Since the 1990s, Nissan pawned the Maxima as “The 4 Door Sports Car.” It is not a sports car; it’s a full-size luxury sedan loaded to the dual-pane moonroof with every conceivable comfort and safety feature. What it looks like is a four-door stealth fighter and feels a little like a C6 Corvette when looking forward from the driver’s seat. So, maybe it is kinda like a 4 Door Sports Car – or maybe it is just a swift family cruiser.
Sleek Style, Texas Chic
Front to back, the design is streaming muscle. It starts with Nissan’s V-Motion grille flanked by LED headlamps and runs back to bulging fenders, slammed floating roof, and quad exhaust outlets – all placed over dark 19-inch alloys. LED running lamps and subtle lip spoiler add spice. It’s a striking design, looking a bit like a stealth fighter from the front, whether sitting at the curb or encouraging people to get out of your way on the expressway.
If the exterior channels aviation, then the interior predicts a utopian future in which Texas is king. Like Nissan’s pickups and SUVs, the Maxima gets the Platinum Reserve package with diamond quilted saddle leather seats, contrasting leather on the dash/doors, brown dash stitching, and satin bronze diamond-stamped trim that looks like hand-formed sheetmetal for that rough-hewn fashion statement. Adding comfort are heated and ventilated front seats, heated outboard rear seats, and a heated steering wheel. Check the dual pane moonroof, automatic wipers, and dual-zone automatic climate control too.
A full array of electronic toys keeps everybody safe and entertained. The intuitive touchscreen and console joywheel control Bose audio, navigation, and vehicle settings. Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and Bluetooth knit in iThings. There are easier infotainment systems to use, but Nissan’s works fine and the Bose audio sounds pretty sweet.
If you only looked forward, you could gaze at the flat-bottom leather-wrapped steering wheel, monitor the flat screen info display, see the flared fenders, and fiddle controls low down in the console to be convinced you were behind the wheel of a sports car. A head-up display – not available – would complete the illusion. Turn around, however, and you’ll see a panoramic moonroof, roomy back seat, and rear window with power shade – definitely not a sports car.
Swift Power, Tight Handling
Kicking it up Interstate 69 between Indianapolis and Fort Wayne proved no problem, eliciting only a throaty song from the exhaust as the 3.5-liter V6 engine revved up the continuously-variable transmission. Output is rated 300 horsepower and 261 lb.-ft. of torque. Step into the throttle at virtually any reasonable speed and the car surges ahead. I don’t love CVTs, but Nissan’s is pretty smooth and can be shifted manually. Fuel economy is rated a quite reasonable 20/30-MPG city/highway.
Driving the Maxima fast feels natural with the firm suspension, heavy steering, and peppy powertrain, especially when flicked into Sport mode. I wish the suspension was a little more compliant because it can be harsh over road rough and pavement seams, but the car does feel planted. Adding confidence is a full suite of crash avoidance technology that includes forward collision warning with auto brake, blind spot warning, lane keep assist, and rear cross path detection with auto brake. Adaptive cruise keeps a safe distance.
The Maxima has never been a four-door sports car, just a roomy and handsome family car that is a joy to drive. Isn’t that enough? Given sleek styling, smooth V6 engine, the latest infotainment, and Texas chic interior, it should be. A base price of $34,050, or $45,225 as tested, puts it against the Toyota Avalon, Kia Stinger, Chrysler 300, and Acura TLX.
2019 Nissan Maxima
- Five-passenger, FWD Sedan
- Powertrain: 3.5-liter V6, CVT
- Output: 300hp/261 lb.-ft. torque
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 19”/19” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Style, Performance
- Fuel economy: 20/30 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Smyrna, TN
- Base/As-tested price: $34,050/$45,225