Nissan rolled out the newest generation of its Nissan Maxima sport sedan just two years ago, and now it returns for 2018 with just a few enhancements.
Those include standard Android Auto connectivity (in addition to Apple CarPlay, added last year), new content for the Midnight Edition package, and a new exterior color, Carnelian Red ($395 extra), which was included on our test vehicle.
Prices for 2018 start at $33,270 (plus $885 freight) for the base S model. Other trim levels include the SV ($35,270); SL ($37,690); SR ($38,530); and the top-of-the-line Platinum ($40,940), which we tested for this report.
With the most-recent redesign, the Maxima moved into its eighth generation as Nissan’s flagship sedan. With all of the changes and its stunning good looks, this is the best Maxima ever.
Nissan bills the Maxima as the “4-door Sports Car,” and it’s powered by the latest VQ-series 3.5-liter V-6 engine, cranking out 300 horsepower and 261 foot-pounds of torque.
The engine directs power to the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission. With front-wheel drive, however, the Maxima might not qualify as a true sports car to some purists.
Nevertheless, the Maxima is fun to drive, with sporty roadhandling and precise, predictable steering and braking. With the redesign, the Maxima now rides on a lighter, more-rigid chassis, which gives it that sporty handling.
It has decent fuel economy, as well. EPA ratings for 2018 are 21 mpg city/30 highway/25 combined.
The Midnight Edition package ($1,195), available only on the SR grade, now includes the advanced Intelligent Driver Alertness 1 system previously available only on the Platinum version. It also adds a “sport” spoiler, rear diffuser and 19-inch gloss-black aluminum-alloy wheels with center caps.
This year’s Maxima also comes with the safety technology added late in the 2017 model year, including Intelligent Forward Collision Warning and Automatic Emergency Braking 2, standard on all models. Automatic Emergency Braking takes over when the system detects the possibility of rear-ending vehicles the Maxima is following.
Our Platinum model’s seats were covered with premium cashmere Ascot leather, and the dash, upper door panels, armrests, center console and steering wheel were Ascot leather, with diamond-quilted Alcantara inserts. The front seats were heated and cooled, and we had LED interior accent lighting, an eight-way power driver’s seat and a four-way power front passenger seat.
Also featured — borrowed from the Altima — are Nissan’s Zero Gravity front seats with sport bolstering. The seats are softer and more comfortable than before, thanks to a new three-layer foam design. There is power lumbar support for the driver’s seat, and a manual thigh-support extension for the driver as well.
The heated sport steering wheel has a flat bottom like you’d find on many sports cars, wrapped in the same Ascot leather as the seats, with an Alcantara insert.
There is a 60/40 split fold-down design for the rear seat to allow for extension of the trunk’s capacity. The trunk has 14.3 cubic feet of cargo space.
The Platinum’s standard NissanConnect audio system with navigation has an eight-inch color display with touch control and voice recognition. The system also includes satellite radio and SiriusXM Travel Link, streaming audio via Bluetooth, hands-free text messaging, and two front illuminated USB connection ports for compatible devices.
Those ports are under a small door at the front of the center console for easy access – they’re not hidden in the storage bin like they are on a lot of other vehicles.
The transmission shifted smoothly throughout the power band, and there was quite impressive acceleration from this drivetrain. It even came with steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters to pace the car through a range of gears.
The CVT has a wider gear-ratio range for stronger acceleration from a standing start, and D-Step shifting logic that allows for rapid shifts at high throttle openings, Nissan says.
A Drive Mode Selector has Sport and Normal settings, which automatically adjust the throttle, transmission, steering and Active Sound Enhancement tuning.
In Sport mode, throttle response increases, the transmission alters its program for more-aggressive shifting, and more steering effort is required. The Active Sound Enhancement system sends more of the engine noise into the cabin.
When the new generation Maxima arrived, it came with the reworked VQ-series engine, which has more than 60 percent new parts compared with the previous generation. It also features some technology adapted from the Nissan GT-R supercar, such as sodium-filled valves.
The car also features the new “swipe to meter” feature, which allows the driver to swipe the navigation map from the center display to bring it up in the standard seven-inch driver-assist display in front of the driver in the middle of the instrument cluster.
For 2018, besides the Midnight Edition package, the factory options list is short and uncomplicated. The most-expensive item is the 18-inch wheels package for the SV, SL and Platinum models ($900). A black rear sport spoiler adds $430, or the premium body-color spoiler is available for $405. Illuminated kick plates ($375) are offered on all grades; so are splash guards ($200).
There are also some port-installed accessories available, including rocker panel moldings ($420), external ground lighting ($240) and an interior lighting package ($250). Pearl White exterior paint also costs $395 extra. Other colors for 2018 include Super Black, Brilliant Silver, Gun Metallic and Deep Blue Pearl.
Besides the cashmere, interior color choices include charcoal and camel.
The Maxima is a full-size sedan that competes against such stalwarts as the Toyota Avalon, Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger.
The cabin has been crafted to rival those of luxury vehicles. With the redesign, the Maxima was made 1.3 inches lower and 2.2 inches longer than the previous generation, which arrived for 2009.
We had plenty of room for our knees and legs both in the front and the rear, and three medium-size adults could sit fairly comfortably together on the rear bench seat. There is a pulldown armrest with dual cupholders for use when you’re carrying just two people in the back seat.
Among other standard Maxima features are four-wheel power/vented antilock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, rearview monitor, active noise cancellation, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a HomeLink universal gate/garage opener.
The standard Intelligent Driver Alertness system monitors steering inputs and alerts the driver audibly and visually when drowsy/inattentive driving is detected. The Platinum also comes with rain-sensing wipers, along with memory for the driver’s seat, outside mirrors and steering wheel.
A dual-panel panoramic moon roof is standard on SL and Platinum models, and there are also large dual chrome tailpipe finishers.
Other safety features on our tester included adaptive cruise control, blind-spot warning with rear cross-traffic alert, stability and traction control, tire-pressure monitoring with Nissan’s Easy-Fill alert system, and a security system with vehicle immobilizer.
The Maxima also came with speed-sensitive hydro-electric power steering, heated outside mirrors with turn signals, front and rear parking sensors, front halogen fog lights, LED daytime running lights and LED low-beam headlights.
Eighteen-inch machined-finish aluminum-alloy wheels with dark-painted inserts were standard, along with 245/45R18 all-season tires.
There is a new “command central” instrument panel with a center stack angled seven degrees toward the driver. A floating console is designed to put key controls within easy reach. The Intelligent Key pushbutton start switch is on the console to the left and front of the shifter, and it pulses when the driver enters the cabin.
The only option on our Platinum model was the special paint. Total sticker price was $42,220, including the paint and freight.
2018 Nissan Maxima
The package: Premium, midsize, four-door, five-passenger, V-6 powered, front-wheel drive sport sedan.
Highlights: Redesigned just two years ago, Nissan’s flagship sedan is billed as a “4-door Sports Car.” It has plenty of power and is more fun to drive than the typical family car. Beyond that, it’s roomy and quite comfortable, with a long list of standard amenities and safety features.
Negatives: No manual gearbox offered for those who want a sportier driving experience.
Engines: 3.5-liter V-6.
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic with paddle shifters.
Power/torque: 300 HP/261 foot-pounds.
Length: 192.8 inches.
Curb weight: 3,471-3,593 pounds.
Brakes, front/rear: Disc/disc, antilock.
Trunk volume: 14.3 cubic feet.
Side air bags: Front seat-mounted, roof-mounted side-curtain for both rows, standard.
Electronic stability control: Standard.
Fuel capacity/type: 18 gallons/unleaded premium recommended but not required.
EPA fuel economy: 21 mpg city/30 highway/25 combined.
Major competitors: Toyota Avalon, Buick LaCrosse, Dodge Charger, Chrysler 300, Chevrolet Impala, Ford Taurus, Honda Accord EX V-6.
Base price range: $33,270-$40,940, plus $835 freight.
Price as tested: $42,220, including freight and premium paint (Platinum model).
On the Road rating: 9.3 (of a possible 10).
Prices shown are manufacturer’s suggested retail; actual selling price may vary.