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2011 Nissan Maxima SV Review & Test Drive

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The 2011 Nissan Maxima SV puts more fun and excitement when driving a midsize family sedan.  The Maxima SV still has plenty of comfort, room and luxury for families but when the time and place is right, an exciting and exhilarating vehicle to let the daily stress’s of life melt away.

At first glance I see similar features to the Nissan 370Z sports car up front with the boomerang HID headlamp clusters which are set deeper into the front fenders of the Maxima, and the blacked-out horizontal slats of the grille and lower air intake.  The lower front bumper holds the round foglamps and air-intakes to cool down the front disc brakes.  The bulging ‘catamaran-styled’ aluminum hood, similar to the Infiniti M Series, gives Maxima SV a formidable expression, setting the tone for the rest of the car.

The powerful Maxima SV form continues along its profile with steeply raked A-pillars and careful layering of the bumper, hood and fender parting lines.  The sideview mirrors are aerodynamically styled to cut through the air more effectively and lesson wind noise while the deep side extensions give the Maxima SV a more hunkered down look and lowering the center of gravity increasing it cornering power.  The polished, elegant motion spreads from the deep-waisted rear fenders through distinctive Maxima SV-style C-pillars and high trunk lid with a spoiler that is similar to the 370Z’s.  The chrome pull-out door handles are very easy to use for easy opening of the large doors.

At the rear Maxima SV features a 12-LED L-shaped taillight cluster design, with a pair of side marker bulbs for added visibility during night driving.  Under the bold rear bumper and nicely spread apart are two 4in. rolled aluminum exhaust tips that are also similar to the Z370’s.  They sit neatly at the ends of the center diffuser that keeps airflow out the rear more stable.

The flared fenders are nicely stuffed in the Maxima SV with standard light hyper silver twin-fork, five-spoke, 19X8in. aluminum wheels that are wrapped with 245/40VR19in. low profile, Goodyear RS-A high-performance all-season tires.

In creating driving performance worthy of Nissan’s flagship, the Maxima SV’s body and chassis engineering teams worked together to create a secure feeling, virtually no torque steering during acceleration and a level of nimbleness that ultimately makes the car fun and exciting to drive.  A range of enhancements helped to achieve these targets, increasing body rigidity and adjusting the wheelbase and track dimensions.

Utilizing Nissan’s advanced ‘D’ platform as its foundation, Maxima SV features a 3.5 liter VQ-series V6 engine rated at 290hp at 6,400rpm and 261lb.ft. of torque at 4,400rpm.  This potent engine includes a modular engine design with microfinished crank journals and cam lobes, molybdenum coated lightweight pistons, a resin intake collector, digital knock control, six individual coils and a cross-flow coolant pattern.  Also utilized are a Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System, a variable induction system, a silent timing chain and electronically controlled throttle.  The Maxima SV also utilizes a six-point engine mounting system, which includes upper and lower torque rods, high rigidity front and rear aluminum brackets and front and rear switchable control mounts to improve NVH performance under high engine torque conditions.  This high-tech powerful V6 engine quickly revs to redline and is very quiet at idle but when you put your foot down hard on the throttle, a loud growl sound emanates from the low-restriction dual exhaust system.

The Maxima SV comes equipped with a refined Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission), the best I have ever tested, with a manual mode (six-gears), which is tuned specifically for the SV’s sporty driving character.  For drivers seeking more aggressive shift operation, ‘Ds mode” (drive sport), electronic control logic programming provides increased acceleration feel with higher engine rpm’s, automatic engine braking, (downshift rev matching), and maintaining engine speed during cornering.  The SV’s standard column-mounted paddle shifters allow for quick manual transmission-like shift changes while you keep your hands on the steering wheel.  The SV’s CVT almost feels like you are shifting a true six-speed automatic with sequential shifting.  A readout of which gear you are presently in appears on the instrument cluster.  Upshifting and downshifting is immediate and you can really feel the acceleration and de-acceleration as you tap the paddles.

The Maxima SV’s full independent sport-tuned suspension is designed and engineered to be stimulating and relaxing, combining responsive and precise handling with a comfortable ride.  It also features coil springs and a 25.4mm solid stabilizer bar to keep front body lean to a minimum when cornering at high speeds.  The subframe-mounted strut/coil spring suspension makes extensive use of lightweight aluminum parts.  An X-type upper cowl structure helps provide front body rigidity for suspension mounting.

The multi-link rear suspension design, also subframe-mounted, offers outstanding handling by minimizing camber change during hard cornering.  The rear shock absorbers and springs are separated and the shocks are in line with the center of the rear wheels, providing excellent damping and minimal harshness.  A solid 21mm rear stabilizer bar further keeps body lean to a minimum during hard cornering.  Even though torque steer is now kept to a minimum during hard launches, I would have liked to see a change from front-wheel drive to either all-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive so that the front-to-rear weight distribution would be more closely even thus exhibiting better and more nimble handling characteristics.  The Maxima SV’s front-to-rear weight distribution is 61/39% which puts too much weight up front interfering with crisper cornering at high speeds.  Understeer always shows it unwanted deeds with front-wheel drive vehicles.

To keep you on your chosen direction of travel the SV comes standard with a Twin-Orifice power steering (TOPS) vehicle-speed-sensitive power rack & pinion steering system with the quickest steering ratio of any Nissan sedan (15.2:1) that helps provide its sporty steering feel, quick reaction to your inputs and great feel for the road.  A hidden strut tower brace contributes to Maxima SV’s steering precision and rigidity.

Slowing the new Maxima SV down from speed are large, 4-wheel steel disc brakes that are vented at each corner.  Up front are 12.6in. discs clamped with dual-piston calipers, while 12.13in. discs with single-piston calipers clamp down in the rear.  These brakes are very strong and the feel is very linear giving me confidence to take the SV to its limits. Further enhancing braking power and control are standard ABS, EBD and BA.

Well I guess you can’t always have everything that makes for great handling midsize sports sedan for under $34,000.00, but the car does its thing as it easily maneuvers around slow city traffic, traveling at speed on the highways, and cutting up the steep curving roads in the mountains. Maxima SV’s interior design gives a feeling of a sports car with controls ergonomically close, yet with ample roominess, comfort and luxury for both you and your passengers.

The instrument cluster features ‘daytime illumination’ electroluminescent gauges, with a rotated tachometer so engine redline is placed at the 12 o’clock position, while extensive use of chrome surrounds for the gauges, vent rings, vent knobs and audio switches lend a feeling of luxury.  The three-spoke/leather-wrapped/power tilt/telescoping steering wheel is sport-oriented and its diameter has been reduced for optimum control.  The SV model also features a unique ‘parallel’ pattern steering wheel stitching for enhanced grip.  A unique shiny gray stitch color is included in the SV model.

The driver’s bucket seat includes a manual thigh extension for long distance driving and additional padding in the side bolsters for good lateral support during sporty driving.  The seat is also available with heating and cooling functions and premium leather appointed surfaces with the special stitching.  Also available are power lower lumbar and memory functions.  The SV comes with a fixed rear seat with well padded side bolstering and a fold-down center armrest, dual cupholders, storage and pass-through for carrying long items.

Comfort and convenience features include a standard moonroof, 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat and 4-way power adjustable front passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise-control with illuminated steering wheel mounted controls, Nissan Intelligent Key with Push Button Start/Stop ignition, leather-wrapped/chrome stick shifter, aluminum shifter gate, power windows with front express up/down, power door locks, AM-FM-CD6/MP3 audio system with eight speakers, Bluetooth, and available USB connectivity.

More SV standard equipment not mentioned above includes metallic dot trim on the center stack, center console, doors and front door pulls, steering wheel audio controls, auxiliary audio input jack, multi-function trip computer, Bose audio system with AM-FM-in-dash 6-CD player with 9-speakers, 2-subwoofers, center channel speaker and XM satellite radio, speed sensitive volume control, Homelink Universal Transceiver, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power-remote/heated sideview mirrors, overhead console with sunglass holder, sun visors with illuminated mirrors, dual map lamps, grab handles above each door, aluminum sill plates at each door bottom, storage slots in each front door, driver-side memory, floor mats and trunk mat. Option included in my SV test vehicle included a 7in. color monitor with rearview monitor, 2GB music box with 800MB storage, USB connectivity and iPod net in the center console.

Maxima SV comes standard with Nissan’s Advanced Airbag System with dual-stage front airbags, seat belt sensors and an occupant classification sensor, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and roof-mounted curtain side-impact airbags for front and rear outboard occupant head protection, front seat active head restraints, 3-point safety belts for all seating positions including pretensioners/load limiters up front, emergency inside trunk release, Zone Body construction with front/rear crumple zones, steel beams in each door, LATCH system for child seats, and a tire pressure monitoring system.  Every Maxima SV comes standard with Nissan’s advanced Vehicle Dynamic Control with Traction Control to keep you on your chosen path.

Other options include Nissan’s hard Drive Navigation system with voice recognition, 9.3GB music box, XM NavTraffic with real-time traffic information, XM NavWeather, streaming audio via Bluetooth, 7in. touch screen color monitor with DVD playback capability, and a dual panel moonroof.



  • Price: Base Maxima 3.5S $30,830 As-Tested Maxima SV $37,240
  • Engine/power/configuration: 3.5-liter V6 / 290hp – 261 ft-lbs. torque / Front Wheel Drive
  • Wheelbase: 109.3in.
  • Total length: 190.6in.
  • Total width: 23.2in.
  • Total height: 57.8in.
  • Fuel tank: 20 gallons
  • Headroom: f/r-38.5/36.4in.
  • Shoulder room: f/r-56.3/55.1in.
  • Curb weight: 3,565lbs.
  • 0-60mph: 6.5sec.
  • EPA mileage: 19mpg/city, 26mpg/highway

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