2011 Nissan Maxima Review and Prices

Last Updated: Mar 8, 2011

Like this Review

2011 Nissan Maxima Buying Advice

The 2011 Nissan Maxima is the best car for you if you want a shapely sedan that rises above its Altima roots.

The 2011 Nissan Maxima receives some minor revisions for its most popular model but is otherwise a rerun of the 2010 Nissan Maxima. The 2011 Maxima continues themes set out in a model-year 2009 redesign that gave this seventh-generation edition a more confident personality and a clearer mission: recapture the sporty spirit of its early-1990s predecessors.

Should you buy a 2011 Nissan Maxima or wait for the 2012 Nissan Maxima? Wait for the 2012 Maxima if you crave the latest look: chances are good Nissan will treat the 2012 model to a minor cosmetic freshening. The car’s basic shape and engineering won’t change, so buy a 2011 Maxima if you want a solid, sporty front-drive sedan with bird-in-the-hand styling.

2011 Nissan Maxima Changes back to top

Styling: The 2011 Nissan Maxima returns in two levels of trim – 3.5 S and 3.5 SV – and this year’s minor revisions apply to SV models with the available Sport Package, which are the most popular Maximas by far. The 2011 Maxima 3.5 SV Sport Package versions gain a newly chromed grille, chrome door handles, and smoked headlight lenses. Every 2011 Maxima gets a new finish on the exhaust tip, and three new exterior paint colors are available.

The 2011 Nissan Maxima is a handsome car, square-shouldered and distinctive. Only the tail styling could be said to lack self-assurance. The cabin is sophisticated and sporty and carries elements of Nissan’s premium Infiniti brand, particularly in its arrangement of certain controls on a horizontal shelf mid-dashboard. In addition to their exterior tweaks, 2011 Maxima 3.5 SV models with the Sport package get a few interior changes: unique gray stitching on the seats and a new metallic finish for the central dashboard “stack” and center console.

The 2011 Maxima again shares its platform and 109.3 inch wheelbase (the distance between front and rear axles) with the less expensive Nissan Altima sedan. The 2011 Maxima, however, looks nothing like its down-market sibling. And while Altima’s audience stretches from four-cylinder family-car buyers to V-6 sport-sedan strivers, Maxima more tightly focuses on older, more affluent drivers interested in personal expression. Thus, Maxima sacrifices some rear-seat and trunk room to indulge the driver and front passenger.      

Mechanical: The 2011 Nissan Maxima is more than a styling exercise; it’s a midsize car with plenty of available power. Its only engine is again a 3.5-liter V-6 that puts out a healthy 290 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque (think of torque as the force that gets you moving, horsepower as the energy that sustains momentum).

Every 2011 Maxima comes with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that does the job of a conventional automatic transmission but with a rheostat-like delivery of power rather than with a set of stepped gears. CVTs are designed to keep the engine at its most efficient rpm for any given driving condition, balancing the demand for power with the need to conserve fuel. CVT drivetrains generally deliver better fuel economy than comparable automatic-transmission powertrains, but also tend to trigger the unconventional sensation of engine rpm racing ahead of actual vehicle speed during rapid acceleration. Maxima’s 3.5 V-6 and CVT work together better than most such setups, delivering seamless thrust without undue mismatches between rpm and vehicle speed.   

The 2011 Maxima continues exclusively with a front-wheel-drive layout, which puts the weight of the engine over the wheels that drive the car. Front-wheel drive helps with traction in slippery weather, though it can’t match the better weight and steering balance of rear-wheel drive for sporty handling. Nonetheless, Maxima is grippy and capable by any reasonable standard, and it doesn’t suffer from torque steer. (An affliction of many powerful front-wheel-drive cars, torque steer sends the front end pulling to one side or another in rapid acceleration). Maxima’s suspension offers a nice trade between a comfortable ride and sure-footed handling.

Features: Nissan keeps the 2011 Maxima simple with just two trim levels: the 3.5 S and the uplevel 3.5 SV.  Both come standard with power front seats, tilt-telescope leather-wrapped steering wheel with illuminated audio controls, keyless access and starting, automatic dual-zone climate control, and a power sunroof. Each uses 18-inch alloy wheels and has traction control for surer bite on take-offs and an antiskid system to minimize chances of sideways slides in turns.

As before, the 2011 Maxima 3.5 SV is clearly the top dog in terms of content. It adds to the 3.5 S standard leather upholstery, Bose audio, mirror-mounted turn signals, and other features.

Exclusive to the 3.5 SV is the Sport Package, which adds paddle shifters that help the CVT simulate manual gear changes, a sport-tuned suspension, front-end bracing, 19-inch alloys,  xenon headlights, and heated mirrors front seats and steering wheel.

Similarly, the 2011 Maxima SV with Premium Package includes the dual panel moonroof, xenon headlights, premium leather-appointed seats, simulated Eucalyptus wood-tone cabin trim, and a 7 inch color dashboard monitor with rearview camera.

Finally, 3.5 SV Tech Package adds Bluetooth connectivity and a USB iPod interface, a rearview camera, a navigation system with voice recognition, and a 9.3GB audio hard drive.

2011 Nissan Maxima Prices back to top

The 2011 Nissan Maxima price range is $31,440-$34,160. These are base prices, before options, but like all base prices in this review, include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee; Nissan’s is $750 for 2011 models.)

The 2011 Nissan Maxima 3.5 S base price is $31,440. The 2011 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV starts at $34,160.

The 2011 Maxima Maxima’s sub-$35,000 starting prices have been well-received, and sales have been healthy, given the relatively modest numbers the automaker expects of this Nissan-brand flagship. Its maker says Maxima appeals to empty nesters and young Boomers and that its buyers are predominately men, age 45-50, college graduates with a median household income of $110,000 or so. It also says there’s an audience for front-wheel-drive sedan performance, which makes Maxima distinct from the more expensive rear- and all-wheel-drive Infiniti G sedans from Nissan’s luxury brand.

Nissan says the 3.5 SV accounts for about 80 percent of Maxima sales, and many buyers add the Sport Package. As detailed in the Features section above, this option includes a host of useful performance enhancements for $2,080. The3.5 SV Premium Package is priced at $3,230 and the Tech Package costs $1,850.

2011 Nissan Maxima Fuel Economy back to top

The 2011 Nissan Maxima fuel-economy ratings are among the best for any car its size and especially, its power. They are unchanged for 2011, at 19/26 mpg city/highway. This relative efficiency can be partly attributed to effectiveness of the CVT, though Maxima drivers pay more at the pump if they follow Nissan’s recommendation to use premium-octane fuel.

2011 Nissan Maxima Release Date back to top

The 2011 Nissan Maxima went on sale in August 2010.

What's next for the 2011 Nissan Maxima back to top

Look for minor styling changes for the 2012 Nissan Maxima. Considered a midcycle freshening before the all-new next-generation Maxima bows as a 2014 model, the 2012 updates will likely involve subtle alterations to the car’s grille and front fascia, possibly some new taillamp lenses, perhaps new wheel designs. Nissan could revamp some interior materials and trim, too. A slight bump in horsepower is possible, but probably not if it means a reduction in fuel economy ratings. In fact, Nissan likely would seek to boost EPA ratings.

2011 Nissan Maxima Competition back to top

2011 Acura TL: This is really an entry-luxury-class sedan from Honda’s premium division, but its size, front-drive/V-6 orientation, and sporty focus tab it as a Maxima competitor. Notable differences include the Acura’s higher base price range – roughly $36,500-$40,000 -- and the presence of the top-line TL model with more than 300 horsepower, all-wheel drive, and available six-speed manual transmission. The TL’s styling generates plenty of debate, but there’s no doubt it’s a solid performer. The 2012 TL is in line for a midcycle freshening with a full redesign expected for model-year 2014, at which time a gas-electric hybrid could join the lineup.

2011 Audi A4: Maxima pricing places it slightly above top-line V-6 versions of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, while its performance-bent separates it from the likes of the Lexus ES 350 (itself a gilded Camry). But shop the lower end of the Audi A4 line and you’ll find a Maxima rival this stylish and highly roadable sedan with an overachieving turbo four and a CVT. The front-drive version starts around $33,000, the all-wheel-drive sedan around $34,000. The A4 also offers an classy all-wheel-drive A4 Avant station wagon. These German cars are due a freshening for model-year 2013 and could add a diesel V-6 engine to the line in the process.

2011 Volkswagen CC: Another interesting Maxima option from within the VW/Audi group is this sedan with a trendy fastback-coupe roofline and a debonair four-passenger cabin. Mainstream front-drive CCs use the same turbo four found in the base A4, but start right around $30,000. Equip one similarly to a Maxima 3.5 SV, with leather, sunroof, and the like, and you’re around $35,000 to start. An all-wheel-drive V-6 CC with about 280 horsepower tops $41,000. The CC probably will be freshened for model-year 2012.