2013 Nissan Maxima Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
July 3, 2013

The 2013 Nissan Maxima offers a lot more flair than the typical larger sedan, along with premium feel inside; but driving enthusiasts should be aware that it isn't quite a serious sport sedan.

Nissan reclaimed the "4-Door Sports Car" catch-phrase with the current generation of the Maxima, but with so many true sport sedans available in 2013, it's proved to be a bit of a stretch. In truth, the front-wheel-drive Maxima does remain a solid choice for those who want a little more of a sporty edge, and more specifically one that doesn't come at the expense of comfort. Along with that, you get a distinguished, fashion-forward look and feel, plus an impressive list of tech features. 

The Maxima has been essentially unchanged since the current generation was introduced for the 2009 model year (it did get a number of minor changes last year), but the look has remained fresh. Part of the reason is that this design felt so cohesive and curvaceous and different right from the start. With its somewhat Coke-bottle fender curves, low-set grille and hoodline, an aggressive, swept-back stance that's more like that of a rear-wheel-drive sedan, and aggressive 18- and 19-inch wheel designs, the Maxima remains a head-turner.  Inside, the instrument panel would still look at home in an upscale Infiniti product, and the curvy yet assertive look carries through to the cabin.

While the 2013 Maxima might not be an all-out sport sedan or sports car, it does perform smoothly and confidently, and the acceleration from its 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine has a strong, relaxed demeanor in ordinary driving, where it works well with the automatic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). There are available steering-wheel paddle shifters, as well as a manual sport mode for the CVT, and you can tap into a series of simulated gear ratios for high-performance driving. The letdown is that even with these, you don't get the level of control that enthusiasts might hope for (and the available manual gearbox that used to be a Maxima talking point has been history, for years).

Review continues below

Compared to most other front-wheel-drive sedans, the Maxima feels edgier and more fun to drive when the road turns tight and curvy. It's a sporty calibration, with a firm ride, yet at the same time it's supple enough to keep passengers content. The standard front seats are good, although the better-bolstered ones you get with the Sport Package will be a welcome upgrade to some. The back seat is officially good for three, but it's really just good for two adults and headroom can be a bit tight compared to other sedans this size. Interior detailing is superb and really luxury-caliber, with soft leather and carefully coordinated trims. But the Maxima might not meet all of family shoppers' requirements: While its feature set is strong for safety, 'acceptable' ratings in the IIHS roof strength test have kept the Maxima from the top tier.

At the base level, the 2013 Nissan Maxima does really maximize the number of standard conveniences (like a power moonroof, power front seats, and Intelligent Key entry and starting), as well as optional extras. But if adding many of those extras, you should be aware that some of the most desirable ones come only by stepping up to the more expensive SV model. New for this year is an SV Value Package that adds nine-speaker Bose audio, satellite radio, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and heated outside mirrors. The Sport Package has also been enhanced with a seven-inch monitor, iPod/USB connectivity, a rearview monitor, and a climate-controlled driver's seat. A Dark Hyper Silver wheel finish (from last year's Limited Edition Package) is new as well.

A power moonroof, dual-zone climate control, power front seats, keyless entry, an Intelligent Key entry and starting system, a six-disc changer, and steering-wheel audio controls are all standard, though, while a heated steering wheel and cooled front seats are among many options.

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2013 Nissan Maxima

Styling

The 2013 Nissan Maxima still stands out as curvy yet muscled--and refreshingly different, inside and out.

The Maxima has been essentially unchanged since the current generation was introduced for the 2009 model year (it did get a number of minor changes last year), but the look has remained fresh.

Part of the reason why the Maxima's design has aged so gracefully, and still remains contemporary, is that it felt so cohesive and curvaceous and different right from the start. With its somewhat Coke-bottle fender curves, low-set grille and hoodline, an aggressive, swept-back stance that's more like that of a rear-wheel-drive sedan, and aggressive 18- and 19-inch wheel designs, the Maxima remains a head-turner. And other exterior details like the long, raked-back headlamps have since been imitated in other sedan designs.

Inside, the instrument panel would still look at home in an upscale Infiniti product, and the curvy yet assertive look carries through to the cabin. Materials really give high-end gloss and glimmer, with Dark Piano and Atlantic Cherry trims added last year to complement the warm interior upholstery and trim combinations. Last year, audio and HVAC knobs were given a somewhat new look, and gauge illumination was made white.

Sport models take the look to more a more aggressive extreme, with with smoked headlamps, a dark chrome grille, and shiny gray interior stitching--but it looks like a natural extension, not a forced tuner package.

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2013 Nissan Maxima

Performance

There's plenty of performance here, although die-hard sport-sedan enthusiasts might want a little more.

While the 2013 Maxima might not be an all-out sport sedan or sports car, it does perform smoothly and confidently, and the acceleration from its 290-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6 engine has a strong, relaxed demeanor in ordinary driving, where it works well with the automatic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT)--provided you don't have high-performance expectations.

The CVT includes a manual sport mode and available steering-wheel paddle shifters to access a series of simulated gear ratios for high-performance driving (there's no manual available). There's very little of the drone on moderate or hard acceleration (or the rubber-band-like response) that's so typical with CVT arrangements; the only letdown is that this setup simply doesn't offer the same level of control as conventional transmissions. The available manual gearbox that used to be a Maxima talking point has been history, for years.

Overall, the Maxima has one of the sportiest calibrations of any front-drive sedan, and it's reasonably fun to drive, With its sport-tuned suspension, as well as steering and brakes that have been tuned for sportier driving, it has the makings of a solidly performing sporty sedan. Out of a tight corner, if you stomp on the accelerator, a fair amount of torque steer (tugging to the side) serve to remind you that this is a front-wheel drive sedan running a lot of torque through those wheels. That said, stabilizer bars are included front and back, and a Twin Orifice Steering System helps provide good feedback and control.

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2013 Nissan Maxima

Comfort & Quality

The 2013 Maxima has a comfortable, refined interior, although rear seating and cargo space are limited.

The 2013 Nissan Maxima is pitched as a four-door sports car, but go beyond that marketing facade and it's a surprisingly comfortable, spacious sedan with a refined, luxury-car ride and premium interior appointments. 

Make no mistake, this sedan has a rather sporty calibration; the ride is on the firm side, yet at the same time it's supple enough to keep passengers content. The Maxima isn't the quietest vehicle on the road, though; there's a modest amount of road noise from those low-profile, V-rated performance tires.

The standard front seats are good, although the better-bolstered ones you get with the Sport Package will be a welcome upgrade to some. The back seat is officially good for three, but it's really just good for two adults and headroom can be a bit tight compared to other sedans this size. Interior detailing is superb and really luxury-caliber, with soft leather and carefully coordinated trims.

For those envisioning long cross-country road trips, take a look in back first. Trunk space is on the small side for a larger sedan, at just 14.2 cubic feet.

Up close and aesthetically, it's simply hard to fault the Maxima's interior details and materials. With soft, supple leather and carefully chosen trims, there's a true luxury-brand look and feel.

7

2013 Nissan Maxima

Safety

Crash-test scores for the Maxima have been lackluster.

When it comes to safety, the Maxima might not meet all of family shoppers' requirements. Its safety-feature set is strong, but 'acceptable' ratings in the IIHS roof strength test have kept the Maxima from the top tier.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has given the Maxima top 'good' scores for frontal and side impact, but it still receives only a 'marginal' in the seat-based rear-impact category—indicating a much higher chance of whiplash than in other vehicles—and it rates only 'acceptable' in both the agency's new roof strength test and small overlap frontal test. The results aren't altogether so stellar from the federal government either. In federal NCAP testing, the Maxima has earned a lackluster three stars (out of five) for frontal impact, though it gets five-star side ratings.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the car only three out of five stars for frontal impacts, though the Maxima receives five-star ratings in side impact and rollover tests.

Outward visibility is a strong point for the Maxima, despite the curvy exterior, and an available rearview monitor does provide additional help when parking.
8

2013 Nissan Maxima

Features

The 2013 Nissan Maxima comes equipped as a premium sedan, but you'll pay a luxury price if you want some of the top items.

At the base level, the 2013 Nissan Maxima does really maximize the number of standard conveniences (like a power moonroof, power front seats, and Intelligent Key entry and starting), as well as optional extras. But if adding many of those extras, you should be aware that some of the most desirable ones come only by stepping up to the more expensive SV model.

The Maxima is offered in two different models—S and SV—with the SV modestly expanding the standard equipment list to include leather upholstery, fog lamps, and a Bose premium audio system, among a few other items. But base-level S equipment is strong, with a power moonroof, dual-zone climate control, power front seats, and an Intelligent Key entry and starting system all included.

New for this year is an SV Value Package that adds nine-speaker Bose audio, satellite radio, heated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and heated outside mirrors.

Especially of note is a Sport Package, which brings firmer suspension tuning, larger 19-inch wheels, paddle shifters, upgraded front seats, and a host of other upgrades. The Sport Package has also been enhanced with a seven-inch monitor, iPod/USB connectivity, a rearview monitor, and a climate-controlled driver's seat. A Dark Hyper Silver wheel finish (from last year's Limited Edition Package) is new as well.

A power moonroof, dual-zone climate control, power front seats, keyless entry, an Intelligent Key entry and starting system, a six-disc changer, and steering-wheel audio controls are all standard, though, while a heated steering wheel and cooled front seats are among many options.

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2013 Nissan Maxima

Fuel Economy

No surprises here: The 2013 Maxima is about as fuel-efficient as you'd expect for a sporty V-6 sedan.

For what it is, the 2013 Nissan Maxima is neither vastly disappointing nor all that impressive; its EPA ratings of 19 mpg city, 26 highway are about typical for the class, given the sporty mission.

One note: Nissan still requires premium fuel for the Maxima, and that can raise your fuel budget compared to other models that get roughly the same ratings.

However, we do suspect that the EPA numbers might be on the low side; in short-trip city driving, we easily averaged 20 mpg in a test Maxima.
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7.6
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Expert Rating
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Styling 9.0
Performance 6.0
Comfort & Quality 8.0
Safety 7.0
Features 8.0
Fuel Economy 6.0
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