2019 Nissan Maxima SV
– Head-turning style
– Cabin trim and features
– Fair power and handling
– CVT “gear-shifts” don’t add much
– Steering feel
– Less agile than SR model
The current generation of the Nissan Maxima caused a bit of a ruckus when it debuted for the 2016 model year. The styling was razor-sharp, yet completely unique. And its design elements have trickled down to the new Altima and soon the next Sentra. The original gangsta itself has received a facelift for the 2019 model year, and while the changes are minor, we take a look at what separates the mid-range SV model from the sportier top-spec SR.
The Maxima remains a bit of a head-turner, especially in top-spec SR form with bigger 19-inch alloys and blacked-out trimmings. However, the SV gets slightly smaller 18-inch wheels and chrome trim. The facelift has only added a new front bumper with faux vents, a larger “V” grille, restyled LED headlight and taillight clusters, and faux quad-exhaust tips (although it remains a dual-exhaust system underneath).
In terms of dimensions, it’s a midsizer as it shares a wheelbase with the previous-gen Altima, although Nissan insists it competes with full-size sedans such as the Dodge Charger, the Chevy Impala, the Toyota Avalon and the Ford Taurus (and we kind of see the point, at least when it comes to cabin space).
The Maxima offers pretty decent cabin space, including acceptable rear headroom thanks to its extended roofline. It arguably feels just as spacious as almost all its “real” full-size rivals except maybe for the Avalon. The boot is massive, while split-folding seats help to expand that space even further. There’s no shortage of cup-holders, door pockets and cubbies either.
Largely unchanged inside, where the Maxima truly shines is in the choice of cabin materials, with stitched leatherette everywhere on the upper dash and doors. You really get your money’s worth here, even with the SV version which comes with leather seats as standard.
In the SV, there’s an 8-inch infotainment capacitive touchscreen with large clear icons, full-colour LCD between the cluster gauges, navigation, Bluetooth, Apple Carplay and Android Auto (where available), a good stereo, smart key with starter button, power-adjustable front seats, great dual-zone auto a/c with rear vents, panoramic glass roof, adaptive cruise control with auto-braking, blind-spot monitors, a full set of airbags and a rear camera with parking sensors. Moving up to the SR would add options such as the around-view parking camera system, heated/cooled front seats, lane departure prevention, pedestrian braking, better leather and active noise cancellation, although we can’t recall if the latter made a difference.
The Maxima’s standard 3.5-litre V6 still makes 300 hp at 6400 rpm and 353 Nm of torque at 4400 rpm, mated to a CVT automatic with “manual shifting” capability, although you’ll have to move up to the SR to get paddle-shifters for simulated gear changes. If left in automatic, the CVT revs up the motor quickly on initial throttle tip-in, rather than behaving like a rubber-band as it does in some other cars, so this big sedan feels faster and more responsive on overtaking and such. Interestingly, you can feel simulated gear-shift shocks on aggressive acceleration, although the effect is so mild that you’ll have to pay attention to notice them.
We burned petrol at a respectable rate of 13.4 litres/100 km. When we last drove the Maxima a few years ago, it did the 0-100 kph run in 6.8 seconds during a January test.
The Maxima remains a good handler, even if it is big and front-wheel-drive. On long curves, it feels stable and pretty much flat at high speeds. We even drove both the SV and the SR on the racetrack as well as through an autocross course. Thanks to 245-width tyres, the limits of this front-wheel-drive sedan are high enough that understeer will not rear its ugly head most of the time. However, there was a clear difference between the SV with the regular suspension and the SR with the sport-tuned suspension. The SR can corner harder whereas the SV allows the ESP to kick in earlier.
However, there is a penalty for the SR’s better handling as the ride is noticeably stiffer than the SV. The SV also has slightly higher-profile tyres, so if you’re looking for a highway drive as silky-smooth as possible, the SV is the way to go. There is no obvious wind noise, but moderate road noise creeps in at speeds above 100 kph. And the engine is generally muted for the most part, audible only on full throttle.
The steering is a bit odd, feeling rather heavy at parking speeds but lightening up at highway speeds, when it should be the other way round. It firms up slightly in “sport” mode though, although it doesn’t add any further feedback. The brakes work well, backed up by ABS, ESP and all that, but they rarely need to intervene since the car’s limits are fairly high.
Interestingly, Nissan has dropped the “Four-Door Sports Car” badges that were on the pre-facelift car. With front-wheel-drive and a CVT automatic, there’s only so far you can go as a car with sporting pretensions, but Nissan has done more than enough to mitigate potential drawbacks. It is indeed a premium sporty sedan with all the luxury bells and whistles, and the SV version offers better value compared to the pricier SR trims. Those looking for anything more enthusiastic will have to consider entirely different segments such as those occupied by models from Nissan’s sister-brand Infiniti.
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