Long-ago, the Nissan Maxima made its mark by being the “four door sports car.” They were fun to drive, yet practical everyday. The newest Maxima retains that moniker by the Nissan marketing department, but is the new car sporty? That’s what we hoped to find out with our week with the car.
The Maxima is a handsome-looking, four door, full-size sedan with great tech features, solid performance, and a good price. Our fully-loaded Platinum edition had everything from ventilated seats to adaptive cruise control. It even supports Apple’s Car Play connectivity, but not Android Auto yet.
At $42,460, the Maxima isn’t the least-expensive car out there, but the package is compelling and there’s a lot of reasons why you’d consider the car for your next purchase.
To begin, let’s take a look at the performance. Is the car a sports car? No. Is it a sporty car? Absolutely.
Powering the Maxima is a 300 horsepower 3.5L V6 making 261 lb-ft of torque. That power is sent to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission. In most cars I’m not a fan of the way a CVT behaves, and it’s definitely not perfect in the Maxima, it’s livable. When you’re hard the on the throttle it mimics a true automatic by choosing from pre-programmed steps in the rev range. On one rather quick shift, it made the transition so quickly that there was an actually jolt that felt like a real transmission shifting.
A CVT doesn’t feel as connected as a regular or dual-clutch automatic transmission, but they are efficient and they’re something Nissan likes to use. I was skeptical before the loan, and after a week I felt that it’s a transmission I could live with.
The V6 engine revs quickly, and it makes peak torque at 4,400 RPM. That means it’s an engine you need to rev out some to really have some fun. Luckily it sounds pretty good when you do that.
Is it the best sports sedan I’ve ever driven? No. But it was pleasantly surprising and an enjoyable experience.
The fully-loaded Platinum edition has all the safety features you’d expect, including blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, adaptive cruise control, autonomous emergency braking, and even LED headlights for seeing at night easier.
Being a full-size sedan, space is plentiful, with enough room for full-size adults in the rear seats and a big enough trunk to haul everyone’s things on a road trip. The seats are comfortable — Nissan calls them Zero-Gravity Seats — and the fronts are heated and ventilated.
The infotainment system includes Nissan’s connected services and support for Apple Car Play. While Car Play is great, a small demerit is deserved for not having Android Auto support yet. The stock infotainment system is easy to use, and the navigation system’s warning chimes are the most pleasant I’ve heard in a car.
The fuel economy rating for the Maxima is 30 mpg on the highway, 21 mpg in the city, or 25 mpg combined. Those are solid numbers for a car of this size, and according to the on-board computer it was an easy number to achieve.
What’s not to like? There are a few tiny gripes.
First off, I’m still not 100% sold on a CVT as a transmission. While it’s impressive for a CVT, a traditional automatic would be preferred.
The Maxima is only available with front-wheel drive. Most people don’t need all-wheel drive, but many customers have it in their heads that because they get a little snow, they need the extra grip. Nissan is leaving money on the table by not offering it.
Also, it’s really annoying that only the low-beam headlights are LED.
Ultimately the Nissan Maxima is a solid car with a competitive price. It’s sportier than you’d think while still delivering a competent everyday ride. It looks intelligent without being over-the-top. While it’s not the newest car in this segment, or the most-powerful, it delivers on everything I’d want in a respectable daily driver. It’s one of the most-compelling products in the Nissan lineup.