2011 Nissan Maxima 3.5 SV Review

Side view of 2011 Nissan Maxima in desert

About 20 years ago, before my TireKicking days, I worked at KTVK in Phoenix with a reporter named Jay DeDapper. Jay seemed even in those pre-cyber days to have his own Bluetooth and Twitter connections in his brain. He'd know about the best new restaurant in any major city 30 seconds before it opened. He'd have read the latest book about...well, anything...cover to cover while the Barnes & Noble staff was unpacking the boxes.

Needless to say, I listened.

So when I found out that Jay refused to rent anything on out-of-town assignments but Nissan Maxima SEs from 1989 until he went to WABC, New York in 1992 (a refusal that was so vehement that on one occasion the Hertz crew at LAX surrendered and gave him one with a bashed-in trunk because it was the only one they had), I figured I should see what was so great about it. Having had the previous generation '88 as a rental, I couldn't imagine.

Well, Jay (no surprise) was right. Hertz now had two finicky reporters from Phoenix to deal with.

Nissan called the Maxima "The Four Door Sports Car" or "4DSC" in those days. And they were very nearly right. For the times, nothing came close, unless you wanted to up the ante to maybe a 5-series BMW. And our expense accounts, even in those free-spending days for TV news, had limits.

Nissan wandered away from that very successful formula after 1994. It's been 15 years of Maximas that really were just big Nissans: "The Four Door Car" could have been the ad campaign, if Nissan had put any promotional clout behind them (they really didn't).

2009 brought a new Maxima (the top of the line is now the SV instead of the SE), and the return of the "Four Door Sports Car" label. And while size, weight and complexity (find a car that hasn't added all three in the past decade and a half), it's very close to the old one in spirit.

A 24-valve V6 makes 290 horsepower, but with a Continuously Variable Transmission, manages to get 19 miles per gallon in the city and 26 on the highway. It rolls on 18 inch alloy wheels. Moonroof, fog lights, leather, power everything and a nine-speaker audio system are all standard.

Interior view of 2011 Nissan Maxima

Base price: $31,990. The tester I drove for a week added only a cold package (heated front seats, steering wheel and outside mirrors), Bluetooth, floor mats and a rear spoiler...resulting in a bottom line with destination charges of $33,900. A real bargain for what you get.

Is it as good as the '89-'94? Not in terms of sheer driving pleasure. But it's a great base to work from. If Nissan's engineers are allowed to evolve and refine it, this one could be even better.

UPDATE: Everything above still applies, except the base price...now up to $33,530. And the most recent tester sent our way was much more highly optioned...a rear spoiler ($370), floor and trunk mats ($180) and the Premium Package ($3,230), which adds a dual panel moonroof with power sunshades, HID Xenon headlights, premium leather-appointed seats, a climate-controlled driver's seat, heated front seats, a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel, which is also heated and wrapped in leather, paddle shifters, an automatic entry/exit system, driver's side memory for seat, mirrors and steering wheel, an auto-dimming driver's side outside mirror, heated outside mirrors with reverse tilt-down, rear bucket seats, eucalyptus wood-tone trim, a 7-inch color monitor and rear camera, AUX, USB and iPod jacks and a 2.0 GB Music Box with 800 MB of storage.

Bottom line (after $750 destination charge): $38,060.  If it were my money, I'd probably go with the more lightly optioned one from before and, even with the base price increase, come in at or under $35K. But the loaded one is so well equipped and so nice to live with, that I wouldn't talk you out of going for it. This sedan, this well done, with this much equipment at under $40,000 is one heckuva deal.


The Showroom New 24 Year Old Buick

1987 black Buick Regal GNX on showroom floor in 2011

Boulevard Buick in Signal Hill, California has probably seen its share of slow-moving units over its 50 years in business...but why has this brand-new 1987 Buick Regal GNX stayed on the showroom floor for almost half that time?

The fascinating story from the Los Angeles times via The Detroit Free Press.

News: GM To Offer Cordless In-Car Charging

Photo demonstrating GM cordless in-car charging

Cell phone charger cords are unsightly and often end up in the way of important stuff like gear shifts, HVAC and audio controls. Now, GM (at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas) is introducing cordless charging technology.

Full story from The Detroit News.


News: Toyota Takes On Sync

Toyota calls it "Entune"...and it's their answer to Ford's SYNC. So how is it? Gizmodo has details and video.

News: Ford To Debut Electric Focus at Consumer Electronics Show?

Glowing charging port for Ford Focus Electric

The 2011 North American International Auto Show starts in Detroit next week...but the buzz in the blogosphere is that Ford will unveil its electric Focus EV at this week's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

Full story from Automotive News (free registration required).

News: GM Shares OnStar

OnStar button

After 15 years as an almost-exclusive GM offering (Audi offered it briefly about a decade ago), General Motors is making OnStar available through its competitors. Vehicles from Ford, Chrysler, Toyota and Honda will soon feature OnStar, and aftermarket versions will be on the shelves at stores including Best Buy.

While I've consistently said I wouldn't part with 2 grand for a factory nav system, OnStar's list of features and price point make a lot more sense...and upgrades to the system happen on OnStar's end.

Full story at The Detroit News.


News: Wanna Bust A Bad Driver? There's An App For That.

DriveMeCrazy app on iPhonex

Cut off in traffic? Launch the DriveMeCrazy app on your smartphone, read his license plate and make a comment. Just know...your plate's likely to be on there too, and the information is being forwarded to insurers and law enforcement.

Full story from LifeHacker.

News: Meet The 29 Year Old Who's About To Change Your Radio Presets

Jake Sigal is about to put AM, FM and XM/Sirius in the dustbin of history. Meet the man who's about to bring internet radio to your car.

Full story from The Detroit Free Press here.

News: Fiat Increasing Stake In Chrysler, "No Immediate Plans" To Merge

Looks like Fiat's going to increase its stake in Chrysler to 51% before the IPO comes along. But a full-on merger?  Sergio says "not now".

Full story from The Detroit News.

News: 7 Insurers Sue Toyota

Toyota logo

Never mind that, apart from floormats trapping gas pedals, there's never been a single proven case of unintended acceleration,  seven insurance companies want Toyota to pay up for crashes the insurers say were caused by  "a defect that causes sudden uncontrolled acceleration to speeds of up to 100 mph or more".

Uh-huh.  Seriously.  Odds are overwhelming that the insurers' clients were standing on the wrong pedal.

Full story from The Detroit News.

News: Ford Edge, Lincoln MKX Lose CR Recommendation Over MyTouch

Consumer Reports logo

Okay, this is trouble.

Consumer Reports has pulled its "Recommended" status from the Ford Edge and Lincoln MKX crossovers because the new MyTouch telematics system is "unwieldy, difficult to use and requires drivers to take their eyes off the road. 

More than one Detroit insider had said this day was coming, that Ford boss Allan Mulally's one weak spot was his belief, forged in his days of running Boeing, that complex onboard electronics are a good thing. What those insiders say Mulally doesn't get is that there are at least two people at the controls of a jumbo jet, auto-pilot is always an option and air traffic control has your back...none of which apply on the road.

Full story from The Detroit News.


News: Cadillac Kills The SRX Turbo

2011 Cadillac SRT Turbo on winding road

Fun is fun, but if nobody's showing up for the party, well.....

GM Inside News says it's confirmed that Cadillac is dropping the Turbo model of its SRX crossover. Goodbye, 300 horsepower. But also goodbye, 15 miles per gallon city. Which might have a lot to do with it. As might the publicity garnered last spring when more than one of those turbo engines did its impression of a grenade after suffering the indignity of being fed regular fuel rather than premium.

Full story here.

2011 Cadillac STS Review

Front view of 2011 Cadillac STS

Cadillac's upcoming XTS sedan will not only replace the DTS, but the STS as well. What's an STS? Can't blame you...this is another strong sedan that's been neglected in the marketing department and overshadowed by its smaller (and brilliant) sibling, the CTS.

And that's a shame, too....because while the STS never really got to be the BMW 5-Series killer many had hoped it would be, it's a terrific sedan.

Consider the specs:  Available in rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive...a 3.6-liter V6 engine making 302 horsepower and 272 pounds per foot of torque with a six-speed automatic transmission standard...and an EPA mileage rating of 18 city/27 highway.

But, unlike its big brother DTS, you have to dig a bit to find a big discount over the 5-Series. The entry level 5 (the 528i) starts at $45,050...the lowest-rung STS is $47,280. But the STS has 60 more horsepower. Move to erase that deficit, and you're looking at the 300-horsepower (2 less than the Cad) 535i,  and the price tag for that Bimmer is $50,100.

Interior view of 2011 Cadillac STS

The other weak point for the STS is that Cadillac's been planning its demise for a while...meaning not much has gone into upgrades the past few years...especially in the interior. Nothing's seriously wrong, mind you...it's just that it looks and feels a full generation behind what a 2011 luxury car should look and feel like.  And that's at the $47,280 price point. Start clicking the option boxes and you can get an STS past $60,000 without a lot of strain.

The XTS promises to be quite a car, and, frankly, more of a replacement for the STS than the DTS. The time has come for change. But GM's neglect of upgrades and marketing for the STS deprived a lot of people from discovering this car in its prime...and its dealers of thousands of sales to what would have been satisfied customers.

(review vehicle courtesy Lund Cadillac)