2020 Nissan Maxima review: Not your typical four-door

Nissan Maxima Platinum 2020

The Maxima has aged well. He is still aggressive but beautiful.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

Today’s family cars tend to be quite quiet. Few of them break new ground when it comes to looks or performance, but Nissan he wants you to think of his Maxima as something different, a big sedan with a lot of soul. Having tested a Platinum 2020 model, for the most part, I agree with this shot … mostly.

Like it

  • Decent infotainment technology
  • Smooth and powerful V6
  • Lively acceleration

I do not like

  • Limited headroom for the rear seats
  • Iffy leather quality
  • No ProPilot Assist

Sporty look inside and out

When the current-generation model launched five years ago, the automaker advertised it as a “four-door sports car,” a Nissan descriptor first used with the third-generation Maxima in 1989. Yes, this one. it’s a bit hyperbolic, but at least when parked next to a Toyota Avalon or Chrysler 300 the Maxima looks more interesting, with its aggressive grille, pumped-up fenders, and quad exhaust intakes, things that imply it’s a little louder than average.

The current generation of Maxima is no spring chicken, even after last year’s update. However, its interior, especially in Platinum finishes with the Riserva package, has aged quite well. The overall design is attractive, with easy-to-use sub controls and a relatively simple layout. The center console is angled slightly towards the driver for a more cockpit-like feel.

My tester interior trim with top-tier platinum finishes is beautiful, with lots of soft plastics on the door panels and dashboard, plus a sprinkle of contrast stitching to liven things up. The steering wheel on this car feels good in the hand, being both chunky and well sculpted, with a flat bottom for an extra sporty touch. Carefully, the tiller’s tan Rakuda inserts match the leather used on the seats and doors. A kind of orange brown, this semi-aniline cowhide looks upscale, especially with the diamond stitch pattern applied by Nissan designers. Unfortunately, this skin isn’t all that special, it looks more like a vinyl shower curtain than any natural material.

The rear seat air intakes make passengers traveling in economy class happy; ditto for the heated outboard seats, which are included in the Reserve Package, a modest $ 1,140 extra. The Maxima’s rear bench is supportive and comfortable, offers a good amount of leg room, but isn’t particularly friendly to taller people. If I don’t move, my pumpkin hits the headliner.

Proven technology

Making sure I never get lost, this Maxima features a NissanConnect infotainment system with integrated navigation on 8-inch display. Apple CarPlay is Android Auto are standard across the model range. That media array looks pretty old, with less than modern graphics, but it’s easy to use and surprisingly responsive, with no delays when typing in addresses or zooming in or out on the navigation map, which you can do with the touchscreen or using the hardware knob on the center console. It’s nice that you have a couple of ways to interact with the infotainment system.

Nissan Safety Shield 360 is standard across the Maxima range. It includes a range of advanced driving aids such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic warning. Adaptive Cruise Control and Traffic Sign Recognition are standard on SV models and higher, though the useful but rather gritty 360-degree Around View monitor is only included on SR and Platinum grades. Nissan is excellent ProPilot Assist Adaptive cruise control with lane centering is not offered on the Maxima, hence sad trombone.

The driver aids this car offers are OK. Blind spot monitoring is always a good thing to have, carefully remembering traffic in adjacent lanes. As for adaptive cruise control, it’s perfectly adequate, adjusting the vehicle’s speed as required by the surrounding traffic. Of course, lane centering would be greatly appreciated.

Nissan Maxima Platinum 2020

Maxima’s interior is elegant and comfortable, even if the space for the height of the rear seats is somewhat limited.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

CVTs take a hard hit

Most car enthusiasts hate continuously variable transmissions and it’s easy to see why. All too often, they’re paired with buzzing, malnourished four-cylinder engines, a combination as enjoyable as being locked in a room with an endless, blaring Dave Matthews Band playlist. But they don’t have to be torture, as Maxima demonstrates. When a powerful and refined powerplant is taken into account in the transmission equation, suddenly the misbehavior of a CVT becomes much less objectionable.

With 300 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque on tap, Maxima’s 3.5-liter V6 delivers plenty of performance, easily hitting highway speeds if not quite instantly. Even when depleted, this motor is smooth and rather quiet, it feels like it runs somewhere in the distance rather than inches from your feet.

The refinement of the powertrain and decent torque make the standard Xtronic CVT far more pleasant to live with than one might expect. But something called D-Step shift logic also plays an important role. This feature simulates gear changes with moderate to hard acceleration, which helps reduce powertrain noises. On top of that, the Maxima can also recognize if it’s going through a high G angle and stay in a lower gear ratio to help you get out of the corner.

Nissan Maxima Platinum 2020

Naturally aspirated V6 engines are an endangered species these days.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

However, there are a couple of drawbacks to the Maxima CVT. It can be moved manually with the shift selector, but only SR models are equipped with shift levers, which is a bit odd. Also, when traveling at speeds of around 40 mph, the transmission can feel a little gritty because the transmission likes to keep the engine speed as physically low as possible to improve fuel economy.

And that’s exactly why car manufacturers opt for CVT. These “shifts” can significantly improve a vehicle’s efficiency and the Maxima is no exception. This car is rated at 20 miles per city gallon and 30 mpg highway. Combined, the EPA says it should return 24mpg, although in typical driving I’m averaging around 29.7, an impressive figure.

Competent dynamics

There is a syrupiness in the steering of the Maxima, which is electro-hydraulic, a certain stickiness that is a bit difficult to describe. The sensation through its wheel is a sensation of density: it is unexpectedly heavy. While not overly accurate, this sedan is still quite nimble and follows the straight path like a Japanese bullet train, except in corners where there can be a tiny bit of steering torque under heavy acceleration.

Ride quality flirts with total stiffness, but it’s still one step away from breaking that line. The Maxima feels well controlled and body roll in the corners is practically non-existent. As for the pickups of this Nissan, they have a nice bite and the pedal is a breeze to modulate, being neither soggy to the ground nor overly eager at initial application.

Nissan Maxima Platinum 2020

The visually interesting style continues at the rear of this Nissan.

Craig Cole / Roadshow

Still a nice sporty four-door

The current generation of Nissan Maxima is pleasant enough to drive and still looks good five years after it went on sale for the first time. It’s hard to argue with what the automaker delivered here, CVTs and everything in between, although some drivers might object to the price. A basic Maxima S stickers for around $ 35,375, including $ 925 in destination taxes. That’s about four thousand more than an entry-level Chrysler 300, although it cuts the Toyota Avalon by about $ 1,500. The top-notch Platinum model kicks off at around $ 42,000, but with the Reserve package, a rear diffuser, underbody lighting and a few other odds and ends my review unit checks for around $ 46,000, which is a a lot of money for a mass market car. However, if you want a sporty four-door that’s on the larger side and features a bit aggressive styling, the Maxima fits the bill.

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