- Strong acceleration
- Steers and handles well for a car its size
- Excellent interior materials
- Easy-to-use high-tech features
- Loaded versions are priced similarly to more prestigious entry-level luxury sedans
- Stiff ride with Sport package
The 2014 Nissan Maxima is the brand's flagship sedan, but frankly, you might not know that by looking at it. Indeed, the Maxima was last redesigned for the 2009 model year, and even when it was introduced, it didn't turn many heads. Yet the Maxima's low profile could actually hold a lot of appeal: This often-overlooked sedan delivers Infiniti levels of quality, not to mention plenty of passenger space and many available high-end features, in a package with Nissan's everyman branding. As such, it effectively straddles the space between the Altima family sedan and more expensive luxury-brand sedans.
Elevating the Maxima beyond its Altima relative is a strong standard V6 engine that really helps it hustle away from a stoplight. Tidy handling and crisp steering are also surprising for a front-wheel-drive sedan of this size. And while the Maxima does have a fairly firm ride quality with the Sport package, overall this is one of the sportier entries you'll find among similarly priced midsize and full-size competitors.
If you're shopping for a sedan in this price range, you know the Maxima faces stiff competition for 2014. In terms of large sedans, the Chevrolet Impala, Kia Cadenza and Toyota Avalon are all worth consideration if space takes priority over sporty handling. The rear-wheel-drive Chrysler 300 boasts many of the same attributes as the Maxima, while the Volkswagen CC is compelling if you're mainly interested in a high-end cabin treatment.
We'll also point out that within a few grand of the Maxima's price are numerous luxury-brand offerings such as the 2014 Acura TL, Lexus ES and Mercedes-Benz C-Class, all of which have more prestige. Yet the understated 2014 Nissan Maxima remains a good match for customers who want a sharp-driving sedan that can make them feel rich without worrying about looking rich.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2014
The 2014 Nissan Maxima SV gains some formerly optional features as standard, such as xenon headlights, a rearview camera, a USB input, a 7-inch touchscreen display and satellite radio. Meanwhile, a new Limited Edition package for the base S model provides dark-finish 18-inch wheels, xenon headlights, darkened headlight lenses and various other cosmetic upgrades.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2014 Nissan Maxima is a five-passenger midsize sedan available in S and SV trim levels. The standard equipment list for the base S model includes 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, a sunroof, keyless ignition/entry, cruise control, dual-zone automatic climate control, cloth upholstery, power front seats (eight-way driver and four-way passenger), a 60/40-split-folding rear seat and a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. Also included are an auto-dimming rearview mirror, trip computer, Bluetooth phone capability and an eight-speaker sound system with a six-CD changer and an auxiliary audio jack.
The new S Limited Edition model adds to the base S equipment model-specific 18-inch dark silver wheels, smoked appearance headlamps, darkened grille, a rear spoiler, xenon headlights (low beams only), foglights, exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals, and metallic interior trim.
Moving up to the SV adds the following to the base S equipment list: xenon headlights,foglights, leather upholstery and an upgraded driver seat with extendable thigh support and power lumbar. It also includes a 7-inch touchscreen display, a rearview camera, an iPod/USB audio interface, single-disc CD player (instead of the six-disc changer) and satellite radio.
The SV is also eligible for the Cold package, which adds heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and heated mirrors, and the Bose Audio package, which adds a nine-speaker Bose sound system. Additionally, there's an SV Value package that essentially combines the Cold package with the Bose Audio package.
With the SV, buyers can also choose between the Premium and Sport packages. Both add upgraded leather upholstery, driver seat memory functions, a ventilated driver seat, a power tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with paddle shifters, the Bose audio system and all of the features in the Cold and Monitor packages. Rear bucket seats with a center trunk pass-through also replace the 60/40-split rear seatbacks.
The Premium package goes on to include a dual-panel sunroof, ambient lighting and wood trim. The Sport package adds instead a sport-tuned suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels and special exterior and interior trim details. The Technology package can be added to the SV Value, Premium and Sport packages. It adds a navigation system, voice controls and Bluetooth audio connectivity.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
While the Nissan Maxima's interior design does not look as fresh as that of many of its competitors, it does feel reasonably upscale. Materials quality is outstanding, and especially when loaded with all of the options, the Maxima's cabin comfort rivals that of some Infiniti and Acura models.
The seats are comfortable both in front and in the rear, with support and plenty of room. The Maxima is one of the only non-luxury brand vehicles to offer optional rear bucket seats (part of the Premium package) with a console that effectively limits head count to four but adds a feel of premium exclusivity to the rear seating area.
The Maxima's available technology features are exceptionally easy to use. The iPod interface is one of the best we've encountered; there's no learning curve, since the text categories exactly mirror Apple's. The interface is also notably quick, whether it's reading a device or accessing the various menus. The Maxima's optional navigation system is similarly pleasant to use, offering quick response and recalculation times.
Trunk capacity is 14.2 cubic feet: decent enough, but less impressive than what's offered by full-size rivals.
The 2014 Nissan Maxima comes standard with antilock disc brakes, stability and traction control, front-seat side-impact airbags, side curtain airbags and active front-seat head restraints. A rearview camera is standard on SV models. In Edmunds brake testing, a Maxima SV with the Sport package came to a stop from 60 mph in 122 feet: an average distance for both entry-level luxury cars and family sedans.
In government crash testing, the Maxima received four out of five stars for overall protection, with three stars for frontal-impact protection (four stars driver, but just two stars for the front passenger) and five stars for side-impact protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety awarded the Maxima its highest score of "Good" for moderate-overlap frontal-offset and side crash protection. Nissan's top sedan earned the second-best rating of "Acceptable" for its performance in the small-overlap front-offset and roof-strength crash tests. However, its seat/head restraint design was rated only "Marginal" (second-lowest) for whiplash protection in rear impacts.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
All Nissan Maxima models are powered by a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 290 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque. The Maxima is only offered with front-wheel drive and a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
During Edmunds performance tests, the Maxima took 6.2 seconds to accelerate from zero to 60 mph, which is quick for a large V6-powered sedan. The EPA's fuel economy estimates are 22 mpg combined (19 mpg city/26 mpg highway).
Considering that it's a midsize-to-large front-wheel-drive sedan with a CVT, the 2014 Nissan Maxima is remarkably enjoyable to drive. Steering is precise, the suspension is firm and communicative, and highway cruising is rock-steady. The Sport package brings a particularly firm ride quality thanks to its big wheels and low-profile tires, so if a forgiving ride is what you're looking for, skip this package.
The 3.5-liter V6 engine is strong, and the Maxima accelerates with real authority on the freeway. Although CVTs usually aren't that satisfying from a performance standpoint, we appreciate the fact that the Maxima includes a manual mode that simulates a conventional six-speed automatic transmission with six fixed ratios that you can select manually. This mode is particularly enjoyable to use in SV models with paddle shifters.
The 2014 Nissan Maxima may lack luxury-brand cachet, but even with workaday Nissan badges, this midsize sedan remains appealing for its long list of luxury features and engaging driving dynamics.