Recently we tested the all-new 2018 Camry. Ours was the sportiest V6, XSE and it managed to clear the $40,000 hurdle with optional equipment. It’s certainly a great evolution in Camry-dom, but it had us thinking, for 40-large you’re treading on some well-established toes.
Including the self-proclaimed 4-Door Sports Car, the Nissan Maxima.
So, is the Maxima still the sport/luxury sedan of choice for value conscious buyers?
Well, it’s certainly aging well.
While competitors like the Camry are handsome, the Maxima still lives in a league above. It looks long, low, and wide, full of serious intent. Also tying in with the 4 Door Sports Car theme, you find a few hidden 4DSC logos hidden on the exterior, in the lights. It will make you smile if you’re an owner – and you probably won’t notice if you’re not.
Our tester had two extra things going for it:
- being the sportiest SR model, it also gets 19-inch alloys and LED head and taillights that help it stand out from the crowd.
- It was also the Midnight Edition, which adds a little more badness with gloss black on the alloys, as well as black exterior trim, and a black sport spoiler. It all contrasted nicely with our tester’s Coulis Red exterior. (note, for ‘18 Coulis switches to a brighter Carnelian Red, so if you like the look in the pics – now’s the time to grab one).
The interior really sets it apart.
While the exterior does make a big impression, the interior gives you the big wow factor when you get in.
You plop down in the seat, and you notice the Maxima sits low, with a beautiful center console that’s angled towards the driver. Maybe they’re serious about this 4-Door Sports Car thing…
Facing the driver are large analog gauges, flanking a prominent 7-inch driver assist display, which includes the usual navigation and infotainment stuff, but also adds a couple cool screens, including a Sport mode display with digital speedo and a power display, there’s also an alert screen if the car senses you’re drowsy, and suggests a cup of coffee.
On the angled center console is an 8-inch color touch screen, that you can pinch or swipe like a tablet, and is easily accessed by an Audi-ish round knob below the shifter. Best of all, you can swipe the navi-screen and it will send the directions to the driver assist display, freeing up the screen for whatever else you want to call up.
You feel surrounded by the good stuff, with quality materials, and superbly comfortable front seats, and spacious rear seats. But since the SR is the sport edition, Nissan throws in some extras, including premium Ascot leather seats with diamond-quilted Alcantara faux suede inserts (very stylish), the same Ascot leather and Alcantara on the steering wheel (feels great), paddle shifters, aluminum sport pedals, heated and cooled front seats, and a very cool looking “liquid chrome” faceted interior trim – miles ahead of carbon fiber or the faux wood trim you find on most other sedans.
But is it the 4-Door Sports Car?
Well, there’s a bit of marketing going on here…
Under the hood is good news – Nissan’s beloved VQ V6 engine that lives in an assortment of sports cars, suv’s, trucks and Infiniti vehicles. In the Maxima’s case, you get 3.5-liters pushing out a claimed 300 horsepower (feels like more), and it is notably quiet and refined. Connected to it is a CVT transmission – also impressively smooth, but for a sports car, we’d want something more aggressive and sharp shifting.
Nissan does help you out by giving you a Sport Mode button that sharpens steering feel, transmission and throttle response, and even pipes in a little more exhaust sound for added enjoyment.
And when you hit that button the Maxima comes alive. OK, a heavy front driver with CVT probably never was going to be a sports car, but this is a lovely luxury/GT. This is a car to drive quickly without raising a sweat, it’s smooth, quiet, competent, and rides with a perfect mix of responsiveness and cush.
It may not urge you to choose off Porsches on twisty roads, but it will happily cruise for hours on end, entertain you with its good manners, spoil you with all the luxuries, and have you arriving at your destination relaxed and refreshed. Grand Touring indeed.
Can I afford to look this good?
Hey, it’s a Nissan, good value is in its DNA.
Our SR model was next to the top of the line, and carried a $37,820 base price. Add in the Midnight Edition ($1,195), splash guards, and floor and trunk mats, plus destination charges, and our tester rang in at $40,330.
If that sounds steep, there’s good news. The lineup starts with the Maxima S at $33,020 and you get that lovely V6, sport mode, navigation, intelligent forward collision and automatic emergency braking.
And let’s not forget that gorgeous exterior.
We’d be tempted to plump at least for the SV model at $35,020, for the heated leather seats, power lumbar etc. All the little things that say luxury. Or go a bit more for the SL, at $37,440 and get the dual panoramic moonroof, 11-speaker, bose premium audio, intelligent cruise control, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot warning.
Captains of Industry might want to consider Maxima Platinum, which is fully loaded and has ascot leather, around view monitor, and heated and cooled front seats. Basically, a little more lux and a little less sport than the SR trim. Yours for $40,690.
As we stated, the top of the line Camry also cleared the $40k barrier. So, the Maxima seems a bit of a bargain.
If you’re looking at something with neighbor wow-power like a BMW 5-series, it starts at $52,400 for a 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder. Adding the Maxima’s goodies, we totaled in over $57,000. Making the Maxima seem even more of a bargain.
We loved our tester’s blend of style, sport and luxury, and wearing a Nissan badge instead of Infiniti, its reasonable price, too. We’d have to say that,
Maxima’s ready to take on all challengers – and look great doing it.
Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.