Nissan remains bullish on sedans, at least publicly. Its refreshed 2019 Nissan Maxima is more than a midsize sedan with a few new enhancements. It’s an example of adapting to a market that’s growing less enamored with sedans as demand for crossovers relentlessly escalates. As General Motors announced it is discontinuing several passenger cars and Ford has stated its intentions to basically become a truck and SUV manufacturer only, Nissan is staying the course with a healthy mix of cars. If the 2019 Maxima is an example of Nissan’s car strategy moving forward, we can expect its cars to target narrower, more specific market segments.
Like its Murano crossover stablemate, the Maxima is not designed and engineered for wide acceptance, but rather its mission is to inflame the passions of a targeted group of buyers. While Nissan openly markets Murano as an empty-nester CUV, basically households with no children, Maxima’s targeted demographic is consumers who believe the fun of going somewhere (or nowhere in particular, for that matter) is getting there. Maxima is all about the thrill of the drive.
At the heart of Maxima’s exterior design is what Nissan calls V-Motion. Beginning with the front, the grille forms the V, the sides of which extend up along sharp creases on each side of the hood and then continue rearward along the side glass all the way to the rear of the car. Providing the illusion that the Maxima is moving even when at rest, the V-Motion effect is further enhanced by the new boomerang LED daytime running lights and LED headlamp design. Big shoulders open to new wheel designs. New LED taillamps and a quad-tip exhaust finishers complete Maxima’s freshened look.
Emphasizing the Maxima’s driver-centric approach, the center stack comes directly from the GT-R’s handbook, angled seven degrees toward the driver. Nissan brought some key controls closer to the drivers reach by raising the floating center console. Depending on the trim level, the front seats are covered with cloth, leather or premium Ascot leather. No matter how they are covered, though, the front seats are Nissan’s Zero-Gravity design with beefy side bolsters. The available Rakuda Tan leather interior is another GT-R spillover. This is more of a cockpit than a cabin.
Powering the 2019 Nissan Maxima still falls to the responsive 300-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 that generates 261 lb-ft of torque. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) ushers the V6’s output to the front wheels. Although CVTs aren’t what pops to mind when thinking about performance transmissions, switching from Normal to Sport mode on the Drive Mode Selector adjusts transmission tuning, as well as throttle response for a somewhat livelier experience. Delivering a nice balance between ride comfort and handling, the fully independent suspension offers struts and coils up front and a multi-link double wishbone setup in the rear.
Anyone wanting to up the performance ante can choose the SR grade with a wide array of upgrades, including a sport-tuned suspension, a black sport spoiler, steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters and aluminum pedals, among lots of other goodies.
Nissan is hardly a niche-marketing pioneer. Dividing a segment pie into ever smaller slices has been going on almost as long as there has been an auto industry. Chevrolet just did it within the midsize truck segment by first launching its Chevrolet Colorado ZR2 off-road pickup, then following it up this year with the Colorado ZR2 Bison engineered for rock crawling. In the hybrid segment, Toyota has nearly made its own brand out of Prius and its many variants. Likewise, the Dodge Challenger offers everything from a 305-hp V6 to a 797-hp supercharged HEMI V8 under the hood. All of these are examples of variations of the same vehicle sharing space in a segment, but attracting totally different buyers.
With the 2019 Nissan Maxima, Nissan is simply refining what has become its interpretation of an upscale, sporty sedan. The goal isn’t to try to attract every Toyota Camry and Honda Accord shopper. Nope, the goal is to attract midsize-sedan shoppers who want something a little different from the same old, same old. They want some passion. Not only does the Maxima offer driving dynamics not found in a CUV, it offers something not found in most affordable sedans: passion. The niche Nissan has staked out for the Maxima isn’t big, but it is passionate.