There was a time not too long ago when each and every iconic Nissan Maxima SE sedan sold in this country came equipped with its very own special sticker that spelled out the true intent and nature of this “4.D.S.C.” What did that tiny little sticker mean exactly to driving enthusiasts? Well, for anyone who took it for a test drive - especially after a visit to see the 3-series from that era - it quite obviously stood for “4. Door. Sports. Car.” Yes, the Maxima SE committed the heretical act of being front wheel drive in a world where rear drive meant sporty.
The DNA of each one of the early Maxima sedans came naturally imbued with an inspiringly sporty sounding, reliable and fast V6 engine that had in another life been honed in Nissan’s own Z sports cars. Now, if you take a gander at what Honda was doing at the same time it is easy to see that they didn’t really have anything to truly compete with the Maxima as only their luxury brand Acura boasted V6 engines. But still, Honda was selling Accords in record numbers and no one could deny how expertly the engineers linked bomb-proof and rev-happy 4-cylinder engines with some of the slickest manual transmissions on Earth. Sadly, the only Accord rival Nissan had was the Stanza sedan which stands as one of the laziest family sedan styling jobs from any automaker even during an era when barely making an effort was still considered fashionable (hint: think Courtney Love).
Sadly it took Honda until 1995 to debut a V6 engine in the Accord family sedan by borrowing a 2.7 liter engine from the previous generation Acura Legend. The Honda’s V6 was smooth enough but as for brute strength it was no match for the Maxima with its rather brutal and hairy chested acceleration characteristics. Not only was the Maxima a powerhouse in its day but it sometimes also liked to pull at the steering wheel right in the direction of random roadside shrubbery. This problem, known as “torque steer,” afflicts many front drive cars and to this day can be experienced in pretty much any turbocharged Mini.
Fast forward to 2012 and hop into either the Honda Accord EX-L V6 with its 271 horsepower 3.5 liter V6 or the latest Maxima 3.5 SV which pumps out 291 horsepower and you will find these two not only afford family sedan buyers with plenty of addictive engine power but also demonstrate none of the old high powered front wheel drive family car demons. They manage all of this while still providing occupants with enough cubbies and cup holders to store smart phones, pens, spurious unnecessary junk, red bulls, Dr. Pepper fountain drinks or even the occasional bottle of water.
Not only that, these near identically powered front drive sport sedans are also positively huge inside making them perfect for commuting, family/grocery hauling duties as well as keeping the main driver very happy behind the wheel. Simply put, the Maxima and the Accord both share a history in which they have proven to be not only reliable family transport but also two of the most entertaining choices in that vehicle class. So which one did we like best? And do models like the turbocharged 4-cylinder Optima SX, the 2012 Passat VR6 or the new Toyota Camry SE-V6 cause any sort of ripple in the family car pond that the Maxima and Accord once owned?
But that is neither here nor there because we road tested these V6 family sedan icons back to back so thanks to this serendipitous occurrence we will subject them to a comparison test to see who truly is the reigning champion. At least for a few more months, anyways.