SALT LAKE CITY — The Nissan Maxima gives other cars in the mid-size sedan segment, which is very competitive, a run for their money. The Maxima's method is to go sporty, giving you more power and better handling while giving up some fuel economy.
It should have made for a fun test drive, but not in our weather. The Maxima Nissan loaned to us has more bulges than a body-building contest, and most are visible while driving.
The car competes against the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Honda sold about 330,000 Accords in 2012, and Toyota topped 400,000 with the Camry. Nissan didn't sell 60,000 of the Maxima, but sales were up, and 302,000 Altima sales kept Nissan afloat.
The Maxima's 290-horsepower V6 is 70 more than Accord and Camry drivers have. The power goes through a Continuously-Variable Transmission, so you don't feel shifts and can cruise at lower RPMs.
Other cars get much better gas mileage, though. The Maxima only gets 22 mpg — combined, which is pretty disappointing for a car this size. It is rated 26 mpg highway EPA, but the computer was displaying a higher average than that.
Your pocket is where the Maxima key can stay during the get-in, start-up process. The Maxima packs more buttons than most cars, which for us is easier than touch screens and mouse controllers.
Besides '80s music you forgot about, it gives weather and traffic warnings that you better pay attention to.
The Maxima loses its competitive advantage in Utah driving, but on a trip from Logan to Salt Lake, it was smooth. The CVT handled the canyon grades with nice low RPMs.
Coming back, the weather was lousy; horsepower is not a windfall in snowfall. We had the power to pass a plow, but not the nerve. We didn't get white knuckles thanks to the heated steering wheel.
We're reasonably certain the Maxima is a great sports sedan when you push it, but until the weather clears up, we can't say for sure.
The Maxima starts at $35,800; our tester was $40,005.