2012 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV review: Not all new but still sweet

2012 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV

2012 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV

There isn’t much new with the 2012 Nissan Maxima. If you look closely, there’s a new grille design, new rear combination lights, and new 18-inch and 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, depending on whether standard or optioned up. You’re excused for not having noticed.

Inside the 2012 a new meter cluster illumination color—white—new Dark Piano-hairline trim, and a new Cafe Latte interior color. Atlantic Cherry “wood-tone” trim (i.e., not real wood) is part of the Premium Package, which our test 2012 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV had. Our tester also had the Cafe Latte insides, plus one of the new exterior colors, Java Metallic. The other new exterior tint for 2012 is Dark Slate.

Nissan says the “other big news for the 2012 Maxima is the addition of a special Limited Edition Package, which offers smoked appearance headlights, High Intensity Discharge (HID) Xenon headlights, a compass in the rearview mirror, 18-inch aluminum-alloy Dark Hyper Silver colored wheels, a rear spoiler, dark satin chrome front grille, fog lights, outside mirrors with integrated turn signals and metallic trim on the center cluster, center console and door armrest grips.” Our test Maxima was not so equipped.

2012 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV

2012 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV in Java Metallic (click to englarge)

On the other hand, our Maxima 3.5 SV did have the Premium Package. That $3,300 roundup includes the Xenon headlamps, premium leather seats with “climate controlled driver’s seat”, paddle shifters, auto-dimming driver’s side outside mirror, heated with reverse tip-down and much more (see the window sticker included in the price and specifications section of this review).

The good news is that the old stuff on the 2012 Maxima is just as good as it was on the 2011 Maxima. The award-winning 290-horse 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 engine is still standard equipment, and so is—for better or worse—the continuously variable transmission.

The overall exterior design continues with a subtle pontoon-type (our description) fender flares front and rear, and the boomerang –style headlamps shared with the 370Z.

The interior is handsome, with a single molding for the dash with separate instrument panel and centerstack elements. The dials for the instruments are large, with a big central speedometer which overlaps a tachometer to the left. The tach is still easily legible, however, thanks to its large diameter.

The centerstack of the Nissan Maxima is one of our favorites, the screen navigable with either touch or a toggle-like system just underneath it. The nav system doesn’t require a deep dive—or any dive—into the owner’s manual, and a feature that’s particularly nice is the hard button to flip the screen between day and night illumination, great when the headlights are on during daytime rain.

2012 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV interior

2012 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV interior in Cafe Latte (click to enlarge)

The front seats are comfy and supportive, good for hours behind the wheel, and the back seat passengers gain a bit of knee room with the backs of the front seats scooped out. The interior abounds with soft touch surfaces, and if it’s not an Infiniti, it’s not priced like one either.

Our test Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV was equipped with the panoramic sunroof, and like many of the double-pane units, it has fabric shades that scroll out from the center crossbar. It’s power operated and easy to use, but we wonder about the durability when the Maxima gets to the third owner. The rear sunshade on our text Maxima would be a welcome addition for families, especially those with rear-facing infant child seats.

The first, second and third owner, however, will enjoy the V-6 engine. There isn’t a lot of intake/exhaust sounds reaching the interior but there’s a definite sense of finely honed mechanicals meshing, sliding and otherwise going about their business.