This ain’t no disco.
The Nissan Maxima lives in an uncomfortable purgatory between the more spacious, less expensive Nissan Altima and the more sporting, premium-badged Infiniti Q50. Despite this, Nissan isn’t giving up on its flagship sedan, and the model benefits from a nip and tuck for the 2019 model year that includes refreshed front and rear fascias, revised wheel designs, new LED headlights and taillights, and a number of additional safety features, including newly available knee and rear-seat-side airbags, a rear-door-alert system that reminds the driver to check the back seat for things such as children or animals, and a traffic sign recognition system on higher-end trims.
Yes, the 2019 Maxima is better than its 2018 counterpart, but it’s still a far cry from the “four-door sports car” it once was. That said, with the Altima now relying exclusively on four-cylinder engines, the Maxima now holds court as the sole Nissan sedan with a V6 engine. The 3.5-liter V6 produces 300 horsepower, which it spits to the front wheels by way of a continuously variable transmission. That’s an extra 52 horses over the Altima’s available turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, but no better than the more refined, twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that’s available in the comparably priced, rear-wheel-drive Q50.
save over $3,400 on average off MSRP* on a new Nissan Maxima
Greg Fink, Senior Editor
- Favorite Thing: The Rakuda Tan Leather
- Least Favorite Thing: The Steering
I can’t fathom why Nissan keeps the Maxima around, as it’s neither a particularly good near-luxury vehicle or sports sedan. Whereas competitors such as the Toyota Avalon and Volkswagen Arteon boast more than 40 inches of rear legroom, the Maxima makes do with a mere 34.2 inches of legroom (even the Altima offers 35.2 inches of rear legroom). Seriously, it’s cramped back there.
If you’re thinking the Maxima is a sports sedan and not a luxury sedan, then prepare for disappointment. With its front-wheel-drive underpinnings, as well as steering that’s both too fast and too light at speed (and, for some reason, needlessly heavy at a standstill), the Maxima fails to inspire confidence during more dynamic drives. A Kia Stinger offers more driving engagement for less money (the $32,990 Kia rings in $1,060 less than the Nissan).
This isn’t to say the Maxima lacks redeemable qualities, and Nissan’s flagship sedan benefits from stand-out styling (whether you like it is a different story), an ergonomically friendly interior that includes large and clearly marked buttons for the stereo and climate control systems, and one of the better CVTs in the business (the transmission neither drones the engine nor suffers from the rubber-band-like feeling that define the worst CVTs). I’m also quite fond of this tester’s Rakuda Tan leather that’s part of the Reserve package. Limited to the top-of-the-line $41,540 Platinum trim, the $1,140 Reserve package also includes heated outboard-rear seats, package-specific 19-inch wheels, black headliner, and a bevy of bronze trim pieces throughout the interior.
Still, these advantages can’t overcome the Maxima’s half-assed attempt as both a near-luxury vehicle and a sports sedan. To paraphrase Ron Swanson: “It’s better to whole ass one thing than half ass two things.”
Jeff Perez, Senior Editor
- Favorite Thing: The Sharp Styling
- Least Favorite Thing: Sub-Par Dynamics
Whether you love or hate the Nissan Maxima's styling, you can't fault designers for at least taking a risk. In lower trims, especially with the smaller 18-inch wheels and without some of the Platinum Reserve's upgraded cues, it doesn't look great. But with the 19-inch gunmetal wheels on our tester (part of the $1,440 Reserve package), the sultry Carnelian Red paint ($395 for 2019), and the spoiler ($495), the Maxima looks genuinely great. Not counting the GT-R, the Maxima is probably the best-looking vehicle in the Nissan lineup at the moment.
A lot of that same intrepid styling carries over the cabin, too. The Rakuda Tan leather seats (part of the Reserve package) give the sub-luxury car a more well-appointed feel, as does the premium charcoal headliner and many of the leather finishes. The sport floor and trunk mats (a $395 option) also give the Maxima a bit more panache.
The problem, though, is that the Maxima is no sports sedan, despite what Nissan says. Visually, the car might trick consumers into thinking otherwise, but it only takes a few minutes behind the wheel of the full-size sedan to realize that there's nothing truly sporty about it. We appreciate the Maxima's 3.5-liter V6, at least, which delivers a high-for-the-class 350 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque, and the CVT is… fine. But the front-wheel-drive setup, sub-par steering, and genuinely lackluster driving feel don't do anything to help the Maxima's case.
Simon Gomez, Managing Editor, Motor1.com U.S. Latino
- Favorite Thing: The 3.5-liter V6
- Least Favorite Thing: The Convoluted Styling
The merits of styling are subjective by definition. Nothing is everybody’s cup of tea, as this dissent with my colleague Jeff Perez’s opinion clearly shows. I see a complete lack of visual consistency as the major fault in the Maxima’s style. Its convoluted front end is clearly at odds with its more orderly rear end. Looking at them coming and going together is like witnessing a forced and unhappy marriage in real-time.
It’s a shame Nissan couldn’t take the opportunity afforded by the Maxima’s refresh to make some more coherent and elegant changes, akin to the look introduced on the new Altima. A subtle styling tweak for the 2019 Maxima, didn’t do much to alleviate the issues though.
Lift that mess of a hood up, and find one of the last refuges of the naturally aspirated V6, an engine that Nissan has refined to a fault. Feeling smooth and solid, this 3.5-liter mill has 300 horsepower on tap, which ismore than enough power to move the big Maxima with authority. In urban traffic, the 3.5-liter itself feels completely discreet and anonymous, while making the car feel important and substantial. On the highway its reminds you, both dynamically and acoustically, that it is right there for you to have fun with if you are so inclined.
Gallery: 2019 Nissan Maxima Drive Notes
2019 Nissan Maxima Platinum Reserve