By on July 15, 2013

Picture courtesy the author.

Every generation of Maxima has some fans — I’m partial to the bespoilered black ’87 five-speed my father drove for two years of my childhood — but the reputation of the nameplate is built almost entirely on the brilliant third-gen 1989 Max SE and the 1992 revision of that car that added a BMW-matching 190 horsepower to the already outstanding styling and chassis. After that, it was mostly downhill, with the porky, anonymous-looking sixth-generation ’04 probably representing the nameplate’s depressing nadir.

The current Maxima is anything but anonymous-looking, but it’s failed to make much of an impression and it currently sells at a rate approximately one-fifth that of the Altima that has largely eclipsed it in the marketplace. Many of those sales are to rental companies, and thus I was able to grab a nearly brand-new Maxima SV for a fast drive along the Northern California coast.


As you see it in these pictures, and as Hertz rented it to me, this is a $34,090 car. That gets you a Nissan VQ engine in 290-horse trim and a CVT. It also gets you some nice-smelling and reasonably comfy leather seats. It does not get you a high-end up sound system, heated seats, or the kind of color screen that you get in a $22,000 Camry. It’s only four grand cheaper than an Infiniti G37 that has all of that stuff plus more power, a longitudinal engine, and a dealership full of useless shoji screens. You get the point? There’s no value here, not at the sticker price.

Nor is the interior upscale in any particular fashion. There’s some black-bamboo-looking trim on an undifferentiated cheap black dashboard that probably isn’t quite up to the standards of the 1989 Maxima. It’s sporty after a fashion, but if you’d just bought the thing at full pop you would have a few moments of self-doubt when you sat in it the next morning. I don’t know about you, but I’d feel better looking at that ’89 Maxima for a minute:

Image courtesy Nissan

I feel better already. Doesn’t that picture make you want to drive? Me too. Luckily, once you get on the move the current version of the not-so-big Nissan starts to redeem itself a bit. The CVT that makes the most of the Altima’s four cylinder allows the VQ to scorch the road at freeway speeds. The test numbers this generation of Maxima generates aren’t any better than what any of the other V-6 Japanese-branded mid-sizers can do, but when you need to bump from 60mph to 80mph to make a pass or resolve some traffic issue the powertrain really makes money.

On the roads out of San Francisco towards Half Moon Bay, the Maxima proves to have power, handling, and brakes to spare. There’s a manual-shift mode but what’s the point in deliberately restricting the CVT’s ability to keep the engine in its torque curve? As with every Maxima since my father’s second-generation car, this one’s fast enough to get ahead of traffic and stay ahead. Of course, the same could be said of the new Altima, which is a considerably more modern and better-equipped choice for less money.


Why would you buy this car? Well, there’s the way it looks, which isn’t bad and is certainly unique in the segment. Most iterations of the Maxima have been good-looking and I’d suggest that this one is as well. It looks like it’s a class up from the mainstream family sedans and it manages to combine some expensive-looking sheetmetal with considerable interior room for both front and rear-seat passengers. NVH isolation is outstanding. If you keep your eyes on the evocative front fenders and off the dashboard, it feels like a credible, sportier competitor to the Lexus ES. There’s nothing cheap or second-rate about the way the Maxima drives.

I put about 450 miles on the silver sedan and I’d have cheerfully put a lot more on it — but then again, I was paying the same rental rate I’d pay for a Camry. Actual cash customers have a more difficult decision on their hands. At the same dealership, they can get what’s arguably a better car for less money in the Altima. Or they can drive over to the Infiniti dealership and get a faster, more capable, more prestigious, and more desirable car for less than ten percent more.

Here’s the problem in a nutshell: Once upon a time, the Maxima was the pinnacle of the Nissan pyramid. It was also the sportiest Japanese sedan money could buy. The Stanza beneath it was a four-cylinder sled without much style or equipment. Fast-forward to 2013, and the Altima squeezes it from below while the G37 (and upcoming Q50) carries the sports/prestige banner. Toyota never faced the same quandary with the Avalon because the Avalon was expressly created to be a Camry for older, slightly more wealthy people. As a result, it does half again the volume the Maxima does, at transaction prices that are probably higher than Nissan gets for its car.

The people at Nissan aren’t stupid. They know that the two-tier FWD sedan approach works best when the big sedan is a long-wheelbase version of the little one. The problem is that the company has already tried that, with the big previous-gen Maxima, and buyers rejected it. I suspect the name was part of that. If they’d called it something besides “Maxima”, nobody would have expected it to be sporty or stylish. For better or worse, the iconic ’89 SE continues to cast a long shadow. When you call a car Maxima, there’s some baggage that gets tossed in the trunk.

It’s not that the 2013 Maxima is unworthy of the name, although it would certainly be nice to have an overtly sporting visual package and a six-speed manual in the order books. Rather, it’s a case of the whole concept being outdated. Nissan’s upscale, sporting customers no longer have any interest in a front-wheel-drive BMW competitor; they can go to Infiniti and get a rear-wheel-drive BMW competitor for similar money. The writing’s been on the wall for the Max ever since the G35 arrived. It’s a pleasant car, it’s not bad to drive, and it’s more interesting-looking than any sedan Toyota’s built in years, but it’s a dead man walking straight from the showroom to the rental fleets. If you decide to buy one, don’t pay any more than the fleets pay, alright?


Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

74 Comments on “Review: 2013 Nissan Maxima SV...”

  • avatar

    You nailed the Maxima’s issues down exactly. Nissan offers two other cars that do the low end and high end of the Maxima better than it does. I really liked driving them when I worked for Nissan. They were the most common car in the pool, and I suspect there was a valid market related reason for that. If I were to look at buying a Nissan and was concerned about price and value, I’d get an Altima. If I wanted a nice sport sedan with some luxury, I’d get a G (Q).

    • 0 avatar

      There is a reasonably easy way to distinguish this car from the Altima. Make it AWD only. Put in the 3.7 liter V6. Get NISMO to give it a suspension worthy of the name and don’t wimp out based on grandpa’s interpretation of luxury. Keep the price the same, remove the incentives. Now it is no longer an Altima competitor and different enough from a G37 to attract different customers.

      • 0 avatar

        Again, why this instead of a G37xS? And selling this “Maxima GT-R” for the same price as the current one = no profit for Nissan. This suggestion literally makes no sense

        • 0 avatar

          Because the G37xS is lots more expensive, RWD-biased, and available with a manual transmission or 7-speed automatic instead of the CVT. Why buy a Buick Regal GS instead of a Cadillac ATS?

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        Why would anyone outside of the snowbound North want a heavy, expensive AWD Maxima when they could either buy an inexpensive fuel-efficient FWD Altima or an Infinity with proper RWD proportions? There are several expensive but not quite premium AWD cars in the marketplace already and it’s not like there’s a lot of sales volume to steal from the Acura TL or Ford Taurus. Nissan would do better to focus on the Infiniti Q-whatever G37 replacement.

        • 0 avatar

          Ask the folks buying Subarus by the boatload even though they live in the sunny states. AWD is an extremely popular premium option for automakers right now, one that Nissan does not have in any of its family “cars”. The idea is to differentiate the Maxima from the Altima and the G37 to create a market for it so they stop bleeding money piling tons of incentives on the hood of it to sell it… AWD is something the Altima does not have and the AWD G37 is a much more expensive car. The hardware is already there from the Murano.

  • avatar

    In the real world these sell for $6,000 under invoice. Bringing up MSRP at all just confuses things.

    • 0 avatar

      I think that confusion is the point. The first thing a shopper sees, looking at the Nissan site or on Edmunds, is the MSRP. The pricing doesn’t make any sense.
      Nissan could lower the MSRP to the market price, but then the Maxima slots below the Altima? Isn’t the Altima the little brother? Will Accords move below Civics? Then Minis take the 7er’s slot, and before you know it, earth turns into the planet of the apes.
      That’s pretty heavy stuff for a car shopper- are you willing to buy a car that will support the ape uprising?

  • avatar

    I love the Maxima’s styling, but the Altima is a better value for the money (and I think it offers more modern electronics).

    There are massive incentives on the Maxima. I’d say it’s possible to buy one at about the same price as an Altima, or lower.

  • avatar

    I get these as rentals frequently. I find that they have waaaay more engine than the chassis can really handle, they sound like a bag of nails, and the interior is just nasty. Otherwise, Mrs. Lincoln, the pay was just fine!

    Even at $6k under list, I can’t imagine why you would want one.

    • 0 avatar

      I rode in a 2010 example for about 10 minutes as a passenger. That’s all I needed to know to figure out something wasn’t right with this model.

      The interior was pretty bad quality wise, and scratchy plastic-wise. I noticed some trim pieces which matched my mom’s Pathfinder in their quality (!) or lack thereof. It felt moderately cramped inside, and the view of the huge fenders over the hood made me feel odd sitting in it.

      Compare that with the several hours I spent in a 93 pearl/red Maxima, which rode nicely, had a quality interior, was more quiet, had great steering, had more space, and looked dignified with it’s 4DSC stickers on the back doors.

    • 0 avatar

      Just had one as a rental in the San Francisco Bay Area. Had it for nearly a week and hated it.

      I agree, more engine than the chassis can handle. I might say the same if it had 1/2 the number of cylinders (or maybe the engine just makes it feel that way). It even feels squishy compared to the Nissan we do own – a LEAF!

      Yes, cheap interior, couldn’t get comfortable, the whole thing just felt wrong.


      I should add, I wanted to like it. When I got it as an upgrade, I was excited. I’ve always thought of them as sports-sedans. I too have ridden in older ones that I liked. They definitely lost the plot.

  • avatar

    If I were buying a slightly used midsized, semi-premium sedan — say, one year old or off a short lease — a Maxima would be a strong contender (ditto for the Buick Regal). I think, much more so than the Altima, it’s a distinctive car (and always has been – even the weird Renaultesque 2004 generation). I imagine the poor sales and fleet popularity would drive down values, making it something of a bargain used. Or am I just rationalizing?

    • 0 avatar

      Spend some time in the back seat of the Regal before you hang a “strong contender” sash around its neck. But I totally agree with the depreciated-ugly-duckling-just-off-lease concept.

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, the Regal’s backseat is very tight…part of the reason it’s fallen into the black-hole between the Verano and Lacrosse sales-wise. Still better looking than either, but that only gets you so far.

  • avatar

    Always liked the Maxima, VQs are strong runners, and I like how this one looks. But they can cram that CVT where the sun doesn’t shine. Don’t care how dead everyone thinks the standard transmission is, this car would be far more interesting with a 6-speed manual.

    • 0 avatar

      I leased a 2002 Maxima with a 6-speed. It was the first year of the new body style Altima, so they bumped up the power on the Maxima to keep it at the top of the heap.

      Really nice car, incredible power, but it plowed like a John Deere in the corners.

      Looking back, I should have bought it instead of leasing it, I’d probably still own it today.

      • 0 avatar

        we currently have a 2002 Maxima 6 speed with 98000km/61000 mi. Its fast fast, fast, comfortable, torque steer crazy, and you can haul a small IKEA kitchen home with the back and front seats all folded. Its fun to sneak attack sports cars. They never suspect. If Nissan wants bigger sales numbers for the Maxima, they would make the Altima a 4 cylinder only model.And bring the 6 speed back!

  • avatar

    After having lived with this same drivetrain in the wife’s Murano for three plus years now, I can only imagine the experience is even better with the lighter Max.Though I am a manual trans guy at heart, I would have no issue moving to the CVT. Perhaps these will be bargains in a few years on the used market. Plus, they haven’t followed the trend and put an ugly nose on it. I like the front end treatment on this car.

    How was your overall fuel economy BTW?

  • avatar
    Secret Hi5

    Agree with review and comments. The Altima makes the Maxima less relevant. I remember looking forward to my first rental of the current Maxima, and then was disappointed by the actual driving experience. The base-level interior is quite horrid.

    (The Altima, OTOH, is now my first choice when I’m presented with an array of “family” mid-size rentals.)

    • 0 avatar

      This is very helpful. I don’t rent cars more often than every 5 years or so, but in September I’ll possibly be getting a Maxima as a weekly rental in the Reno-Tahoe area; the other cars in the category (which Dollar is offering for a very advantageous weekly rate) are a strange mixture: Taurus, Regal, Volkswagen CC, the fleet-only Chevy Captiva, and – unbelievably – the Grand Marquis and Crown Victoria. (I know from past experience that Dollar will let you switch to a different car midweek if you don’t like what they first give you.)

  • avatar

    Because of this muddled confusion between the Altima and the Maxima, Maximas are indeed good deals on the used market, in my area of the country they loose much more value in the first few years of ownership than the Altima does.

    My vote? Maxima becomes Altima trim package. A NISMO Altima with 6 speed manual and some sort of power bump either through turbo/supercharger or something else.

  • avatar

    They should just keep the maxima a smaller sporty upscale car and the Altima a bigger family hauler. In 02 when the Altima got the big body redesign the maxima was still the smaller body and they had no shortage of customers on those.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree, this is the point where the two really begin to blur. Prior there was a more distinct step-up to the Maxima with the Altima being small and rather round. I had one of the “4-Door Sports Cars” identical to the old add above and found it to be on par with later BMW’s I had. Had the styling not taken such a drastic down turn I more then likely would have stayed with the Maxima. That one I had, remained in the family until not too long ago, retiring with 240K miles on it. A truly great car

  • avatar

    I always love reading opinions about my own car lol. I have a 2011 Nissan Maxima SV, with backup camera, heated seats (mechanically the same as a 2013 I believe, with just a few cosmetic updates in the refresh). It may also have premium sound, it has Bose speakers, but I dont recall if that was the standard kit.

    In any event, I will come right out and say that it was not my first choice. The Nissan dealer just made me an offer I could not refuse. I traded in a rather problematic Mazdaspeed6 for what I thought was an excellent price, a few grand over bluebook to make the deal happen. I leased the Maxima for no money down $360/month for 15k miles per year. I seldom go back to see what others pay, but at the time I felt good about it and was a better deal than I could get on other cars I was looking at and I didnt get robbed on my trade. I think the interior, while noting terribly exciting is about right where it should be in this price point, generally a nice place to live. I love the gobs of power but generally miss a manual transmission. The CVT has some odd characteristics in certain driving conditions, but otherwise, I find it to be an adequate and dutiful transmission.

    A “four-door sports car”, it is not. The handling as you might expect feels front heavy in nearly every type of circumstance. When travelling at speeds above 80mph (theoretically of course) the car feels rather unsettled to me and thus I dont do it very often for very long. The rear suspension, in my opinon, has an unusual amount of rebound making the car feel uncontrolled at times while at speed. Its been a good car but I will be happy to go car shopping this fall. Cadillac ATS 2.0T 6MT is in my sights.

    • 0 avatar

      I have an ’07 speed6 that st-st-stutters under load. I haven’t been able to figure it out, I don’t trust my local Mazda dealer (recharged my A/C without fixing the leak, because the freon ‘fell down’) and my local mechanic doesn’t want to run up a bill trying to diagnose it. I was looking at getting a Maxima used for about the same price I paid for the 6 used. They don’t appear to hold their value that well, but I wouldn’t care. I’d like a nicer near luxury car without losing the power.
      Now though, I find myself looking at Tacoma’s – I seem to be borrowing a truck every other weekend to haul something.
      Carshopping sucks and replacing the speed6 is going to be hard, even though it is a bit of a money pit.

      • 0 avatar

        Carbon build up my friend, it is a serious problem for the Speed6. Dont know if one has anything to do with the other, but the car was originally designed to operate on 93 octane and the did a reflash shortly after I purchased the car to optimize it for 91 as 93 was not as widely available. It was never the same. I put 95k very hard miles on my Speed6 going through five sets of tires. I had extended warranty and got them to replace a few turbo related parts over the time I had it due to excessive carbon build up. Someone elses problem now.

        • 0 avatar

          How many miles were on your Speed6 before you started having build up problems? Did you try and seafoam it before you sold it? I am at 61k, have had the car for about 25k miles, and they have been 100% problem free.

      • 0 avatar

        My buddies ‘Speed6 is a huge money pit…for Mazda. They have done about 14k of Warranty work on it. The rough clutch engagment required new control arms and bushings(??) front and rear to fix.

        He had a misfire code setting the check engine light, Mazda dealer could not fix it…they even flew a Mazda engineer from Japan to the dealer to look at his car. He suggested they replace the coolant temp sensor and that fixed it for a while. I think the light still comes back once in a while but he is out of the extended 100k warranty Mazda gave him since the car was so troublesome.

        I’m sure they are all not like that but the warranty costs had to have killed any profits they could have made.

        • 0 avatar

          Mazda’s seem to be Mitsubishi’s made with more passion. My 04 Lancer Sportback was a good, solid car but had no soul. Our 08 Mazda 5 has the soul, but still many of the cheap touches I found in my Mitsubishi.

          As the miles wear on, the built to a price point stuff is starting to really appear. Not a good sign at only 32k.

    • 0 avatar

      I just turned in my 2010 Maxima SV, same lease price but I also had the panoramic sunroof. I now have an ATS 2.0T AWD and it is a much better sports sedan than the “4DSC” that Nissan pretended the Maxima was.

      My main complaints with the Maxima were wheelspin trying to accelerate out of junctions (typical high-torque FWD), windnoise from the panoramic roof – open or closed, and tyre noise and lack of steering feel from the pathetic Goodyear Eagle RS-As. At least this was solved after 34,000 miles when I replaced them with Kumhos which were much quieter and you could actually tell what was happening up front.

      Did you also notice the hood flutter at around 80mph? First time I saw this I thought the hood was loose, until I realised it was just poor design and a lack of stiffness to the trailing edge of the hood allowing it to vibrate, especially in crosswinds.

      Overall the Maxima is not a bad car, but it has lost its place in the Nissan range now the Altima has moved upmarket and the G37 is priced below the rest of the entry-luxury brands. I think it is time for the Maxima name to be retired or, as one commenter mentioned, make it a high-spec performance derivative of the Altima and quit pretending it’s something it’s not.

  • avatar

    While the Maxima is a fine car, it is an automotive turkey. If it filled a niche that would be one thing, but it doesn’t. Now, if Nissan were to make it AWD and drop the 5.6L under the hood, we might be talking.

  • avatar

    “I feel better already. Doesn’t that picture make you want to drive?”

    Yes. That’s a much better print ad than anything they currently do, and a FAR better slogan than “_Shift”, which means nothing.

    It also happens to remind me quite strongly of DDB’s “Think Small” VW campaign: mostly white, one simple but enticing shot of the car, and talking straight and plainly to the audience.

    That was a damned old campaign even in ’89, but if it ain’t broke…

    • 0 avatar

      +1 to the ad and the sentiment. I love that “_Shift” slogan for Nissan. Ironic for a company that builds so many cars that don’t really shift.

  • avatar

    Once a movie theatre had two sizes of popcorn. Large and Small. They sold 90% small at 3.00 and desired to sell more large at 6.00 to make more money. The brilliant solution: Create a medium sized popcorn that was never intended to sell, price it at 5.00. It is now just 1.00 more for a large, “what a great deal” all the customers exclaimed. Large popcorn sales shot up 30%….

  • avatar

    As others have mentioned, no one (in their right minds) would pay MSRP for this. I saw an ad in the paper the other day that actually advertised a Maxima with a lower price than an Altima right on the same ad. You don’t even have to haggle to get $7k off the MSRP. You can probably get it for close to $20k if the star’s are aligned.

    The G37/Maxima comparisons are always interesting. Whereas the build/materials quality and RWD aspect of the G37 differentiate it from the Maxima, the Maxima gets turn signal lights on the side mirrors where the G37 doesn’t. Odd. Also, the Tennessee-sourced Maxima has markedly lower reliability ratings than the Japan-sourced G37 – not familiar enough with the Maxima to know where the common failure points are.

    • 0 avatar

      I know the G37 has a premium badge, but up close it just doesn’t play out. One glance in the interior from outside told me I’d never want to look at one seriously.

  • avatar

    The 1995-1999 SE is a great car too….

    I just loved the simple elegance of the interior and something about that 190hp 3.0L V6 just made me giggle..

  • avatar

    The current Maxima is a very good car ruined by a transmission unsuitable for the purpose.
    I drove all three (Max – 3.5 Altima – G37) one after another a couple of times and aside from the transmission the Max was the most involving, transparent and… honest.
    However, the CVT sucks all sportiness from it even in S mode. You may be accelerating fast, but you do not feel it. Also noticed it does not like hot weather and (guessing here) the regular octane gas in it that the dealer might have put into it. With 3 folks aboard it was pretty flaccid on one occasion.

    Once you drive the Altima right after the Max it DOES FEEL 10 Grand or so cheaper in the way it drives and feels. The only thing I liked in it more is the steering feel. Otherwise it is cheaper and deseverdly so. As a family hauler – OK, but 0 fun.

    The G37 was the biggest dissappointment of them all. A car that is totally synthetic and devoid of any live and unprocessed input. All you feel is sort of digitized, with some pre-calculated amount of bad-assness/sportiness injected here and there. Tiring blare of the engine is a disgrace too. The AT acted a bit confusingly too. The coupe felt better than a sedan, but still – totally anaesthesized.

    I would happily upgrade to a Max – given the option of an MT or at least a traditional slushbox like the one the G37 gets.

    • 0 avatar
      Secret Hi5

      That’s interesting take on the G37. I am considering it as a replacement for my spouse’s car in a couple of years. There are some very positive reviews of it online (Consumer Reports, of all places!).

    • 0 avatar

      Now, the “when” of your test drive of the G37 is pretty crucial, especially since you mentioned the confusing AT. The AT on the 2008-2011 G37s was misprogrammed and was much-maligned by its owners. This issue was never really fully fixed by Nissan despite numerous service bulletins. Only for the 2012 did they seem to fully fix the AT programming.

      I bought a 2012 G37 after testing out a BMW 335 and the 370Z, and the driving response was deemed “good enough” to be compared to a 335 (and without all the financial headaches because I typically drive my cars to the ground). The handling was not bad at all for a car that size. It’s essentially a 4-door Z is how I looked at it. The WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) of a 2-door Z was a pretty hard sell to a 7-month pregnant wife at the time, so the 4-door G was a good compromise.

      • 0 avatar

        If I remember correctly, I tested a 2012. But AT was a minor concern compared to what I tried to describe (artificial/filtered responses). Besides, rather quickly I ended up rowing the tiptronic manually – then it became OK.
        But the way the car moves, responds to steering and throttle (terribly wooden, like in my old W124 mercedes) inputs, how it feels and sounds – I simply could not get to grips with it. Reminded me my frustration with a TSX a while back – AT box in that one totally ruined the drive.
        And the final consideration – it appears they become more common around here than supposedly mass-market domestics. Another turn-off, as I like to drive something that very few others do.

  • avatar

    I remember when the Car rags finally got their hands on the latest Maxima and immediately decried foul with the FWD platform when a RWD was promised. The mission statement of the Maxima was always to be THE 4DSC and was the rare individual that took on BMW at its own game. Along the way, its gained weight, lost its manual, and worse, became redundant. It’s rapidly becoming the new rental yard darling, which the Taurus became years ago; losing its petals from the rose.

    Nissan needs to either kill or fill the Maxima.

  • avatar

    It seems as though Nissan/Infiniti has the reverse of the problem that Ford has with Lincoln. The Lincolns are not perceived to offer enough value delta compared to the Fords so it’s supposed that Lincoln loses sales to the lower transaction price Fords. The value delta between the Maxima and the G37 is perceived as worth it, so Infiniti cannibalizes Maxima sales.

    Also, I can remember the exact moment when I first saw a “Four Door Sports Car” (a great tag line, btw). I was in Harrisburg, PA and it was parked at the curb near a friend’s house. It looked good then, it looks good now, and I just loved how they put that slogan on a decal on every back window.

    I think there have been times when Nissan saw itself as a reasonably priced alternative to BMW. The 510’s been called “the poor man’s 2002”, though today I suspect a good 510 is worth a good chunk of the cost of the decent 2002. They’re fairly collectible cars.

    • 0 avatar

      It truly was a BMW starter kit in many circles and for good reason. Going from the Maxima to the BMW in the early 90’s, to me, seemed almost a lateral move that cost a good chunk more.

  • avatar

    There may not be much new in the five year old Maxima but there isn’t much new in this review either. Maxima getting squeezed by the improved Altima below it and the RWD “G” above it is ten year old news.

    I’m sure the percent fleet of Maxima has risen in recent years (the car is pretty old folks) but it’s not like 50% or anything. When you consider over its life how much more money Nissan makes on each Maxima than Altima, which is where most people would go if the Max wasn’t around, it makes a lot of business sense to keep it around. Reviewers who are car enthusiasts will always ding it for having a CVT but these guys would never buy one anyway.

  • avatar

    Car looks good and the engine puts out but the suspension is the letdown. Even moreso because its billed as a sports sedan and the expectations are such. Too soft and billowy for that title.

  • avatar

    A black, late model Maxima parked next to me at work today, and as I was getting in my car, I noticed that little sticker in the rear windows that says “4dsc” “four door sports car.” Made me laugh a little. The Maxima is sporty, but not more so than any other 300-ish hp family hauler.

    The biggest competition for the Maxima is only a few feet away in the same showroom.

    With the introduction of the new, bigger Altima, buyers now have a choice: Do I want a last gen Infinity interior and a slightly more powerful V6, or a Current Nissan interior and a more fuel efficient V6.

    The Altima is 8/10th of what the Maxima is, but most people won’t be able to tell the difference, and those who can will just buy a G or a Bmw 3 series. The Altima is faster to 0-60 in the real world.

  • avatar

    Maxima rebirth into crossover territory?

  • avatar

    Good review. IMHO the Maxima is the best buy in the middle-class FWD luxury sedan segment. If you don’t want to drive a clone Camcord or an Uglura, there’s no other sedan on the road that will turn heads like the current gen Maxima. We bought our 2011 w/Sport & Tech Pkg @ 7K under sticker, not much more than a comparable 3.5 Altima. VQ is an incredible engine and a huge reason this long-time Honda owner switched to Nissan in 2002. No more timing belt changes and our 1999 Maxima still has it’s original water pump @ 148K. These are great cars.

  • avatar

    Interesting to read about the level of NVH refinement in the Maxima, this was unexpected to me as it has been a bit of a weak point in previous generations.

    When I recently helped a friend purchase a car, I was attempted to sway her towards a slightly used Maxima (she was looking in the $35k Canadian taxes in price range). There were multiple options, but in the end she wanted to buy new and discarded it partially, I think, because she felt it was larger than the Altima (which is true only in width I believe). She ended up with a new Accord 4-cylinder EX-L, but easily could have had a more premium and more powerful car if I could’ve swayed her that direction.

  • avatar

    Since 95 the Maxima has been a good highway cruiser and an engine in search of a chassis

    Unfortunately now with cars like the Accord V6 coupe you can have your cake and eat it too. Without a truck face. The Maxima is pointless. I knew the Maxima had lost its way when the 2004 version came out. It was simply too big.

  • avatar

    “Every generation of Maxima has some fans — I’m partial to the bespoilered black ’87 five-speed my father drove for two years of my childhood”

    Thank you. I’m quite partial to these “U11” chassis Maximas myself. My first car was a white ’88 Maxima GXE auto. It was the old family car that was demoted to spare car status. My dad beat up on it himself, he used o love scaring the daylights out of my mom by gunning it when she wasn’t paying attention. When I got it, I beat the living piss out of that car, constant redlining, neutral drops, parking brake j turns, even caught air a few times. Anything else would have blown to bits, not this car! It survived me and I still have it, respect.

    Also the VG30E 3.0L SOHC V6 was a lovely thing… it sounded glorious at full song, sure it only had 160 hp, but that was pretty good for the late 80’s, plus it just felt fast. It wasn’t, but it just did everything so well, and those 4 wheel disc brakes are some of the best I have ever used in a car. Very much a 4 door sports car.

    I also had an ’02 Maxima SE speed. Sure I loved the 6 speed gearbox in it and the VQ35DE made the car legitamely fast, but it just wasn’t as satisfying as the ’88, plus the ’88 was built waaaaay better. I got rid of the ’02 at 100k because the car itself was tired, not the VQ, but the car itself didn’t hold up too well. It was worn out and no, I didn’t abuse it like the ’88.

    Short story, the ’88 was a better car in my opinion, hell the ’88 had fully independent suspension, the ’02 had a rear beam axle!

  • avatar

    I drove one of these for a week last year as a rental on high-altitude highways.

    I also had the pleasure of owning a ’92 twin-cam Maxima SE for 17 wonderful years.

    The current car doesn’t compare. The old car had much higher quality and taste level inside, a far tauter feel over the road despite a good ride, and felt more responsive and sportier even though it had “only” 190 horsepower.

    The new Maxima reminds me of the writeup C/D did on a ’70s Torino that Ford equipped with a 428 or 429 and called the “Cobra.” They said something like, “When you walk up to it, it looks long, low and mean — a real racer. But when you drive it, it feels like a family sedan with a big engine.”

    The new Max isn’t a bad car by any means, just a soft one. It’s well equipped, a comfy highway cruiser, accelerates well as Baruth says, corners well from a statistical standpoint, and gets surprisingly okay gas mileage while doing it. What puts you off is the details, like the Nissan parts-bin interior with the Infiniti audio controls and the uncombination of round and square A/C ducts, and the general lack of connection between you and what’s going on at the tires.

    It’s just a nice midsize family sedan with somewhat deficient rear-seat room and a slight feeling of cost-cut flimsiness that’s a hallmark of recent-issue Nissan products (though far less so than the Altima). Unfortunately, it’s nothing more.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    I rented a Maxima for a week last year in the DC/Northern VA area for work.

    The V6 + CVT are a great combination for seamless forward thrust, and it handled well for a big comfy front-driver. Much more fun to drive than any modern Camry I’ve experienced.

    But then again, I haven’t sampled a current generation Altima.

  • avatar

    So your point is the Maxima is irrelevent. Can’t you make the same point about all its other FWD competitors:

    You mentioned Camry-Avalon, but Lexus ES is priced right on top of Avalon, going for a similarly-aged customer.

    What about Sonata-Azera-Genesis?

    Or Passat-CC-A4?

    Or Accord-TSX-TL?

    Or Fusion-Taurus-MK-whatever-it’s-called?

  • avatar

    We bought one new in 2009 for the following reasons:
    1) at the time the closest Infiniti dealer was 3 hours away.
    2) at the time the Altima was not as good as the current version, pre-refresh
    3) we got the loaded one w/ heated/cooled seats, color nav, high end sound system, full glass roof etc
    4) they came WAY DOWN on the price. Sticker 39k, sold for 31.

    For what it’s worth, at 55k there have been no problems. Wife still likes the car, almost paid off. Life is good.

    • 0 avatar

      This is a key point. If my ’10 Altima had the same interior as the 09 or previous versions, I would not have gotten it. And I got mine for a no money down cheap lease. The cheapness of Nissan interiors in the mid 2000’s was disturbing and the Maxima was truly the better option in that regard.

      Now, there is no real reason to select Max over V6 Alt with your -ima.

  • avatar

    Pretty good review, Jack. I think you nailed the big picture, though there are some subtleties to owning one. I reviewed a 2010 S here a few years ago, which I subsequently bought.

    I bought the car for looks and speed. It is, between 40 and 80, the fastest car in this class and dead even with the G37. The only current car that trumps it is the 2013 Altima, which probably has the best powertrain in any car under $35K. I tested that one and concluded there’s almost no reason to prefer the Maxima except the styling.

    The G37 comparisons are only vaguely on-point. I considered one of those and stopped considering it after I tested it. The 7AT from 2010 sucked compared to the CVT, as did the seats. Actual transaction prices are also significantly higher with the G. I paid $27K OTD in early 2010 for my Max. The G at any trim level would have been at least $5K more, and the low-spec versions aren’t much ahead of the Max in handling. Likewise, the styling theme is ‘anodyne invisible’ by comparison.

    After 3.5 years and 30K miles, the main beef I have with this car is the number of niggling problems. I’ve probably had thirty. The car initially wouldn’t track straight. The stock battery is crap and had to be replaced. The sunroof shield cracked. There were a half-dozen interior rattles from one area or another. The door locks squeak when I turn the car off. One of the interior DC sockets failed. That’s just the stuff I can remember; I’ve yet to have an oil change without at least two new items on the list.

    It was a fair value when it was introduced. The mainstream sedans have so upped their game, though, that I’m disinclined to recommend it, even though I still love to drive it.

  • avatar

    I got to the Emerald Aisle at National in Boston this winter and a Maxima was the only car left. I was shocked at what a porker it was. It reminded me of a big 1990’s GM sedan… poor handling with lots of power, a cheap interior, with inferior ergonomics and uncomfortable seating while trying to impart a pretentious executive look. I would prefer a Camry as a rental any day over this car. Heck… I would prefer just about anything. It is sad to see the ad for the ’89 and realize just how far this car model has declined.

  • avatar

    When this generation of Maxima was first rolled out, I wanted one in a bad way. I absolutely fell for the muscular styling. Then I happened to get one as rental. Boy was I disappointed.

    First off, the car felt and drove much bigger than than my friend’s 92 SE, the Maxima standard for me. Second, the interior was drab and black as far as they eye can see. Third, it didn’t feel sporty at all. Fourth, $34k?!!!

    Now every time I see one I think, “that poor sucker behind the wheel thought he was getting a Maxima…”

  • avatar

    As we speak, there’s a banner ad on this page for “$5,050 cash back” on the Maxima!

  • avatar

    I lease Maximas, every time they are up on lease I do a tremendous amount of test driving and research on other vehicles because I consider myself a car lover. Then it comes down to features vs. cost. Comparatively there is no other car on the market with the same features that even come close to the aggressive Nissan leasing structure. My sticker was 41,500 and came with every single option. I literally walked in, signed the paperwork, wrote them out a check for $45 for my license transfer fee, rolled everything into the payment including tax and 12k miles per year, and pay $365 per month for a car that has nav, heated and cooling seats, panoramic roof, htd steering wheel, power everything, pwr sun shades, bose, etc etc etc. Also this is one vehicle that is a night and day difference when driving the car with regular fuel vs. premium. It is extremely fast and totally handles the road better than any altima could. For actual out of pocket cost its a no brainer in my mind. I cross shopped the CTS, ES350, Mazda 6s, Passat, taurus, A4, 3 series bmw, impala ss, you name it. All of these cars with the same leasing structure came out to more money per month with less features than the max. I am talking at least over 400/mth

  • avatar

    Does the Maxima have a quieter interior than the Altima and does it produce less road noise? Those are points that would make me look at the Maxima over the Altima.

    I drove the G25 and thought the ride was too firm and the accelerator too sensitive. I also found the seats and driving position more comfortable in the Maxima. So those are the reasons I would choose the Maxima over the G series.

    It really is subjective. One thing I don’t know, does the Altima 3.5 require premium or regular fuel?

  • avatar

    someone is missing a very important point here . i own 7 cars including a 55 550 spyder and drive in europe a lot .

    then if i were buying a car in europe i would never buy the maxima but instead the audi a8 or a 911 period

    but given the driving conditions in the usa a 911 or an audi a8 is not only overkill but also a waste of monies becasue you cannot use the performance envelope the car offers and you are paying for it.a lot . unless of course if you do a lot of track work.

    so, i am on my second maxima and thiss one is a new 2013 sport package ..and perfect for our driving situations where 80 mph is the norm and 100mph is usually a 1 minute affair ………….and in this respect the sport package is much superior to the other packages including the premium which i had the last 3 years .

    bottom line ,buy a car for your driving conditions and needs .and if you have the money splurge on a ferrari or whatever but ………..

  • avatar

    Reviewer and couple other posters on here kill me. First, the car in that pic ad is not an 89, 99 maybe, but a 4th gen. Second y’all blow that money on that new junk , I’ll drive 3rd gens untill I can’t find parts anymore. 89gxe rear ended with 273 someodd thousand miles on it, only problem I ever had was no cup holders. 93se after that …. Retired with over 312000 mi on it due to water pump going bad and my right arm was shattered at the time so I sold it rather than fix it myself . Was about to rust in half but that sucker would run. My only real gripe about it ……. no cup holders. Currently have a 91gxe with 244700 on it NO RUST! My only complaint, sunroof has a fine crack in it but no leaks and I had to fashion my own cupholders in this one. These cars are awesome and if maintained will last years. Only General Motors g body platform can arouse me more than the design of these Maxis. Sadly they are what the Maxima became in 95……… Not produced anymore!

  • avatar

    Now is the time to buy folks. I just purchased a 2013 Maxima SV with Sport package for 27,295. It stickered just over 38,000. For the money, I could not find a car to one up it in the V6 family sedan category.

Read all comments

Recent Comments

  • Lou_BC: @SoCalMikester – it’s insane. You could build a Mustang, Jeep or Bronco completely from...
  • Inside Looking Out: Old school. When Toyota is going to unveil electric truck, Cybertruck/Rivian killer? I know, I...
  • mcs: “Except from the inside. There’s no inside manual release for Model 3 rear doors, as far as I know.”...
  • MitchConner: So how much automotive manufacturing and R&D experience do you drugstore cowboys have? Post your...
  • Jo Borrás: Strongly agree with this list, save the Milano. It never did anything for me, and I’d rather see a...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Jo Borras
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber