By: Mike Ginsca
The Maxima is the flagship luxury sedan for Nissan but since its redesign in 2009, it has remained under the radar for most consumers. However, the low-profile of this sedan does make it feel like an exclusive vehicle that offers Infiniti levels of luxury for blue collar prices.
A disclaimer before going on, while this may be a 2013 model, the 2014 model year Maxima is essentially the same but with a few different options as standard and there is no 2015 model year because a new generation Maxima will be coming later as a 2016 model year.
Performance – While a lot of manufacturers are switching to turbocharged inline-4 cylinder engines even in their flagship models, Nissan had decided to stick with a more traditional V6 for the Maxima. It is the same V6 that is found in numerous Infiniti vehicles and the 350Z sports car. It is a very powerful engine but for the front-wheel-drive Nissan Maxima, it may be a bit too powerful. 290hp and 261 lb-ft of torque would be fine if it was all-wheel-drive or rear-wheel-drive but on a front-wheel-drive vehicle, the power gets wasted in certain situations. You have to be gentle with the throttle when making a right or left turn from a stop at an intersection. If you’re not gentle, the front wheels will just be endlessly spinning and you won’t go anywhere. Of course at a point traction control will intervene and rain-in the power but then why have that much power in the first place? Really the only situation in which having a 290hp engine is beneficial in a front-wheel-drive vehicle is on highways when overtaking slower traffic. Mated to a CVT (continuously variable transmission) that can be controlled manually, the engine has more than enough grunt to pull the 1600+kg Maxima body out of the slipstream of the vehicle in front and overtake it without breaking a sweat.
When travelling around corners enthusiastically, the Nissan Maxima actually feels better than most other competitor sedans. The steering wheel is nicely weighted and there is a level of precision when turning that is usually found on sports cars, not large sedans. The whole car also feels planted when driving at high speeds on a highway; 100km/h actually feels more like 70km/h in the Maxima thanks to the supple suspension and well insulated cabin.
Comfort – Because of the well insulated cabin, long journeys are quiet and relaxing whether you’re behind the wheel or a passenger in the Nissan Maxima. The car seats five and there is a generous amount of room in the back seats for adults as well as children. Trunk space is also generous with 402 Liters of space. The only downfall of the cabin is the look of the dashboard. While the materials that Nissan used in the dashboard are of good quality, the design looks dated when compared with other sedans. Also the placement of the controls for the infotainment system requires a bit of a reach and should have been placed on the center console next to the drive selector. This may be nitpicking but it’s the little details that could make or break a deal for customers looking to purchase a new vehicle.
Odds and Ends – Some important details that were overlooked for the Maxima have to do with safety. While it still performed well in crash tests conducted by the IIHS (4 out of 5 stars), its little brothers (the Altima and Sentra) managed to out-perform it and those vehicles received “Top Safety Picks” from the IIHS. The Nissan Maxima is also not available with electronic safety features that are found in less expensive models such as the Rogue. The Maxima is not available with Blind Side monitoring, Lane departure warning, Forward Collision warning, and Moving Object Detection.
Overall the Nissan Maxima is a good but dated car. It drives surprisingly well, it is very comfortable, and it feels like you’re driving a car that costs at least $10,000 more than it actually does. But its lack of new technologies such as direct fuel injection to save fuel or advancements in safety features are leaving the Maxima in the dust of its competitors from Mazda, Toyota, and Ford to name a few.
Thank you to West Coast Nissan for providing the vehicle and visit their website to view this and other vehicles that are available for purchase or lease. www.WestCoastNissan.ca
Editor at large and gearhead. Can drive anything on 4 or 2 wheels... sometimes 3 wheels too.