The 2019 Nissan Maxima retains its status as the company’s flagship sedan, although the all-new Altima, a more modern car that offers a turbocharged engine and the option of all-wheel drive, may now eclipse it. However, for the die-hard faithful, the Maxima continues to offer the power of a V6 engine in a sporty sedan favoring luxury over flat-out performance.
Nissan’s latest design language is evident over the entirety of the Maxima’s body, creating a bold design comprised of folds, creases and an almost truck-size chrome grille that will never be mistaken for a Toyota Avalon or a Volkswagen Passat. Inside, the Maxima offers a set of thickly bolstered sport seats, high-quality soft-touch materials and unexpected touches such as a standard navigation radio and a flat-bottom steering wheel.
While the Maxima’s handling may not be up to the standards set by most European sport sedans, its styling leaves many of them in the dust. Opting to remain with front-wheel drive over rear-wheel drive, however, is one of the reasons why the Maxima may fall short in the eyes of some enthusiast drivers. Of course, we understand Nissan doesn’t want to step on the RWD from its premier Infiniti luxury group, so for now the Maxima is relegated to fighting cars such as the Toyota Avalon, the Chevrolet Impala and the VW Passat.
What’s New for 2019?
For 2019, the Maxima gains revised front and rear styling, standard Rear Door Alert, LED headlights and new wheel designs. Also on the standard equipment list are rear side airbags, front knee airbags, a USB Type C port and a driver attention monitor. Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 that includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, auto high beams, lane-departure warning and assist plus rear automatic emergency braking comes standard on the Platinum trim or as part of the SR Premium package.
What We Like
Direct steering; powerful V6 engine; comfortable ride; sport seats; lovely interior; futuristic exterior styling; standard collision warning and emergency braking system
What We Don’t
Doesn’t corner as well as some RWD sport sedans; interior feels a bit cramped; NissanConnect could be more app-friendly; small trunk
The Maxima comes equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 good for 300 horsepower and 261 lb-ft of torque. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with a manual shift mode and D-Step Shift Logic simulated gear changing is the only transmission choice, but it helps the Maxima attain an EPA-estimated 20 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.
Standard Features & Options
The 2019 Nissan Maxima from Nissan offers five distinct trims: S, SV, SL, SR and Platinum. Features are packaged by trim, leaving only some dealer-installed items as optional equipment.
The Maxima S ($34,845) features a manual tilt-and-telescopic steering column, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 18-in aluminum wheels, auto LED headlights, fog lights, an 8-speaker AM/FM/6-CD stereo with an 8-in color touchscreen, navigation with SiriusXM and Bluetooth streaming audio, NissanConnect mobile apps, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two illuminated USB ports (Type A and Type C), a rearview monitor, cloth upholstery, an 8-way power driver’s seat, a 4-way power passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, Intelligent Key with push-button start and a 7-in Advanced Drive-Assist Display. Standard safety features include Predictive Forward-Collision Warning (which can sense trouble at a distance of two cars ahead), Intelligent Forward Emergency Braking, rear seat side airbags and Intelligent Driver Alertness.
The SV ($36,855) adds driver’s-seat manual thigh extension and power lumbar support, leather seating, heated front seats, heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signals, navigation, adaptive cruise control, rear cross-traffic alert, blind spot monitoring and front and rear parking sensors.
The SL ($39,335) adds a heated steering wheel, a dual-panel panoramic sunroof, an 11-speaker Bose audio, active noise cancellation and active sound enhancement.
The SR ($40,425) loses the panoramic sunroof, but gains a sport-tuned electronic adjustable suspension with Yamaha Performance Dampers, Nissan’s Active Trace Control and Active Engine Brake, 19-in alloy wheels, upgraded leather seating with quilted-pattern Alcantara inserts, heated and ventilated front seats, aluminum sport pedals and Nissan’s Safety Shield 360.
The Platinum ($42,335) adds to the SL’s equipment list with upgraded leather seating, a power-adjustable steering column, rain-sensing wipers, NissanConnect Services, 2-position memory for the driver’s seat, steering column and mirrors, a power rear sunshade and the Around View monitor. Additional safety features include moving-object detection and rear automatic braking and Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 (see What’s New section).
There are two options packages for the Maxima. The SR Premium Package includes a dual panoramic sunroof, Safety Shield 360, rear automatic emergency braking, outside mirrors with reverse tilt-down and driver’s side auto dimming feature, driver’s seat memory and the Around View Monitor. The Platinum Reserve package adds heated rear seats, 19-in alloy wheels, Rakuda Tan semi-aniline leather seating, Charcoal colored headliner and Satin Bronze interior faceted finishers.
Along with its impressive suite of standard and optional safety and collision-avoidance equipment, the Maxima comes standard with electronic traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes and front, front and rear side-impact and side-curtain airbags.
In crash tests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2019 Maxima five out of five stars overall, with top scores in the front, side and rollover tests. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Maxima its best rating of Good in every crash-test category, as well as a Superior rating for crash avoidance and mitigation. The IIHS has also awarded the Maxima a Top Safety Pick+ award.
Behind the Wheel
On the road, the V6 delivers as much punch as anything this side of a V8 or a turbocharged V6. Nissan says 0-to-60 miles per hour takes less than six seconds. From a stop and in the midrange, power is willing to provide passing punch, and the transmission does a good job of sidestepping the drawbacks that are common with CVTs. That’s because it has seven preset gear ratios that kick in if the driver applies three-eighths throttle or more. The result is the stepped acceleration that Americans are used to in traditional automatics, rather than the slurred gear-ratio changes whining at high rpm with a rubber-band feel that plague other CVTs. If you apply anything less than three-eighths throttle, you’ll never notice that this transmission is constantly adjusting gear ratios instead of shifting. The new Nissan Murano has the same programmed shift points in its CVT, but the features make more sense and are more rewarding in the Maxima.
Now in its eighth generation, the Nissan Maxima is more of a luxury car than it’s ever been. It features a truly impressive cabin, ready and willing power, and a bold new design that gives the model some of the cache that the brand can’t. While it’s fairly fun to drive, the Maxima is more of a pleasant family car than a sport sedan, and it sure isn’t a 4-door sports car.
Other Cars to Consider
2019 Chevrolet Impala — The Impala isn’t as sporty to drive, and its V6 engine is optional, but it’s every bit as sophisticated as the Maxima, with more interior room and a better infotainment system.
2019 Volkswagen Passat — The Passat is more conservatively styled than the Maxima, but offers a larger trunk and rear seat. The Passat’s standard 4-cylinder turbo is no match for the Maxima’s V6.
2019 Toyota Avalon — The Avalon has a level of sophistication that trumps the Maxima’s, plus it has a huge back seat, standard driver-assist features, less polarizing styling and a hybrid model.
Used BMW 5 Series — A used 2012-2017 BMW 5 Series will give you about the same interior room as the Maxima, but with the ride and handling expected of a vehicle labeled as a sport sedan.
If you’re looking to the Maxima for its maximum performance potential, the SR is the clear choice. However, if you’re looking for a less jarring ride with the same acceleration and luxury, the SV satisfies most needs. Unfortunately, if you want the advanced collision-avoidance systems obtainable on many of the Maxima’s less expensive competitors, the more expensive SR and Platinum are the only ways to get them.