Owner Review

2011 Nissan Maxima 350 ST-S review

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Whether sticking to a budget, new or used, or just a means of getting from A to B, you should love your car. It doesn't have to be loved by anyone else, but it should definitely be loved by you, and maybe a small group of enthusiasts somewhere. From a Lada Riva to a Rolls-Royce Phantom, there is love for cars (sedans in this case) of all sizes, build qualities and budgets. Fitting somewhere in the middle is the Nissan Maxima.

The why.
When the J32 Maxima was released in Australia in 2009, I was driving a 2003 Toyota Avalon GXi. This car suited my needs to a T and I loved it. Large, comfortable, sufficiently quick and reliable – I didn't think I needed anything more. The first teaser images of the J32 showed a sleek and stylish large sedan. The Avalon was touted as a boring beige barge... Something I won't attest to, but next to the new Maxima it did look rather frumpy.

Fast-forward two years and I had decided to purchase a new car. The Maxima, now in MY11 Series 3 guise, was on my shopping list as it fit my requirements of a large, six-cylinder sedan that was great value. A starting price of $33,990 for the 250 ST-L is definitely intriguing. I decided the 350 ST-S at $37,990 was the sweet spot in the range with its larger 3.5-litre engine and extra niceties. The $46,990 350 Ti was out of my price bracket (albeit still representing excellent value).

The car.
The 2009–2013 Maxima has a classy and striking silhouette. An evolution on the J31 Maxima, the J32 brought about updated technology, more standard equipment, slightly better fuel economy and Nissan's X-Tronic CVT transmission. The interior looks smarter and has a better-styled dash than the somewhat awkward-looking J31. Plush seating, acres of head room and generally spacious cabin were excellent carry-overs. Soft leather surfaces on the doors and centre console were welcome additions.

The MY11 Maxima range was the final iteration of this generation and brought even more value to the table. The 350 ST-S featured an upgraded 11-speaker Bose stereo with in-built hard-drive and colour monitor as well as steering wheel controls for the Bluetooth, nicer-finished HVAC knobs and slightly different LED tail-lights (clear lenses instead of red). Night-sensing Xenon headlights and push-button start with smart key access as standard were also welcome features.

While these may be trivial updates to some, they were selling points to me as the older versions of this Maxima looked like they needed a few more styling touches. These changes coincided with the shift from Thai-sourced Maximas to Japan sourced. The difference was slight, however the build quality and materials of the later J32s feel a bit better.

The drive.
You never buy a Maxima if you're looking for a sports car. If you wanted a fun, sporty car for the same money in 2011, you bought an Alfa Romeo Giulietta or a Mazda 6. The Maxima was designed to go about its business quietly and with minimal fuss. The quiet cabin and smooth ride confirm this. The seats cushion you on your journey, whether it be two minutes or two hours. You cruise along and hardly notice the bumps and undulations on all surfaces.

The Bose stereo can be left on a low volume, as it does not need to overpower road or tyre noise. A conversation can be had at a normal level. The automatic climate-control air-conditioning is supremely effective yet whisper quiet.

The engine and transmission are smooth and inaudible. Now, when I say inaudible, I mean in any situation unless you have buried your right foot into the floor. In doing that, the 185kW, 3498cc V6 provides you with a grin-inducing roar. The VQ isn't one of the most awarded engine series for no reason, and even this toned-down version can still give you a satisfying slingshot back into the leather-lined seat if you want it to.

This is where I find a downside with the Maxima. I don't normally bury my foot, however the fuel consumption may lead you to believe otherwise. This may be a product of my environment, however – driving the Maxima around a small town for most of its life is not conducive to efficiency.

The practical.
Since owning my Maxima, I have moved from one end of the country to the other. I have filled it to the brim with room to spare, with the only gripe being no split-folding rear seats and an amplifier that eats slightly into boot space. For anyone not traipsing around the country, however, the boot is quite sufficient. Leg room and the aforementioned head room are in abundance.

The reliable.
Owning it since new, I have never had an issue with my Maxima. After 70,000km, I have recently replaced the original Michelin tyres and the brake pads are still original. I will have these replaced next service due to their age, however. This brings me to one more downside. Servicing is not overly cheap. The capped-price service Nissan offers is not the best value, and if you mention CVT, other mechanics do not seem to love the idea of servicing them.

Luckily all servicing has been straightforward, which means the capped price is rarely exceeded. Fortunately, the value for money proposition the Maxima presented at purchase can mean this is largely overlooked.

The improvements.
Because I am rather pedantic, I chose this car because it was very well equipped at the time. Nissan did an excellent job of creating a competitively priced contender in the large-sedan category. The car is not perfect for everyone, however for me it was, and is, which means I do not feel any improvements need to be made.

The final thoughts.
The J32 does everything well. It is not necessarily a car people aspire to own. It is a car you buy in order to bring a touch of class and comfort to your drive. The Maxima nameplate sadly died in 2013, bringing an end to a more than 20-year-old nameplate in Australia. I am very proud to say I own a car from the last series of Maximas, and hope that one day Nissan brings a worthy successor to the market for people such as myself who would purchase one.