Toyota Aurion Presara 2012 review
Since the Toyota Aurion was launched in Australia in 2006 large car sales have slumped, dropping...
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A television advertisement featuring the new Nissan Maxima provides us with an unexpected slice of reality.
The big six sedan is shown crawling through peak-hour traffic, which, if we're honest, is where we spend most of our time driving.
The object of the 30-second ad is to reinforce the point that handling and performance are not the most important criteria for people buying a new car.
Ultimately though, if that was the case we'd all be wearing cardigans and driving bland white budget cars.
But Nissan is sending a message that its car not only has the performance but is a comfy place to cope with the daily commute.
Visually, the Maxima, which shares its platform with the Murano, has sharper looks in keeping with its refined mechanical package but most people will be hard pressed to spot the difference between the old car and the newcomer.
Although the car sits on the same 2775mm wheelbase, it has grown between 5mm and 15mm in length, is 15mm taller and has 30mm wider front and rear tracks.
Nissan has also used ultra-high-strength steel in the body to deliver a stronger and safer car.
With the newest Maxima, Nissan has broadened its appeal by adding another smaller capacity 2.5-litre V6 to the line-up.
The entry $33,990 2.5-litre V6 ST-L joins a larger 3.5-litre V6 available in the $37,990 ST-S and range topping $46,990 Ti.
Nissan is clearly aiming the 2.5-litre at some of the four-cylinder Japanese competition from Mazda, Honda and Toyota.
The entry ST-L's 2.5-litre V6, like the bigger engine, is mated to a continuously variable X-tronic transmission with six-speeds. It develops 134kW at 6000 revs and 228Nm at 4400 revs.
The larger V6, available in the mid-range $37,990 ST-S and range topper $46,990 Ti, has grown in power from 170kW to 185kW at 600 revs, but torque is marginally down from 333Nm to 326Nm at 4400 revs.
Standard kit on the ST-L includes leather, dual-zone climate control, front, side and curtain airbags, electric front seats, multi-function steering wheel, a six-CD six-speaker stereo, push-button start, 17-inch alloys, xenon headlights, LED tail-lights, stability control, load-through ski-port but no split-fold rear seats.
The ST-S sports model adds a rear spoiler, "intelligent" ignition key, rear parking sensors and heated front seats.
The range-topping Ti ups the ante with a rear spoiler, sunroof, electric seats with memory, satellite navigation with a large colour screen, Bluetooth, reversing camera and a DVD-capable high-end 11-speaker Bose surround-sound system.
The Nissan Maxima has always promised so much, but never really delivered. It was a car bought by retirees and an older demographic who loved the hush-hush cabin, standard features, Nissan reliability and that silky V6.
However, it was never a standout against some of the sharper handling Japanese competition. But Nissan is hoping to change that.
Out is the softer roly-poly marshmallow ride of the old Maxima. In its place is a sharper, crisper suspension with better control and less pitching.
Don't think that for one moment that it has been transformed into a sports touring sedan.
The ride remains supple and composed, but the changes to the suspension have delivered a more resolved ride and better rebound control from harsh bumps.
The steering feels tighter and the extra body rigidity aids the whole car's dynamics when you do start to push it harder.
In sharp corners the Maxima will wash off speed with some understeer but overall it is reassuringly competent on a windy mountain road, which could not be said about the previous car.
In our eyes the design is crisper but Nissan has been too conservative with its styling.
The swept-back standard xenon headlights and LED tail-lights smarten things up but few people will notice it on the road.
This is a pity because at the heart of the Maxima beats a beautiful V6 engine mated to a continuously variable transmission.
Nissan's V6 has won accolades for years and it's easy to understand why. It's smooth, quiet and very responsive.
It is also surprisingly frugal when you drive with economy in mind. We managed high sevens on the highway and 10.5 litres/100km around town.
The CVT works far better than we remember too. There's a distinct kick-down feel now when you prod the accelerator hard to overtake and the gearbox will mimic a conventional changedown when slowing down a hill.
There is none of that slurring or slipping clutch feel in the new CVT.
The Ti's leather-trimmed cabin is well executed and has an appropriate quality feel.
Equipment levels are appropriate for the price with sat-nav controls that are intuitive and easy to use, cushioning leather seats and a sunroof.
But there are some minor niggles.
The sat-nav and in-car information graphics provided by the system are a little low-rent when compared to some other local and European systems.
There are other quirks around the cabin, evidence either of some cost cutting or just a lack of design forethought.
The foot-operated park brake might be okay in North America but it is a inadequate in a car with high-end aspirations in this competitive segment.
The steering wheel is also not reach adjustable, there are no rear door pockets while the ones at the front are impossibly narrow to be of any real use.
The heated front seat switches in the Ti are hidden under the centre console lid. Why? We don't know. There seems to be plenty of room on the console but Nissan has chosen to put them out of sight and in doing so made them difficult to access.
Some owners may also be put off by the narrow opening of the boot. Large objects will need to be juggled to fit. The Ti's DVD and audio gear, which is positioned under the rear parcel shelf in the boot, may also foul luggage if you're not careful.
We've complained previously about the Maxima's front seats lacking support and comfort.
This time around Nissan Australia took a closer look at the seat design and they now have better cushioning and improved back support.
Significantly, they remain comfortable after a long stint at the wheel.
Minor niggles aside, Nissan has addressed some of the dynamic flaws with the old car to deliver a better handling big sedan.
But the Maxima Ti's biggest problem are its rivals.
There are still more engaging cars for the price in both the growing medium segment and established large car segment.
The Ford Falcon G6E and Holden Commodore Calais come to mind.
Many buyers will also cross-shop against the competent Honda Accord V6 Luxury and Toyota Aurion.
Continuous improvement has delivered a refined and capable car but is that enough against today's competition?
|250 ST-L||2.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$8,995 – 10,980||2009 Nissan Maxima 2009 250 ST-L Pricing and Specs|
|350 ST-S||3.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO||$8,990 – 9,990||2009 Nissan Maxima 2009 350 ST-S Pricing and Specs|
|350 Ti||3.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO||$9,300 – 11,990||2009 Nissan Maxima 2009 350 Ti Pricing and Specs|
|ST-L||3.5L, PULP, CVT AUTO||$6,160 – 8,690||2009 Nissan Maxima 2009 ST-L Pricing and Specs|
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