By on July 16, 2013


Welcome to Reader Response/Remix, where we give individual readers a chance to submit long-form counterpoints to existing TTAC articles. If you’d like to comment at length on something we’re published in the past, send your contribution to [email protected] and head it “Reader Response”. Let us know how you’d like to be credited. Submissions may be edited for length, content, and to make it look like you agree with us when you really don’t. — JB

Reader D. Alexander is a Maxima owner and he’s got some comments regarding Jack’s Maxima review:

“Pretty good review, Jack. I think you nailed the big picture, though there are some subtleties to owning one. I reviewed a 2010 S here a few years ago, which I subsequently bought.

I chose the car for looks and speed. It is, between 40 and 80, the fastest car in this class and dead even with the G37. The only current car that trumps it is the 2013 Altima, which probably has the best powertrain in anything under $35K. I tested that one and concluded there’s almost no reason to prefer the Maxima except the styling.

The G37 comparisons are only vaguely on-point. I considered one of those and stopped considering it after I drove it. The 7AT from 2010 sucked compared to the CVT, as did the seats. Actual transaction prices are also significantly higher with the G. I paid $27K OTD in early 2010 for my Max. The G at any trim level would have been at least $5K more, and the low-spec versions aren’t much ahead of the Max in handling. Likewise, the styling theme is ‘anodyne invisible’ by comparison.

After 3.5 years and 30K miles, the main beef I have with this car is the number of niggling problems. I’ve probably had thirty. It initially wouldn’t track straight. The stock battery is crap and had to be replaced. The sunroof shield cracked. There were a half-dozen interior rattles from one area or another and a whistling sound at highway speeds. The passenger seat was replaced because the weight detector was defective. The door locks squeak when I turn the car off. One of the interior DC sockets failed. That’s just the stuff I can remember; I’ve yet to have an oil change without at least two new items on the list.

It was a fair value when it was introduced. The mainstream sedans have so upped their game, though, that I’m disinclined to recommend it, even though I still love to drive it.”

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41 Comments on “Reader Response/Remix: Quality To The Max...”

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    “The final proof of greatness lies in being able to endure criticism without resentment.” (Elbert Hubbard). Bravo for soliciting counterpoints.

    And I agree with D. Alexander. For the right price 3-4 years ago, these were great and looked fantastic.

  • avatar

    Oh my goodness that Maxima sounds like a lemon. I hope that’s not representative of Nissan’s quality now. I had a 97 I30 with 130K miles, and it didn’t have any of those kinds of little problems. Didn’t have any big problems either, for that matter.

    • 0 avatar

      This number of problems isn’t representative of anyone’s quality now. Based on our data (and everyone else’s that shows the average problems per car per year under one), this is an extreme outlier.

      • 0 avatar

        My total may be unusually high because I notice and act on most deviations from new. I suspect many people just ignore them. It was hardly pivotal to (for example) replace the sunroof wind deflector, but it bothered me and the car was under warranty.

    • 0 avatar

      “The passenger seat was replaced because the weight detector was defective.”

      How do they change the oil? Replace the engine?

      Its troubling how many individual parts on modern cars are only available as a component part of a large module. When you’ve got to buy a $600 instrument binnacle because your speedometer is busted, that’s no fun.

      • 0 avatar

        Another example. A fastener in the drivers seat track unfastened itself. It could not be found. Therefore, the entire seat track has to be replaced. Under warranty, fortunately.

  • avatar

    So my question to D. Alexander:

    Would it have been worth +$5k new if none of these little niggles existed?

    • 0 avatar

      To me, probably not, because I have the time to spare to deal with these things. My local Nissan dealerships have no qualms about handing out free rentals, and all the work has been performed under warranty by competent staff. The chief annoyance has been the effort in documenting and repeating problems that are often sporadic in occurrence.

      I also believe this car is an outlier. Various people on forums have complained of most of these issues at one time or another, but I don’t believe they represent the normal experience. JD Power and similar aggregators would give more generally accurate numbers. Also, I believe the assumption that Infiniti would do better is unwarranted. Owners of the G complain of an entirely different set of problems.

  • avatar

    Interesting. I tested one in 2010, along with a 2008 G35, and ended up with a 2007 328xi. No repairs of any kind on that in three years. The G35 had a very twitchy throttle, which I think the G37 has solved. The Maxima was nice, but the bottle shape somehow left the backseat very narrow for such a big car. The interior quality was lower (although I liked the seats) and I just couldn’t get used to the CVT. Here in New England, I had serious concerns about a FWD car with a CVT in the snow. In 2010 the Altima wasn’t really close to it, but the styling is better now and it must really hurt the Maxima in the showroom.

    • 0 avatar

      BMW was in the running when I was testing cars before buying the Max. I felt the 328i’s acceleration was far too pedestrian to merit the asking price, though the rest of the car was nice enough. The 335i would have been $15K more and in an entirely different class. I did drive that one and found it superior in all ways but interior space and seat comfort.

      Traction is an issue in the wet with the Max. I found the performance of the stock tires to fall off significantly after 15K miles. Acceleration is blunted for lack of a limited-slip differential, mechanical or electronic. In snow, I’d choose an AWD vehicle.

      • 0 avatar

        This is where individual preferences really matter. I own a 328i, and find the power FAR more than adequate. But I can’t STAND the cheap and nasty interior in the Maxima, the torque steer, and the general floppiness of the chassis. The feel of the BMW both in terms of touch surfaces and driving makes it worth it to me to pay the German premium. Also, zero niggling issues in 2 yrs is nice. One stupid failure of the power seat controller though.

        Ultimately for me, the lack of a manual transmission makes it a non-starter anyway. I have nothing in particular against CVTs, they suck just as much but no more than any other automatic to me. :-)

        • 0 avatar

          It’s an overstatement to call the Maxima interior cheap and nasty. In materials quality, the instrument console is similar to the base-spec BMWs. Higher trim levels have excellent leather.

          I only considered the base model S, so even a 328i would have been significantly more expensive. That was enough to sway me, though the result might have been different if I’d expanded my budget. I noted in the original review that the high-spec versions didn’t make financial sense relative to BMW and others.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 on the twitchy throttle on G35s. I have ’06 model, had it for a while now (bought used with 60K on the clock) but still can’t get used to the throttle response. At times it feels like it’s all or nothing, and if you’re not careful, it’s fairly easy to end up in the bushes.

  • avatar

    That “niggling little problems” thing would peeve me off to no end. Of course as long as Nissan kept picking up the check I’d be OK with it, but once warranty protection expired I’d be pissed.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. For precisely that reason, I bought Nissan’s extended warranty. For the mileage I drive, it was about $1200 for three additional years of coverage.

    • 0 avatar

      I had a similar set of problems with a 2007 Xterra. The biggest frustration wasn’t the problems themselves but having to re-arrange my schedule to drop the car off at the dealership, scheduling rentals, etc. After having warranty work performed every few months for 3 years I petitioned Nissan to have my warranty extended free of charge. No luck. I decided to cut my losses and sell the Xterra, it just wasn’t worth the hassle.

  • avatar

    Thanks for this! I have been interested in the Maxima for a while in spite of it being the car that people love to hate. The common counterpoint is always “well why not a G37 for the same price”? As the author points out, it’s NOT the same price in the real-world. Moreover I think it’s reasonable to assume any luxury brand is just going to cost me more long-term. More expensive insurance, repairs, parts, higher theft possibility, premium gas, blah blah blah. For people who value a deal, the Maxima presents an interesting possibility where you know you have a lot of leverage as a buyer due to minimal (ha ha) interest… compare that to trying to bargain down a super-popular sedan like the new Accord.

    The main problem for the Maxima is the Altima’s continual improvement. Until this year there was at least a styling gap between them (the old Altima looked bulky and had those clear taillights) but now even that is addressed. Now you have a nice looking Altima that can be had with leather, a V-6, same transmission, etc.

    I believe the refresh schedules for the Maxima and Altima are one year off, so this is the worst possible year for comparison (brand-new altima vs end-of-life maxima).

    I think TTAC ran a piece a few months ago about how full-size sedans are kind of a dying breed anyway. The Lacrosse has the “old people who want a la-z-boy recliner car” locked up, the Avalon has gone more sporty, the impala is mostly fleet cars and the Taurus has practically disappeared… Honda doesn’t make a full-size and the Korean twins are super-niche players.

    • 0 avatar

      I have so much disagree with your post. It’s a very high level of disagree.

      -You forgot the full-size 300C.
      -You forgot the Azera.
      -The Taurus is NOT disappearing.
      -The Avalon has NOT gone more sporty, LOL.
      -Kia has the new Cadenza, dunno if that counts or not.
      -It costs more for the repairs if you head to the dealer and they use Infiniti parts as opposed to Nissan parts.
      -You get more of your $ back when you go to sell a premium used car vs. a standard brand used car.

      • 0 avatar

        Ah I did forget the 300, you’re right.

        I did not forget the Azera or the Cadenza, I said “the Korean twins are super-niche players.” The Azera sells about 8k units a year, in the range of the Nissan Leaf.

        You might want to check the sales numbers for the Taurus:

        I’d say a 78% drop in sales since 2003 is pretty significant.

        I should have just linked to the original article:

      • 0 avatar

        Another issue is the cheapest Maxima I can find on a local dealer’s lot is in the high 30’s. I actually wasn’t aware it could be had for UNDER 30.

        That said, the Azera, while a beautifully crafted vehicle, is more soft luxury than harder-riding sports sedan.

        The 300, you can say the same.

        The Taurus is a bad car, all the way around, the second you look at any of it’s competitors.

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        It’s not that fullsized cars are dying out, it’s that—as midsized cars are getting larger and larger—fullsized cars are now for distinguished buyers, almost occupying an entry-level luxury class. If you look at even a 2014 Impala LT, it’s pretty well-equipped. Same with the 300 and Charger once you get past the base-models. And the Azera and Cadenza twins come loaded to the roof with tons of standard features and only offer a few upgrades. There’s also the new Avalon.

        My issue with the Maxima and the Taurus is that they offer no real compelling reason to upgrade anymore. Because of the current Maxima’s styling, it never offered an appreciable space-advantage over the Altima to begin with, and the heavy bolstering in the rear almost makes the middle bench seat a moot point. Moreover, it gets poor gas mileage compared to said Altima, even when both are equipped with the 3.5L V6. At this point, the Maxima has now got older tech than the Altima as well, and isn’t available with new goodies like lane-departure-warning, blind-spot-monitoring, or that fancy new color LCD in the instrument panel. And to top it off, Nissan’s sedans now look closer than ever to one-another, and I don’t know how the company plans on differentiating the next-gen Maxima from the Versa, Sentra and Altima. And as for the Taurus, even before the release of the new Fusion, the only thing that was a bigger dog than said Taurus was the MKS, twin-turbos or not…

        But the other full-sized sedans are doing very well.

        • 0 avatar

          The genius of the Taurus / MKS is that they make ridiculously good slightly used cars. With the twin-turbo, and the suspension upgrades that come with it, they’re absolutely NOT dogs – not by any stretch of the imagination. They’re damn quick, and handle quite well for such big cars.

          And a couple of years old, they’re unbelievably good deals. You can get a completely loaded AWD 2011 MKS Ecoboost (which may not be a BMW, but it’s certainly NOT a dog) for about $30000 in the Denver area, complete with factory certified warranty.

          A similarly equipped Avalon runs well over $40000, and if an Avalon owner wants to avoid feeling like Custer after Little Big Horn, he’d be well advised to avoid any twin-turbo Taurus or MKS like plague.

          • 0 avatar

            They’re dogs to me. Enormous on the outside but the towering wall of a center console makes them cramped inside. All the fun to drive of a two ton boat you can’t see the corners of yet they don’t ride especially well either.

            A used SHO is a good deal but it wouldn’t be a good car even if it were free.

    • 0 avatar

      EPA classification can be somewhat misleading .

      The 2013 Accord has a larger interior than the 2013 Taurus, 103.2 cu ft compared to 102.2. The Taurus has a larger trunk, making total EPA volume more, so the Taurus is “full size” and the Accord not.

  • avatar

    “The only current car that trumps it is the 2013 Altima, which probably has the best powertrain in anything under $35K.”

    Only if you never leave the Nissan showroom.

    • 0 avatar

      I believe a very lightly optioned Mustang GT 5.0 can be had for under 35k. 420 hp, 390 ft lbs of torque and it’s available with a 6 speed manual. Completely different class of car though. (duh!)

      • 0 avatar
        Sam P

        Too bad Ford doesn’t install the GT 5.0 powertrain in a rear-drive sedan other than the soon-to-be dead Falcon, which is only RHD. That’d be a hell of a car.

  • avatar

    Re: Altima V6 has best powertrain in class under $35

    Sorry, but try the 2013 Accord V6… that thing has motor!!!

    Yes, the V6/CVT is a good powertrain but the Accord has lungs… deep deep lungs that sound phenomenal when wrung out….

    • 0 avatar

      The Accord engine is better than the Nissan VQ, but it retains a 6-speed automatic. Once you’ve become accustomed to a CVT, a geared transmission of any sort feels like an anachronism. The Accord has broad gaps between ratios that are noticeable. While the 6AT may be preferable in a performance context that requires precise throttle control, in daily use, I believe the CVT is consistently superior.

      • 0 avatar

        I had, for one week (rental while my Infiniti was in for body repair) a 2010 Murano with CVT.

        It was, by far, the most irritating thing to drive which I’ve ever had the misfortune of piloting. It was on par with a 1993 Olds 88 for lack of responsiveness. It always had a feeling of “I’m not ready” as I went along.

        When I was driving alone I found myself saying GO YOU PIECE OF SH** out loud. I felt like I needed to floor it to get anything done.

        • 0 avatar

          I had a sentra rental/cvt. My average mpg over 600 miles (mostly highway) was like 28 or 29. Had to floor it to get anywhere.

          HATED it.

          I’m guessing my experience was probably worse than yours as I’d assume the sentra is more gutless than the murano.

          I was so bad I couldn’t believe anyone would buy it (or maybe there was something wrong with it?)

          • 0 avatar

            Don’t worry the V6 was plenty-o-bad. I floored mine as well. I thought well I wanna get up to 55, might as well MF floor it, cause you can choose super-slow or floored acceleration. Those are your only choices.

        • 0 avatar

          It’s unpleasant with a four-cylinder (though entirely adequate in a lighter chassis like the Altima). With a V6, it’s an entirely different experience.

      • 0 avatar

        The powertrain in the Accord V6 is way more enthusiast oriented.

      • 0 avatar

        Even a manual?

  • avatar

    I actually BOUGHT a 2012 Maxima.

    And REPLACED it with a 2013 Altima 3.5 SL.

    My discoveries and opinions, compared also to my Dad’s 2000 Maxima that he bought new:

    The ’12 Max felt like a true spiritual successor to the older Max, particularly in the context of how much better it drove compared to other cars, just as the 2000 did.

    I LOVED the way the ’12 drove, rode, handled, stopped, performed, you name it. Even the MPG’s were great – low 30’s on the highway.

    But the seats. The cloth seats pinched nerves somewhere south of the equator that literally set my legs and feet on fire with nerve pain. I’ve never experienced that with any vehicle. Gave it less than a year and traded it on the Altima.

    Now, the Altima is a peculiar beast. A bit less power than the Maxima, a ‘revised’ CVT, a suspension meant for a different crowd (although paddle shifters and 18″ wheels, albeit 1″ narrower than the Maxima had).

    I think the Altima would outrun the Maxima. But it doesn’t have that certain ‘je ne sais quois’: the suspension is soft, the handling isn’t confident when pushed, it just doesn’t feel as rock solid and planted in any condition like the Maxima did.

    Oh, and the seats are better. I can drive the thing on 1000 mile trips and not fall over in agony when I exit.

    Nissan, if you could button down the chassis and suspension on the Altima (SE-R, anyone?) this car would be excellent IMHO. But then what would be the mission of the Maxima?

    All 3 cars listed above have had perfect or near perfect reliability. Only one $70 MAF in the 2000; same repair my 2002 Pathfinder had in ten years and 140k.

    I hope the Altima holds up as well. The CVT still makes me nervous.

  • avatar

    It’s interesting to hear about those small issues. My parents had a 2000 Maxima and 2002/3 I35 and both cars were always plagued with these types of little issues. It blew me away that both cars had warped brake rotors before 30k miles. Torque steer was unreal. It felt like Nissan built a great engine and put a crap car around it.

    I ruled Nissan out completely back then. I’d like to reconsider them, but the bad press on the GT-R launch control and now reading this, I wonder how much they’ve really changed. In fairness, my dad has owned 5 other Infinitis that were rock solid.

  • avatar

    What did you do about the interior rattles?
    They covered under warranty?

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