- Well-made and attractive cabin rivals those of luxury-branded sedans
- Easy-to-use tech controls
- Abundant features for the money
- Sharp driving dynamics for a midsize sedan
- Top crash scores
- Backseat and trunk aren't very spacious
- High price given the car's size and Nissan badge
- All-wheel drive is not available
- SR trim level's firm ride
- Unusual steering response and effort
When you're shopping for your next car, you're often comparing neat groupings of models that, for the most part, line up with each other in terms of size, equipment, performance and price. Apples to apples, oranges to oranges, midsize sedan to midsize sedan. Sometimes, though, a car like the 2017 Nissan Maxima comes along that exists outside those neat groupings. It's a disruption to the order, and it presents an interesting -- albeit desirable -- dilemma for shoppers.
The 2017 Nissan Maxima's styling helps it stand out in the midsize sedan crowd.
You see, the Maxima has a price tag and feature set similar to those of a large sedan like the Toyota Avalon, but it's not as roomy on the inside. (It's not even as roomy as a midsize sedan like the Ford Fusion, either.) The Maxima's standard V6 engine offers similarly strong acceleration as the most powerful midsize sedan engines, but its athletic handling capabilities and refined driving experience are more evocative of entry-level luxury sedans like the Acura TLX. Yet those entry-luxury sedans obviously give you more brand cachet than the Maxima's humble Nissan badge, and they're also often offered with all-wheel drive and are frequently even sportier to drive.
So is the 2017 Nissan Maxima an oddball to ignore or an intriguing alternative to the status quo? If you go by traditional sales figures, most people go with the former. But we think the Maxima is worth taking a look. Apples to oranges, it's one of the more interesting and appealing midsize sedans out there.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2017
Apple CarPlay is added as standard equipment for 2017, but otherwise the Nissan Maxima carries over unchanged after a complete redesign last year.
TRIMS & EQUIPMENT
The 2017 Nissan Maxima is a five-passenger midsize sedan available in five trim levels: S, SV, SL, the sporty SR and the top-of-the-line Platinum.
Standard features of the base S model include 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, LED running lights, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats (eight-way driver and four-way passenger), cloth upholstery, a 60/40-split folding rear seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a leather-wrapped tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel. Electronics features include a large gauge cluster display, an 8-inch touchscreen display, a navigation system, a rearview camera, Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay, two USB ports and an eight-speaker sound system with satellite radio, HD radio and a six-CD changer.
The SV model adds heated outside mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, heated front seats and an upgraded driver seat with extendable thigh support and two-way power lumbar. The Dynamic package adds a "premium" rear spoiler, different 18-inch wheels and side sill extensions.
The SL model gets a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel, ambient interior lighting, active noise cancellation, active engine sound enhancement, a premium 11-speaker Bose audio system and adaptive cruise control. It also adds several safety features (see Safety section below).
The sporty SR adds 19-inch wheels (with available summer performance tires), a sport-tuned suspension, paddle shifters that engage simulated gear ratios, Active Ride Control (uses the brakes to quell body motions over bumps), Active Trace Control (uses targeted braking to keep the vehicle on its intended path) and active engine braking that helps slow the car when heading aggressively into corners or approaching a stop. The SR also has LED headlights, heated and ventilated front seats, and upgraded leather upholstery with quilted simulated suede seat inserts and special interior trim. The SR does not have a panoramic sunroof, but it can be equipped with summer tires (packaged with a full-size spare tire) and the Midnight Edition package that includes a "sport" rear spoiler, a rear diffuser and gloss black wheels.
The Maxima's Platinum trim level comes standard with the panoramic sunroof. You can't get it on the SR, though.
To the SL's equipment roster, the Platinum adds the LED headlights, a power-adjustable steering wheel, driver memory settings, premium diamond-quilted leather upholstery, automatic wipers, a power rear sunshade, a 360-degree parking camera system (with a moving object detection system) and a driver attention alert system. The Platinum also features Nissan Connect (see Safety section for more information). The Medallion Edition package adds that "premium" rear spoiler, different 18-inch wheels, interior accent lighting and exterior ground lighting.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The 2017 Maxima may not have the brand name of a luxury car, but it has the interior of one. Passengers are surrounded by quality materials, including soft-touch surfaces on most of the major touch points. Nissan's "Zero Gravity" seats are present as well. They're supportive, though we haven't found these to be as superbly comfortable as the ones in the Nissan Altima. One particularly thoughtful feature is the bin mounted forward of the shifter that contains two USB ports, space for all but the biggest phones on the market and a slot to mount a phone vertically so you can see messages as they pop up.
The Maxima's cabin is stylish, well made and comes with an easy-to-use touchscreen tech interface.
However, for 2017, Apple users probably won't need to. With the addition of standard Apple CarPlay, you can now control a basic selection of apps (including text messaging) through voice controls and the terrific, easy-to-use Nissan touchscreen that's bolstered by a handy, redundant knob controller similar to those found in many luxury-branded cars. Android Auto is unavailable, though.
In terms of space, front and rear legroom is acceptable, but the Maxima can't match the rear seat space of less expensive midsize sedans like the Ford Fusion or Honda Accord, let alone similarly priced sedans like the Toyota Avalon. Similarly, the Maxima's 14.3-cubic-foot trunk is smaller than those competitors as well. It is similar to many entry-level luxury sedans, however.
Standard safety features on the 2017 Nissan Maxima include antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and a rearview camera. Standard on the SL and above are a blind-spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert and a forward collision warning and mitigation system with automatic braking. The Platinum model also adds a 360-degree parking camera system with a moving object detection system that sounds a beep and gives video alerts on the center screen when even small objects are moving anywhere around the vehicle. The Platinum also includes a driver drowsiness monitor and Nissan Connect, which includes automatic collision notification, remote starting, emergency calling and stolen vehicle locating.
In government crash tests, last year's Maxima earned an overall score of five stars (out of a possible five), with five stars for total front-impact safety and five stars for total side-impact safety. The Maxima also earned top scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, receiving a "Good" rating in the moderate- and small-overlap frontal-offset impact tests as well as a "Good" rating in the side impact, roof strength and seat/head restraint tests. The IIHS also tested the Maxima's forward collision mitigation system and awarded it a score of "Superior."
In Edmunds brake testing, a Maxima Platinum with all-season tires stopped from 60 mph in 122 feet, which is slightly below average for sedans of this caliber.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
The 2017 Nissan Maxima is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 300 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque. Front-wheel drive and a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) are standard.
In Edmunds testing, a Maxima Platinum sprinted from zero to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, which is a few ticks quicker than average for a midsize sedan with a V6 or similarly powered engine. As for EPA-estimated fuel economy, expect 25 mpg combined (21 city/30 highway). Edmunds managed 28.1 mpg on the 116-mile Edmunds evaluation route, which is a strong showing.
Nissan has long suggested that the Maxima is a "four-door sports car." In our experience, the 2017 Maxima does feel rather sporty, with nicely controlled body motions and commendable grip around turns that equate to dynamic talents greater than the typical mid- or full-size sedan. However, the steering is oddly slow in parking lots and gets light as speeds rise (the opposite is true with most modern cars), and quick left-right transitions can flummox it. And although the sportier SR improves handling further, its firmer suspension essentially ruins what is a comfortable and controlled ride in all other trims. As a result, we would avoid the Maxima SR.
Hit the gas and the Maxima accelerates quickly, though it isn't really any quicker than other midsize sedans with upgrade engines.
The 3.5-liter V6 provides ready and willing power across the rev range, and it works well with the CVT, although torque steer (the feeling of the car pulling left or right as you accelerate) is noticeable during hard acceleration. As with other CVTs, the Maxima's transmission has no fixed gear ratios. However, Nissan has added seven simulated gear ratios that are used in certain instances to provide the feeling of a regular automatic transmission, minimizing the prolonged high-rpm droning that has given CVTs a bad reputation. We generally like the result, as the CVT does a pretty fair impression of a conventional automatic without giving up its edge in fuel economy.
Just because you want a car that's exciting, refined and stylish doesn't mean you have to pay for a true luxury sedan. The 2017 Nissan Maxima is a step above the typical family sedan experience but still reasonably affordable. Its modestly sized interior and non-luxury badge may be issues given its price, but we ultimately think you're going to like the niche-oriented Maxima.