Large cars, such as the 2008 Nissan Maxima sedan, usually look safe thanks to their dimensions and construction. Unfortunately, crash-test results don't always support this impression, and the 2008 Nissan Maxima is a prime example. On the positive side, for 2008, Nissan's flagship sedan redeems itself somewhat in terms of safety features.
In both National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) independent crash testing, the 2008 Nissan Maxima exhibits some structural integrity issues that hurt overall crash-test performance. After throwing the Nissan Maxima into barriers from several different angles, the NHTSA awarded this 2008 Nissan a perfect five stars for front driver-side impacts, but in every other category, it earned a less-appealing four stars. This includes four-star ratings in front passenger-side impacts and all manner of side impacts. The IIHS, with its tougher standards and higher-velocity tests, finds even more flaws in terms of passenger protection on the Nissan Maxima. While the IIHS awards the 2008 Nissan Maxima its highest rating, "good," for frontal offset impacts, the Institute also tags the Maxima with its second-lowest rating of "marginal" for side impact protection. Cars.com explains that "despite the side airbags, IIHS said the Maxima did not offer adequate protection for the driver's midsection."
While the crash-test results are unimpressive on the Nissan Maxima, it does offer an acceptable range of safety features to help avoid that crash in the first place. Edmunds reviewers state that standard safety features include "antilock disc brakes with brake assist, traction control, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags and side-impact head curtain airbags." For those who prefer an extra measure of safety, Kelley Blue Book says that Nissan offers an optional "rear sonar backup warning" and "Vehicle Dynamics Control" stability system on the 2008 Nissan Maxima.
A key piece of the overall safety puzzle is driver visibility, and here the 2008 Nissan Maxima encounters another problem. Although ConsumerGuide testers find that "the roof shape and rear-end styling" are only "slight impediments to visibility aft and over the shoulder," other reviews read by TheCarConnection.com indicate that driver visibility is worse than they claim. In particular, Cars.com says that "the low rear window significantly cuts the view in back, and the side mirrors do little to remedy things," as their "tapered borders suggest they were designed for aerodynamics, not visibility."