For many manufacturers, producing an honest sports sedan can be tedious and difficult. Some nail it right on within a few model years and for others (read: Nissan), it takes more than three decades. Although it’s claimed to be a sporty four-door sedan, the 2017 Nissan Maxima is not really anything of the sort. If not a sporty sedan, then surely, it is a luxurious large sedan? Not quite. Despite some very respectable talking points, sprinkle on the $43,900 price tag for the Platinum trimmed version we drove and the Maxima becomes a questionable purchase decision.
I had high expectations for Nissan’s flagship sedan: the spaceship-like front end, powerful engine, and there are even diamond-quilted seats. It just didn’t cross all the essential items off the list.
There’s no denying that the Maxima is quick however. The main attention grabber is the 3.5-litre V6 from the VQ-series of engines. It easily unleashes every single one of its 300 horses, getting from 0-100 km/h in just under 7 seconds while still returning a fantastic 7.8 L/100km on the highway, which is very impressive considering it doesn’t use a hybrid system of any sorts. Truth be told, the engine feels stronger than the numbers suggest. The Maxima shows it can pull strongly off the line. The trade-off is that 91-octane fuel is recommended.
The numbers don’t paint the whole picture though. Every time you need a little extra kick in the butt from the powertrain, like when you’re merging onto a busy highway, the standard Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) produces a significant amount of angst-inducing engine noise and leaves the driver and car feeling disconnected from the whole acceleration experience.
The transmission may be among the smoothest CVTs around town, but it is not particularly kind to your ears, and it thwarts any awesome noises coming from the naturally aspirated beast under the hood. I’d much rather have a well-sorted automatic with a specified number of gears. Overall though, when in sport mode, the CVT will shift like a traditional automatic and will give you some enjoyment, but the CVT still neuters a great engine that is loaded with plenty of horsepower and torque.
Even with the Maxima’s “four-door sports car” slogan, the handling aspects of the car are quite mundane, and not befitting a car with a sporty pretense. The steering provides hardly any feedback, and during low-speed parking maneuvers, the effort required from the driver suddenly becomes quite heft for no reason. Was the software programmed backward?
The Maxima corners soundly, but it doesn’t excite. By virtue of its low stance and stiff suspension, the body lean is kept at a minimum while driving. However, up the ante just a bit and it becomes clear that the Maxima requires more steering input and starts to roll more. Furthermore, by keeping the car front-wheel drive only, it leaves a lot of sportiness to be desired.
The Maxima’s interior remains mostly discreet. However, the driving position is overcrowded and cramped if you’re over 5’8 tall. Headroom is tight and your right leg will probably be stuffed up against the side of the intrusive center console (thankfully that part is padded).
Befitting Nissan’s flagship sedan, the eye-catching and rich interior is more lavishly appointed than you’d expect from a mainstream brand. Although there are some caveats with the choice of some materials, this cabin would not offend if offered in an Infiniti.
Immediately, the diamond-quilted stitching on the Platinum trim’s seats stand out, with the diamond motif duplicated into the mahogany wood-toned trim, which probably isn’t the same kind of wood sourced from the rare coniferous plastic tree. Much of the dashboard is padded and stitched accents are applied liberally.
Visibility is hurt by the narrow windows, sharply sloped front windshield pillars, and a high parcel shelf behind the rear seats. Considering that seeing out of the Maxima is akin to peering out of a 5th generation Camaro, it’s disappointing that lane-departure warning isn’t offered. Fortunately a backup camera is standard and a 360-degree camera view system is optional.
The controls and entertainment system is a bright spot. Nissan incorporates high-tech connectivity and a long list of features into an approachable and easy to understand design. Plus, Nissan’s infotainment system is among the best in the industry. Given, I would like to see a graphics update, as some screens can still appear pixelated. Apple CarPlay is standard, but there is no Android Auto compatibility.
When surrounded by the competition, the Maxima is hard to recommend as a viable alternative to a large family sedans like the Chevrolet Impala or Chrysler 300. Although the Maxima can be argued to have sportier features than the aforesaid vehicles, it is difficult to put it up against genuine and enthusiast sport sedans like the BMW 328i. This leaves the Maxima in vehicular limbo.