The 2020 Nissan Maxima retains its status as the company’s sporty midsize sedan, although the newly-redesigned Altima, which now offers a turbocharged engine and the option of all-wheel drive (AWD), may now eclipse it. However, for those craving something a little more upscale, the Maxima continues to offer the power of a V6 engine in a sporty sedan favoring comfort 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 flat-bottom steering wheel and standard Android Auto and Apple CarPlay.
While the Maxima’s handling may not be up to the standards set by most European sport sedans, it regains some ground when it comes to styling. Opting to stick with front-wheel drive (FWD) over rear-wheel drive (RWD) or AWD, 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 offerings of its luxury brand, Infiniti, so the Maxima is relegated to competing with other semiluxurious FWD sedans like the Toyota Avalon and Chevrolet Impala.
What’s New for 2020?
The 2020 Nissan Maxima gains the company’s Safety Shield 360 suite of active safety features as standard. Additionally, while it was previously reserved for the sporty SR trim, the Integrated Dynamics Control Module, which consists of Intelligent Trace Control, Active Ride Control and Intelligent Engine Brake, as now standard across all trim levels as well. Finally, the content of the Maxima’s Premium Package which includes a panoramic sunroof and 360-degree surround view camera system, is now standard on the SR trim. See the 2020 Nissan Maxima models for sale
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. Fuel economy comes in at an Environment Protection Agency (EPA)-estimated 20 miles per gallon in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg in combined driving.
Standard Features & Options
The 2020 Nissan Maxima is offered in five different trim levels: S, SV, SL, SR and Platinum. The only option package offered for 2020 is the Platinum Reserve package, available on the top-of-the-line Platinum trim.
The Maxima S ($35,145) 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 rear-view 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. Nissan’s ‘Safety Shield 360’ suite of active safety features is now standard, and includes predictive forward-collision warning (which can sense trouble at a distance of two cars ahead), automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic warning, lane-departure warning, automatic high beams and rear automatic braking. A driver attention monitoring feature and rear-seat airbags are included as well.
The SV ($37,195) 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 and front and rear parking sensors.
The SL ($39,535) adds a heated steering wheel, a dual-panel panoramic sunroof, an 11-speaker Bose audio, active noise cancellation and active sound enhancement.
The SR ($42,345) previously had a leg-up in terms of performance thanks to its inclusion of a sport-tuned electronic adjustable suspension with Yamaha Performance Dampers, along with Nissan’s Active Trace Control and Active Engine Brake systems, but Nissan has opted to include these features on all Maximas for 2020. That said, the 2020 Maxima SR gains a panoramic sunroof and a surround-view camera system, and offers 19-in alloy wheels, upgraded leather seating with quilted-pattern Alcantara inserts, heated and ventilated front seats and aluminum sport pedals.
The Platinum ($42,435) 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.
A ‘Platinum Reserve’ package is available on the Platinum trim and 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 with front, front and rear side-impact and side-curtain airbags, along with electronic traction control, stability control, and anti-lock brakes — all of which are included on every new vehicle sold in the United States today.
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 Maxima’s V6 seldom leaves you yearning for more power. Nissan says 0-to-60 mph time 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
2020 Nissan Altima — The Altima was fully redesigned for 2019 and the new generation closes the gap on the Maxima with regard to equipment and sophistication. Given the Maxima’s age, we strongly recommend buyers cross shop it against the Altima.
2020 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. For those wanting a sportier experience, a TRD model joins the lineup for 2020.
2020 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.
Used Infiniti Q70 — Buyers looking for a luxurious Nissan product may want to look to the company’s luxury brand, Infiniti. The midsize Q70 offers better equipment, more refinement, and much better performance than the Maxima, and there are currently several hundred used examples listed on Autotrader for around $40,000.
If you’re buying a Maxima here in 2020 you’re likely doing so because you want a sporty, semiluxurious vehicle but you don’t like SUVs and are hesitant to dive into luxury-car ownership. Needless to say, in the utility-crazed era of today, the market for the aging Maxima is shrinking, and the all-new Altima, with its fresh design and modern powertrains, is likely the more compelling option for a lot of buyers. Still, with its stylish looks, potent V6 engine, and upscale interior, the Maxima does still offer an experience that the Altima can’t. With Nissan’s decision to include the sporty features previously reserved for the SR model as standard across the Maxima range for 2020, we feel that a middle-of-the-pack SV or SL model will likely satisfy most buyers’ needs. Find a Nissan Maxima for sale