Test Drive Notes Library
- Grew on us. The Maxima is one of those cars that didn’t impress us in the first few minutes of driving. The ride felt a little hard. The steering felt a little heavy. But after a week with the Maxima, we grew to like driving it.
- Finally, kind of sporty. Nissan has long been marketing the Maxima as a four-door sports car. In reality, it’s always been a little less sporty than a Honda Accord. But the latest Maxima, at least in its sportiest SR trim, actually corners pretty well. It feels planted, has little body lean, and lacks that over-assisted steering feel of some other mid-market sedans.
- Quick! The 300 hp V6 is plenty powerful for this car. It’s got good low-end torque, so no waiting. Given that power, the EPA rating of 25 mpg overall is notable.
- Safety. As of 2020, the Maxima comes standard with all the safety stuff you need: Collision warning, automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, lane departure warning, and rear cross traffic alert. Our Maxima SR, with an MSRP of $41,450, also had Nissan’s excellent surround view camera, which is great for parking and tight-spot maneuvering.
- Good ergonomics. Controls are clear, well defined, and simple. Same goes for the infotainment system, which was not at all fussy or overly complicated.
- Quality interior. Fit and finish appears to be very good. Lots of the surfaces are padded. Materials are nice. Front seats are very comfortable. We found decent leg room in the back seats, although head room was stingy.
Test Drive Notes Library
- Hard ride. Luxury sports cars like Audi or Mercedes give you both good handling and very good comfort. Because the Maxima undercuts the price of those competitors, engineers had to skimp somewhere, and they focused on road-holding grip over tush-plushness. So you’ll get an occasional suspension slap going over road imperfections.
- Engine noise from CVT. As with most, if not all, continually variable transmissions, when you really step on it, the revs go up and stay up for a while. That’s when the engine gets loud. Around town, the CVT performed well, though.
- Tight quarters. It’s not cramped inside the Maxima, but from the outside, you’d think the interior would be roomier. We’d say it’s cozy. You feel surrounded by the car. There’s certainly enough room for a person of average height and girth, but it’s not airy and spacious feeling like some cars of similar size.
- Visibility. The Maxima has small-ish windows, and the price you pay for that style is poor visibility. Speaking of style, we backed the car into a space at our regular downtown parking lot one day, and the parking lot attendant said “Hey, same car,” pointing to the car parked next to the Maxima with a nearly identical grill. Turns out it was an Altima, so buyers shouldn’t buy the Maxima expecting any prestige points.
- Perfect compromise or no man’s land? Is it that much better than an Accord? When it costs as much as 1.333 Accords? Maybe it finds an audience there, like Acura used to with the Legend, or the later TL. Or maybe it’s not sporty nor comfortable enough to steal buyers from Audis and BMWs and is too pricey for someone looking to step up from an Altima?
Get the Car Talk Newsletter