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13 GOING ON 30

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Published on Wed, Jul 28, 2010

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

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The Sport Package-equipped Nissan Maxima SV By Joseph Manalili 13 years ago, I bought my very first car--a 1997 Nissan Maxima SE that I didn’t get until I was twenty-two. For years, I avoided owning a car—even in car-centric Los Angeles. My friends still hold it against me since they ended up being my personal car service. I had such love for that car. It had a lot of power, a great sound system, tons of automatic features, a moonroof, and a reliable air-conditioning unit. I drove that thing all over California and beyond. It lasted a good many years before a series of failures caused me to finally retire the car. It was great while it lasted. Consequently, I have a fondness for the Nissan Maxima.

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Fast forward several years later, and my editor is asking me to test drive the 2010 Nissan Maxima SV with the Sport Package. I happily agreed. This year marks 30 years since the introduction of the Maxima as a 1981 model. My Maxima dates back three generations, so I was curious about the new changes to this model--I was sure the changes would be substantial. I am not disappointed. It seems Nissan has retreated from the “bigger is better” mentality common in some other models, and focused more on good design and pleasing aesthetics. The vehicle is now smaller than the previous generation (four inches shorter), but better throughout. The styling has changed considerably from the boxy sedan that I had owned. It is clearly a sports sedan. From the sculpted hunches over the headlights, to the curved lines along the sides that gather to the modest spoiler in the rear, it radiates aerodynamics. Designed for speed and agility in city driving, the physical look of the car makes this fact obvious. The small reduction in size greatly benefits this car.

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In terms of performance, the new Maxima shines. Like many new cars, it has a push button starter. Depressing the button produces a very pleasing roar and a purr. You got the feeling that there is a lot of power under that engine. There is. The model I tested has a 3.5 liter DOHC V6 engine with 290 horsepower and Nissan’s continuously variable transmission (CVT). I drove it under various conditions throughout Los Angeles and Orange Counties. It has a very light and precise steering that keeps all that power under control.

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The Maxima excels during long stretches of open highway and while weaving in-and-out of traffic. Passing other cars is a breeze. The Maxima is so quick and agile, you barely notice how fast you’re going. Part of the reason is the CVT. Nissan does a better job than most on CVTs. It just finds the right ratios, exhibiting very little of the engine groans common with other CVTs. No more jerky gear changes. That can’t be easily said of the handling. Some of my passengers complained they were being thrown around a bit much, and they couldn’t blame that entirely on my driving skills. There is some body roll during quick lane changes. Yet, with its sport-tuned suspension, you will feel the bumps and cracks on the road more than other sedans. Still, it’s a pretty good ride.

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The interior received good reviews. It’s very roomy inside, and very quiet in the cabin—even while driving through the city. My model came with a typical navigation system, a handy rear-view camera, sound system (with iPod integration), and climate control. Everything is generally well-laid out, and easy to access and use. With all the improvements (and options), Nissan has priced this sedan at $38,660—well beyond what other cars in this class cost. At this price, why not just get an Infiniti G37? It’s not clear what car buyer Nissan is trying to attract. Hopefully, it will get them, because you do get a lot for the price. The 2010 Maxima improves substantially over its predecessors, yet remains a fun-to-drive sedan.

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For more information about Nissan products, go to nissanusa.com

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SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2010 Nissan Maxima SV with Sport Package Price: $33,410 (Maxima SV base price) $2,030 (Sport Package includes Sport-tuned suspension; 19" x 8.0" aluminum-alloy light hyper silver wheels; P245/40VR19 all-season tires; Rear spoiler; Trunk chassis reinforcement; High intensity discharge (HID) xenon headlights; Heated exterior mirrors with reverse tilt-down feature; Auto-dimming driver-side exterior mirror; Premium leather seats; Multi-level heated front seats; Heated parallel-seamed premium leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob; Steering wheel paddle shifters; Power tilt/telescoping steering column; 2-position memory system for driver's seat, steering wheel and exterior mirrors; Driver's seat easy entry/exit system; Rear bucket seats (5-passenger total seating capacity) with large fold-down center armrest; Rear seat trunk pass-through (replaces 60/40 split fold-down seats); Metallic-link trim NOT AVAILABLE with Cafe Latte) EPA fuel economy rating (miles per gallon): 19 city/26 highway Engine: VQ35DE 3.5-liter dual overhead cam, 24-valve V6 featuring • Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVTCS) on intake valves • Electronic Continuously Variable Valve Timing Control System (CVTCS) on exhaust valves • Variable induction system • Nissan Direct Ignition System with iridium-tipped spark plugs • Electronic drive-by-wire Horsepower: 290 at 6400 rpm Torque: 261 at 4400 rpm Transmission: Xtronic CVT® (Continuously Variable Transmission) with DS mode and manual mode and paddle shifters Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive Steering: Vehicle-speed-sensitive rack and pinion power-assisted steering Suspension: Front independent strut-type and rear independent multi-link, front (25.4 mm) and rear (21.0 mm) stabilizer bars, sport-tuned suspension – retuned struts/shocks, stiffer springs and larger front stabilizer bar (26.5 mm) Brakes: 12.60" x 1.10" front and 12.13" x 0.63" rear vented discs, 4-wheel Anti-lock Braking System (ABS), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist Dimensions Length: 190.6 inches Width: 73.2 inches Height: 57.8 inches Curb weight: 3,565 pounds Performance 0-60 mph: 5.8 seconds Quarter-mile elapsed time: 14.5 seconds at 98 mph

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