The Nissan Maxima has had a long history, first introduced in 1980.
Ever since its debut, the Maxima has been battling for full size sedan supremacy against fierce competitors. The segment was dominated by a Japanese trio for the longest time, including the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The Maxima had great success with its award winning power plant. But eventually the Maxima seemed to have grown a size, and into the shadows of the Camry and Accord.
For the current generation, Nissan has decided to take the Maxima into a slightly direction and hopefully differentiate itself from the pack where it now plays, along with rivals like the Toyota Avalon (reviewed here) and Buick LaCrosse. In 2019, Nissan claims the Maxima is a four-door sports car (“4DSC”) instead of a full size family sedan. We got into a 2019 Nissan Maxima Platinum to investigate whether Nissan has been successful in taking the Maxima into a new direction.
Looks are very subjective, but most would agree that Nissan has nailed it when designing the Maxima. They’ve followed through with their claim and delivered a sharp-looking four-door sports car. The designers have taken a lot of design cues from the flagship GT-R (reviewed here). The Maxima does look like they softened the GT-R’s aggressive stance by smoothing out the angles for a more fluid look. Nissan’s new signature Vmotion grille is incorporated into the design, leading into a low and chiseled chin spoiler.
The jewel LED headlights with V-shaped LED daytime running lights make the front end sharp and aggressive. The A and C pillars are blacked out to create a floating roofline. The rear end has bumper-incorporated quad exhaust tips surrounded by a black rear valence. The Maxima is a family sedan dressed with very aggressive and sporty features. This creates the most interesting looking option in a rather dull segment.
The interior design of the Maxima deserves praise, though there definitely is room for improvement. Starting with the good; materials are excellent. Leather is lathered everywhere from the door panels to the bulkhead, and down to the central console. It all ties together with beautiful contrast stitching, and there’s diamond stitching on the seats as well. A flat bottom steering wheel is used to add to the sporty feeling the Maxima is advertised to provide. The seats are very supple and supportive, but the seating position is quite high. Combining this with a low roofline, headroom feels compromised.
The infotainment system is responsive and easy to use. Ease of use is enhanced with mobile connectivity using Android Auto and Apple CarPlay However, the piano black surround panel makes the whole system feel out of place. The buttons themselves are illuminated with orange lighting that makes the interior seem dated. A different ambient lighting scheme would make a huge impact and elevate the Maxima’s ambience significantly.
Powered by Nissan’s renowned VQ35DE engine, the Maxima produces 300 horsepower at 6,400RPM and 261 lb-ft. of torque at 4,400RPM. The engine feels buttery smooth with linear power delivery. Being a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6, it produces performance without being strained or feeling high strung. The CVT transmission is fairly smooth and refined without any whine or drone; Nissan has nailed this configuration.
However, the Maxima’s personality is the exact opposite to the sports car Nissan hoped to build. It is very smooth and gets up to speed without any fuss but does not necessarily deliver any sense of engagement. There is a manual shift mode available for the CVT transmission to simulate six gear ratios, but with a lack of paddle shifters, the “sport” is missing from the Maxima’s heart. It must be noted that in SR trim, the Maxima does come with a beautiful set of column-mounted paddle shifters – we would have liked to see these across the trim line.
Driving the Maxima you will quickly realize the sports car credentials, are somewhat skin deep. The suspension is excellent in absorbing bumps and smoothing out the ride. The steering is very light making daily duty easy, but it lacks road feel. High-speed cruising is where the Maxima really shines; the buttery smooth drivetrain and supple ride makes this an excellent long distance cruiser.
At the end of the day, the Maxima is designed to haul a small family in comfort. The main features that are going to help it sell include comfort, efficiency and practicality. It’s capable of yielding fuel consumption of 7.9L/100km city and 11.6L/100km highway for a combined 9.9L/100km. We observed an average of 10.5L/100km during my week of testing, an excellent average for a car with this output and size. It also remains practical for my family with ample room for the kids, and a big trunk for all the gear for everyday living. Cargo capacity is an impressive 405-liters with a large opening for easy loading.
Standard safety features are also plentiful in the Maxima. Impressive features such as emergency braking with pedestrian detection, rear cross traffic alert and lane departure warning are all on board. A surround-view camera is also an excellent standard feature, which makes maneuvering the full size sedan through tighter spaces a piece of cake.
Nissan Canada prices Maxima starting at $41,140, while our Platinum tester came in at $45,900. The Maxima’s main competition includes models like the Dodge Charger (reviewed here), Buick LaCrosse, and Toyota Avalon. To some extent, it also competes with entry-level models of the Genesis G80 and the forgettable Kia Cadenza. Front-drive full-sizer sales are still going strong in this crossover-dominated market, and the Maxima sets itself apart with sporting pretentions and captivating styling.
The 2019 Nissan Maxima Platinum looks the part when compared to its rivals, but with some of its sportiness remaining skin-deep, it remains questionable whether the proposition is enough to draw new customers. The top-notch quality and beautiful design will definitely draw a crowd looking for something stylish and different. Buyers will not be disappointed with the new Maxima, as long as you don’t expect it to drive like a legitimate sports car.