I drove a $46,000 Nissan Maxima to find out if this stalwart sedan lives up to its 4-decade reputation - here's the verdict
- I tested a $45,865 Nissan Maxima Platinum.
- The Maxima has been around for decades, and for 2019, the current generation was refreshed.
- The 2020 Maxima is a moderately stylish sedan with some near-luxury touches in the Platinum trim.
- But the Maxima's standout feature is its gusty V6 engine, making 300 horsepower.
- The 2020 Maxima should keep loyalists happy, but the four-door competes in a tough segment that's been shrinking as consumers switch to SUVs.
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I remember my first Maxima. It was the early 1980s, and a friend's mother bought one. I'd never before ridden in a Japanese sedan before, although my grandfather had been an early adopter of Toyota pickups (he'd seen Japan up close after World War II and had become a fan of the country's culture).
After years of Chevys, Pontiacs, Buicks, and at least one Dodge, the Maxima was a revelation. Taut, stylish, fun to drive. I looked forward my pal swinging by to give me a lift, the "Purple Rain" soundtrack on the cassette player.
Fast forward a few decades and the Maxima is still with us. Nissan is currently on the eighth generation, and the four-door is basically and American car, assembled at Nissan's factory in Tennessee.
Sedans have somewhat fallen out of favor in the US, as consumers have shifted to pickups and SUVs. But Nissan, along with Honda, Toyota, and Mazda, are all still in the game. So competition remains robust. That means Nissan needs to stay in top, four-door form.
So is the 2020 Maxima up to the job? Read on to find out.
Greetings, 2020 Nissan Maxima, Platinum trim! Built with pride in Tennessee, and sporting a "Super Black" paint job that was indeed super. My test car based at $41,540, and some options brought the sticker up to $45,865.
What to say about the Maxima's design? Well, the current generation has been around since 2015 and was refreshed in 2019. As midsize four-doors go, the Maxima is a tad flashier than its brethren, although the Toyota Camry has been catching up fast.
See what I mean?
The Maxima's styling is aggressive without being too brash. The boldest element is the horseshoe of chrome dangling around the blacked-out grille.
It's just a little more shine that I like in one place. But although it's daring, it doesn't completely throw the front fascia out of balance.
The LED headlights are what Nissan calls "intelligent," meaning they can react to environmental conditions without drive involvement. They can shift out of running-light mode if it gets dark, for example.
The headlights, with the chrome bling, are the defining aspect of the front end. They certainly look like they mean business.
The chrome is a presence at the Maxima's rear, as well. The decklid spoiler is a $420 extra, and the incredible useful rear diffuser is another $370.
The quad exhaust pipes round out a car that's really trying to split the difference between sporty and practical.
Speaking of versatility, the Maxima's trunk gives up about one cubic foot of capacity on the segment standard, which is more like 15 cubes. Still, I didn't encounter any issues with typical suburban-hauling duty.
All righty, now for some real fun! Let's sample the "Rakuda Tan" and black interior! The front seats are diamond-quilted, heated, and cooled. This is all part of a $1,140 "Reserve" package.
The rears are also quilted — and heated. I crammed a 17-year-old, and 14-year-old, and a nine-year old back there and the complaints were surprisingly minimal.
The dual-panel moonroof helped to avoid a cave-like feel in the cabin.
The interior is basically orange-and-black. So If you like that kind of two-tone glory, the Maxima with this option is for you!
The dash is starting to show its age, but this is a challenge for every Nissan I've tested of late. The company hasn't shifted to screens and a more minimalist layout.
The flat-ish bottom and the sporting nature of the leather-wrapped, two-tone steering wheel encourages spirited motoring. (Nissan calls is "D-shaped.")
The Maxima's infotainment system runs off a relatively dinky, low-resolution eight-inch touchscreen, with knobs and buttons as backup.
It's fine, but far from an industry leader. Aesthetics and user-friendliness are the name of the game in the middle of the dash right now, and Nissan Connect isn't there. But everything works as it's supposed to, from GPS navigation to Bluetooth pairing to USB device connectivity. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available.
Time for the Maxima's best feature!
The 3.5-liter V6 makes 300 horsepower, with 261 pound-feet of torque. It's all motor — no turbos need apply! I clocked a 0-60 mph time in the ballpark of six seconds. The "VQ" engine is a legend, and for good reason.
The power is sent to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission, which does rain on the performance parade, but also delivers 20 mpg city/30 highway/24 combined.
So what's the verdict?
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