Nissan Maxima — A solid value

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

While sedans are a dying breed, the victim of crossover SUV popularity, it appears Nissan is bucking the trend, continuing to invest in its stable of sedans with updated and refreshed models up and down the lineup. The near-full-sized Maxima is a prime example, the object of a mid-cycle freshening for 2019.

Maxima has faced some stiff competition from the likes of the Chevrolet Impala, Ford Taurus and Chrysler 300, but Detroit thinks large sedans are dead. That leaves mainly Japanese brands to carry the sedan flag and Maxima presents a good argument for the sedan's continued place in the automotive pecking order.

It was a styling trend setter when the latest generation came out as a 2016 model and its curvaceous look as worn well over the past four years. Adding to its allure, Nissan has upgraded exterior styling with new LED headlamps, larger fog-lamp surrounds, new chrome detailing on the front bumper, and a new lower rear fascia with integrated quad exhaust finishers. The changes keep the Maxima up to date with such newer entries as the mid-sized 2019 Altima and the mid-sized crossover Murano, which received similar styling upgrades this year.

The Maxima retains its basic look, which is a head-turning package including a double U-shaped grille, intersecting creases, swooping character lines, blacked-out pillars, and quarter-panel flares. It's particularly fetching in sporty SR trim such as our test car with its black 19-inch wheels. The Maxima falls just short of being considered a full-sized sedan, but slots above the current mid-sizers with a length of nearly 193 inches and a 109-inch wheelbase. It's an excellent size for transporting four adults, although rear-seat leg-room — while certainly adequate — falls on the short side at 34.2 inches compared to other cars remaining in the segment such as the Toyota Avalon.

While the trend is to turbocharged 4-cylinder engines, the Maxima continues on with its healthy 3.5-liter V-6 making 300 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 261 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. Regardless of trim level — S, SV, SL, SR and Platinum — you get the V-6 mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). While the Maxima is no performance behemoth, it acquits itself quite well with a published 0-to-60 time of 5.8 seconds. Unfortunately, all-wheel drive is not available. Gas mileage as measured by the EPA is rated at 20 mpg city, 30 highway and 24 combined on premium gas, which is recommended.

We aren't fans of the CVT, but Nissan has done a good job providing seamlessly smooth acceleration that simulates standard gears when accelerating hard, eliminating the typical CVT automatic droning effect.

If you are looking to get close to a performance sedan, opt for the SR trim level. The SR gets a sport-tuned suspension, paddle shifters, active engine sound enhancement, and 19-inch wheels. A word of warning here — many people in the market for a near luxury sedan might find the suspension too stiff in the SR. Be advised to take a test drive and you might find the other trim levels more to your taste.

The very good looking interior is equally as interesting as the exterior
with a driver-oriented cockpit, quilted seats, contrasting stitching, a center stack angled by seven degrees toward the driver, and a flat-bottomed steering wheel. The SR model comes with a black headliner and orange detailing on the quilted leather and microsuede ventilated front seats.

Bluetooth connectivity, a USB and USB-C port, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard along with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant integration. Higher trim models come with navigation, active noise canceling and additional ports. A bundle of driver-assistance features comes on the top two trim levels including front and rear automated emergency braking, pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, and automatic high-beam headlamps.

The Maxima is a quiet car as you would expect in this price range with a ride that falls between comfort and feel of the road. It is certainly akin to entry-level luxury cars and a clear step up from midsize family sedans. Seat comfort and adjustment are typical for the price range.

While the base S trim starts at $34,845 and is decently equipped, we recommend moving up $2,000 to the SV at $36,855 for worthwhile additional equipment including navigation, adaptive cruise control, blind-sport monitoring, heated front seats, and leather upholstery. The performance-oriented SR comes in at $40,425 and the top-of-the-line Platinum starts at $42,335. We drove two versions — the Platinum with several options including 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels and premium paint, and the SR with no options. The Platinum carried a bottom line of $45,225, and the SR stickered for $40,425.

Base price, $34,845; as driven, $40,425/$45,225
Engine: 3.5-liter V-6
Horsepower: 300 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 261 foot-pounds @ 4.400 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 109.3 inches
Length: 192.8 inches
Curb weight: 3,533 pounds
Turning circle: 38.1 feet
Luggage capacity: 14.3 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 18 gallons (premium recommended)
EPA rating: 20 city, 30 highway, 24 combined
0-60: 5.8 seconds (Motor Trend)
Also consider: Toyota Avalon, Chevrolet Impala, Kia Stinger

The Good
• Handsome, quiet cabin
• Decent performance
• Sporty driving persona with SR trim
• Styling leader

The Bad
• No all-wheel drive option

The Ugly
• Firm ride in SR trim