2019 Nissan Maxima Platinum vs. 2019 Chrysler 300S: Battle of the B-movie big sedans.
This week: Nissan Maxima.
Price: $45,225 as tested. Spoiler, kick plates, mud flaps, special paint, and floor mats added about $1,700. More mentioned below.
Conventional wisdom: Consumer Reports likes the “quick acceleration, good fuel economy, simple infotainment system, plush interior,” but not that it “fails to be truly sporty, truly luxurious, or truly generous with accommodations, ride neither plush nor steady, handling lacks agility.”
Marketer’s pitch: “A commanding new attitude.”
Reality: I wanted to like this car. I really did. But CR nails it. (Honest — I write my reviews BEFORE I gather up these summaries.)
What’s new: At the highest end of Nissan’s sedan lineup, the Maxima now has continued pretty much unchanged since the 2016 model. It gets some styling updates to freshen the look, as we all need now and again.
Up to speed: The Maxima acceleration seemed brisk but not overly so. Zero to 60 happens in 5.8 seconds, according to Car and Driver, which means the Maxima really squeezes some serious performance out of the 3.5-liter V-6 — 300 horses. And that’s the standard engine.
Shiftless: The CVT operates seamlessly under normal conditions. But push the Maxima to the maximum and it grows more disappointing, just sending the engine speed higher with little corresponding tire action.
Fake “gears” can be selected via the shift lever, but those don’t increase driving satisfaction either.
On the road: Handling is best described as quirky. In normal mode, the steering seemed late to the party, and I found myself overshooting curves and corners more than a few times on the first day. Readers might think that with all the cars I drive, this is about par for the course, but each car generally becomes pretty easy to accommodate. Not so the Maxima.
I chose Sport mode later during the test week and found the handling to be more to my liking, but still decidedly less than sporty.
Driver’s Seat: The Maxima offers the usual Nissan package of controls, and they look nice and are easy to operate.
The Rakuda Tan Aniline leather seat ($1,140, which also heated the rear seats and added some more touches) is somewhat comfortable, not too firm and not too soft. The covering is fairly smooth, though, so expect to jostle around a bit.
Friends and stuff: The Lovely Mrs. Passenger Seat’s first reaction was “this seems so low and the roof short.” So, of course, tall Sturgis Kid 4.0 found that the ceiling in the backseat crowded his big head, but he said the seat itself was comfortable and roomy.
The old man wasn’t so generous. I thought legroom and foot room were pretty small for a top-of-the-line vehicle — an Accord or even a Jetta probably offers much better accommodations.
Cargo space is 14.3 cubic feet.
Set the speed: The Maxima’s adaptive cruise control seemed especially prone to picking up interference, from cars already switching out of my lane, and from curves and other obstacles that weren’t obstacles. The system often jerked when it hit set speed or detected a car ahead. The set distance also seemed random as well.
Also, automatic emergency braking engaged one night on a covered bridge, a rather noisy and frightening experience. The sensor must have read the ceiling of the bridge when I entered, because the car went into full panic stop mode for a few seconds. I’m sure glad no one was behind me at the time, or I might have been rear-ended.
Play some tunes: The stereo sound was not bad, maybe a B+, nothing to write home about. Controls include volume and tuning knobs, so they’re simple, and tuning even works without closing out the map.
Further sound controls and most other functions require getting into the fairly large touchscreen, but it’s not bad either.
Keeping warm and cool: The seat cooler didn’t seem up to the task of some days in the high 70s and low 80s. This is not an Arizona car.
The vents were also tough to direct airflow.
Night shift: The headlights sit fairly low and on low beam can make it difficult to see. Interior lights are subtle to the point of being almost useless, but they certainly don’t get in the way of the road.
Fuel economy: I averaged about 27 mpg in the usual round of Mr. Driver’s Seat testing. Premium is recommended.
Where it’s built: The Maxima hails from Smyrna, Tenn.
How it’s built: Consumer Reports gives the Maxima a predicted reliability of 4 out of 5.