somewhat odd inasmuch as they’re essentially allowing you to shift to what amount to “virtual” gears). The eight-way power driver’s seat is both comfortable and bolstered so that when you’re making a quick run to pick up milk or tediously driving down I-75 through Ohio you don’t feel as though you are suffering for your sportiness. (And the Sport Package, while we’re on the subject, provides memory for said seats, steering wheel and outside mirrors.)

Another package—this one called Sport Technology Package: do you get the whole sportiness thing?—brings to bear a hard-drive based, voice-recognizing, navigation system with a 7-in. VGA touch-screen monitor and a 9.3-GB Music Box system in case you want to drive across country and never hear the same song twice and possibly not all the songs ever.

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Functionally, it is full of the now-obligatory acronyms, including four-wheel ABS, traction control system (TCS), vehicle dynamic control (VDC), tire-pressure monitoring system (TPMS), brake assist (BA), electronic brake force distribution (EBD), and, because this is, when you really get down to it, a family car, lower anchors and tethers for children system (LATCH).

Many cars in the Maxima’s five-passenger sedan category are rather bland, body side creases and chrome bits notwithstanding. That is not an issue with this car. Not at all.

Selected specs

Engine: 3.5-liter V6

Material: Aluminum block and heads

Horsepower: 290 @ 6,400 rpm

Torque: 261 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm

Transmission: Continuously variable with adaptive shift control and manual mode

Wheelbase: 109.3 in.

Length: 190.6 in.

Width: 73.2 in.

Height: 57.8 in.

Base curb weight: 3,565 lb.

EPA Estimates: 19/26 mpg city/hwy

MSRP (without delivery): $33,530