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2018 Nissan Altima vs. 2018 Nissan Maxima: What’s the Difference?

  • The Nissan Maxima offers luxury touches.

  • The Nissan Altima will be all-new for 2019.

  • The Maxima is to the Murano as the Altima is to the Rogue.

The 2018 Nissan Altima and 2018 Nissan Maxima are the two mid-size sedans offered by Nissan. In a time where sedans seem to be growing more and more alike, it may be a bit difficult to tell these two apart. Below, we’ll discuss their major differences to help you understand the dynamic between the two.

Now in its fifth-generation, the Altima was last fully redesigned for the 2013 model year and received an update for the 2016 model year. While the Altima will be all-new for 2019, we’ll focus on the 2018 model in this comparison.

The Maxima is in its eighth generation and was last redesigned for 2016.

The 2018 Nissan Altima starts at $23,260 and tops out at $33,360, while the 2018 Maxima starts at $33,270 and reaches almost $41,000 in fully-loaded configuration.


On the outside, the Maxima is slightly larger than the Altima. The Altima is 191.9 inches long, 72 inches wide and 57.8 inches tall. The Maxima is 192.8 inches long, 73.2 inches wide and 56.5 inches tall.

The Maxima also employs a more emotional design language than the more mainstream Altima. The Altima has a tall greenhouse with a lower beltline and simple front and rear fascias, although, like the Maxima, all models come with dual exhaust outlets. The Maxima’s design is overall sleeker, with a plunging front fascia and dramatic curves along the side. The Maxima’s beltline is taller than the Altima’s and extends into the roofline, forming a “floating C-pillar” effect that has become a popular automotive design element in recent years.


Inside, the Altima is again more mainstream than the Maxima. While both offer leather seating surfaces, the Maxima introduces this on lower trim levels, while the Altima only offers leather on its top-tier SL trim levels. The Altima also features a dashboard that’s separated from the center console, while on the Maxima the dashboard and center console are connected — a design touch that’s common on higher-end vehicles. The Maxima also offers more premium design elements and seating surfaces, more wood trim and a knob mounted on the center console for controlling the infotainment system.


Both the Altima and Maxima are front-wheel drive vehicles.

The Altima is available with two engines. Most trim levels are offered with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder making 179 horsepower and 177 lb-ft of torque. This engine earns 31 miles per gallon overall. Step up to the 3.5 SR model, and the Altima employs a 3.5-liter V6 making 270 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque. With the more powerful V6, the Altima goes from 0-to-60 in 6.4 seconds and earns 26 mpg overall.

The only available engine on the Maxima is a 3.5-liter V6 making 300 hp and 261 lb-ft of torque. This is good for a 0-to-60 time of 5.7 seconds and a combined overall fuel economy of 25 mpg.

Both the Altima and Maxima are offered exclusively with a continuously variable transmission. While good for fuel economy, the CVT is generally regarded as a lower-performing transmission relative to a traditional geared unit. While this may be permissible on a more mainstream product like the Altima, it contradicts the Maxima’s mission as a 4-door sports car.

Overall though, the Maxima is still a better performer than the Altima, thanks to its more powerful engine, sport suspension and other performance-engineered elements.


In terms of interior space, the Maxima’s emphasis on style actually costs it with regard to passenger room, despite the fact that it has slightly larger exterior dimensions than the Altima.

Inside, the Altima offers front seat passengers 40.0 inches of headroom and 45.0 inches of legroom. The Maxima’s front seat dimensions are about the same, with 39.4 inches of headroom and an identical 45.0 inches of legroom. In the back, the Altima comes with 37.1 inches of legroom and 36.1 inches of legroom. The Maxima’s back seat is a little tighter, with 36.7 inches of headroom and 34.2 inches of legroom.

The Altima also has a slightly larger trunk, with 15 cu ft. of room compared to the Maxima’s 14 cu ft.


The Altima offers a number of available features including heated front seats and steering wheel, an 8-way power adjustable driver’s seat, Siri Eyes Free, a tire pressure monitoring system with psi readouts for each individual tire, a Bose sound system and an intelligent climate control system that will sense the outside temperature and adjust the climate settings accordingly upon remote startup.

In addition to offering mild performance credibility and all of the features available on the Altima, the Maxima offers higher-end features like an available panoramic sunroof, a 360-degree camera, high-quality quilted or suede seating surfaces, heated and cooled front seats and ambient interior lighting.


The Altima offers a 5-inch LCD display screen on lower end models and a 7-in touchscreen on high end offerings. All versions but the base 2.5 S model come with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The Altima also offers 4G LTE with a Wi-Fi hotspot as a dealer-installed option

The 2018 Maxima comes standard with an 8-in touchscreen infotainment system offering Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The expected infotainment and connectivity features are all here, and like in the Altima, 4G LTE is available as a dealer-installed option.

The NissanConnect infotainment system found in both of these vehicles is said to have rather dated graphics, but is otherwise noted for being pretty easy to use.


Both the Altima and Maxima have been awarded Top Safety Pick designations from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, earning top scores across the board in all major categories.

In terms of driver assistance safety features, the Altima offers standard forward-collision warning and front automated braking; these features are optional on the Maxima. Both vehicles offer available adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert and front and rear parking sensors. Neither offers lane-departure warning or lane-keeping assist; a feature offered by many competitors.


Both Altima and Maxima buyers should see average to above average quality. Nissan offers a 3-year/ 36,000-mile basic warrantly and a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, which is on par with the rest of the industry.


The Maxima is a slightly larger, more stylish sedan than the Altima and competes at a higher price point. The dynamic between these two vehicles is similar to that of the Rogue and Murano, which we explored in a previous comparison article. The Altima’s competitors are high-volume-selling family sedans like the industry-leading Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. The Maxima, while perfectly suitable for families as well, offers slightly more refinement and luxury in a package that places a greater emphasis on the comfort of the driver and other occupants. Maxima competitors include the Toyota Avalon and Kia Cadenza.

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Chris O'Neill
Chris O'Neill is an author specializing in competitive analysis, consumer recommendations, and adventure-driven enthusiast content. A lifelong car enthusiast, he worked in the auto industry for a bit, helping Germans design cars for Americans, and now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah. He runs an Instagram account, @MountainWestCarSpotter, which in his own words is "actually pretty good", and has a... Read More about Chris O'Neill

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