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Nissan Maxima: Enduring Sedan for Decades

By James Raia, July 6th, 2019

Nearly 40 years after its debut via the long gone defunct manufacturer Datsun, the Nissan Maxima has endured an influx of rivals and remains a solid large sedan choice. But there's a catch: sales are suffering.

The Maxima peaked in 2005 with more than 75,000 units sold. Last year, the numbers slipped to just over 42,000. Intense competition from ever-increasing SUVs sales mean the market share for large sedans is shrinking while diverse options abound, from the Dodge Charger to Hyundai Sonata.

For 2019, Nissan makes it simple, at least in one respect: The Maxima is available with one engine option, a 3.5-liter V-6 with 300 horsepower. It's propelled by a continuously variable automatic transmission and front-wheel drive.

The Maxima is available in S, SV, SL, SR, and Platinum trims, with the mid-level SL option my review vehicle. For 2019, this current eighth generation Maxima's exterior is more modern and a few additional safety vehicles are available.

All trim levels include a healthy offering of standard features, including 18-inch wheels, LED headlights and daytime running lights, foglights, remote engine start, keyless entry and ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and dual-zone automatic climate control.

Adjustable driving modes, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power-adjustable front seats, a 60/40-split rear seat, a navigation system, an 8-inch touchscreen, two USB ports, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration are standard on upper trims. An eight-speaker audio system with satellite radio is also in the mix.

Standard safety systems include a rearview camera and forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking.

The SL trim features equipment from the SV trim, including navigation, adaptive cruise control, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, heated mirrors, heated front seats, leather upholstery, and an upgraded driver seat. It also features a dual-panel sunroof, active noise reduction, front and rear parking sensors, a heated steering wheel, ambient interior lighting, and a Bose premium audio system.

Add it all up and the Maxima's equipment list is impressive, particularly considering its cost. With two additional small charges -- an accessory package ($360) and destination fee ($895) -- the total price is just under $40,000.

Designers did well with the Maxima. It's in the growing group of vehicles that share an important trait: As should be expected in large sedans, the Maxima is immediately comfortable. The interior is handsome, made with quality materials, and is efficiently designed.

The Maxima provides a smooth, balanced ride. It negotiates rough roads easily and quietly. But it's also a sedan with an athletic personality.

Front- and rear-seat passengers have adequate space. But competitors like the full-size Chevy Impala and midsize Honda Accord sedans have more room. Trunk space is also only adequate.

Nissan promotes the Maxima as a four-door sports car. It's peppy, and can achieve 0-to-60 mph in 5.9 seconds. However, it's easy to understand purists who claim four-door sports cars don't exist. The Maxima is plenty sporty. But the Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat (6.2-liter, V-8, 707 horsepower) Mercedes-Benz AMG E63 S (4.0-liter, V-8, 603 horsepower), and Porsche Panamera (4.0-liter, V-8, 550 horsepower) really ARE four-door sports cars.

As a powerful sedan, the Nissan Maxima is rated at 20 miles per gallon in the city, 30 mpg in freeway driving. The ratings are better than most competitors.

Large sedans were once viewed as a status symbol; they're no longer as en vogue. But the Nissan Maxima mixes tradition with sportiness and comfort with workmanship. It's approaching its 40th birthday and warrants some respect.


Base price $38,540 (as tested: $39,795)
Curb weight 3,552 lbs.
Displacement 3.5-liter
Engine type 24-valve V-6
Epa mileage rating 20 mpg city, 30 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 18.0 gal.
Horsepower (net) 300 at 6400 rpm
Overall length 192.8 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 261 at 4400 rpm
Transmission CVT
Vehicle type 5-passenger FWD full-size sedan
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