the updated 2019 nissan maxima is a survivor in a dying breed: the full-size, non-luxury sedan. with the market for these cars constricting, competitors in the class are either digging in, as with the redesigned 2019 toyota avalon, or dying off, like the ford taurus and chevrolet impala.
fewer shoppers means it's more important than ever to stand out from the crowd — something the refreshed maxima does with its styling. but how does the rest of the car hold up? after a week with the maxima and its changes, i found, as shania twain might say, "that don't impress me much."
it's got the looks
among the maxima's changes for 2019 are styling updates to the front and rear. the front grille dips lower, and the lower part of the front bumper has a floating chrome strip that looks more aggressive. it's a positive change, as the front now more closely matches the rest of the car's overall aesthetic. the fender arches remain strikingly prominent, and each fender has its own character line that gives the side of the car dimension. other sedans can look flat in profile; the maxima looks alive.
i tested a maxima sr, the second highest of the maxima's five trim levels and the one with the sportiest look. that includes a rear spoiler and 19-inch gloss-black wheels.
the maxima remains distinct in terms of its styling — it really doesn't look like anything else on the road (save, perhaps, for the murano), and the updates keep that uniqueness intact. it also has the look of something sporty. the maxima is designed to look like a sedan that has retained an aggressive driving experience.
but does it have the touch?
living up to those looks is where the front-wheel-drive maxima falls short. under the hood is a 300-horsepower, 3.5-liter v-6 that makes 261 pounds-feet of torque and is mated to a continuously variable automatic transmission with paddle shifters that work through simulated gears. on top of that, the sr model adds additional performance goodies: a sport-tuned suspension, larger front stabilizer bar and an integrated dynamic control module.
even though i was in the maxima's performance model, however, it still falls flat. though the cvt comes with paddle shifters, it's hard to keep the used engine in its power band — max torque doesn't kick in until 4,400 rpm, and getting the used engine up there (and keeping it there) is a challenge. it also gives the maxima less than stellar off-the-line acceleration.
on top of that, the steering lacks feedback. sport mode adds a decent amount of weight to the steering wheel, but it doesn't do a good job of communicating what the front wheels are doing. i had trouble figuring out where the edge of the maxima's grip was, and on a fwd car where the front wheels are doing double duty (steering and accelerating), it's an unwelcome feeling.
the maxima feels a little more athletic than your run-of-the-mill full-size sedan, but that's not enough.
don't get me wrong, i think it's all right
the maxima sr's interior has a few unique touches, including suedelike alcantara inserts on the seats and steering wheel, and orange and dark-chrome interior accents. the seats and steering wheel are a highlight, with the front seats especially comfortable and the alcantara on the steering wheel like something out of a higher-end luxury sports car. beyond the seats and wheel, the rest of the interior is less exciting but well-appointed. android auto and apple carplay are standard, and all trims get an 8-inch display.
if the maxima's interior has a weakness, it's the backseat. for a car with a full-size price tag and full-size dimensions, the backseat is short on room and refinement. this is in stark contrast to the cavernous backseats found in the avalon and dodge charger, which have 40.3 and 40.1 inches of rear legroom respectively, trouncing the maxima's 34.2 inches. that low roofline also hurts visibility for backseat passengers, making it a less than ideal for longer trips.
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but that won't keep me warm
the 2019 maxima isn't a bad sedan. it's actually on the good side of ok, particularly with the added safety features for 2019. it now features the optional safety shield 360 system, which includes helpful technology like rear automatic braking, forward automatic braking with pedestrian detection and traffic sign recognition. but for a sedan with sporting intent, it's simply not that fun to drive, especially at my test vehicle's $42,605 price tag (including the $895 destination charge).
compounding things, there are better options in this class for comfort or driving fun. the avalon has more interior room, a more refined ride and offers a hybrid model with greater fuel economy. if fun is what you're after, then the charger with its rear-wheel-drive v-8 setup offers a lot more punch, and the charger scat pack (with its 485 hp) starts at $41,490. unless the maxima's styling sweeps you off your feet (and it may do that for some), full-size sedan buyers are better off looking at the other options in the segment.
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