- Plush cabin
- Available adjustable sport suspension
- Firm, deep buckets
- Strong V-6 power...
- ...that doesn't sound all that great
- Front-drive, CVT isn't a recipe for thrills
- No alternative powertrain
- Safety gear only comes on pricey models
The 2017 Nissan Maxima is the wild child of the Nissan bunch. It looks the part, but don't be fooled: after first blush it acts more like a near-luxury cruiser.
The 2017 Nissan Maximais a four-door sport sedan with a heavy emphasis on style over 0-60 mph times. It looks like a wild child, but at heart, it's a capable cruiser with above-average handling.
With the Maxima, Nissan has a automaker's fraternal twin to the mid-size Altima. Although the two share a similar platform and related powertrains, the pair are fairly far apart in terms of styling approach and mission.
The Maxima's 7.3 score is a reflection of how much we like the car, and its above-average performance in its class. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Styling and performance
One year removed from a significant overhaul, the Maxima has an edgier look and polarizing styling. Its "floating roof" effect—achieved by a blacked-out rear pillar—is something few other automakers have dared to try and we think it looks good on the Nissan. For now, at least.
Inside the Maxima is awash in firm but comfortable seating, rich textures, and in soft upper trims, near-luxury material. Although Nissan's famous claim for the Maxima is the "four-door sports car" it may be better considered as a more luxurious mid-sizer.
Under the hood is a uprated version of Nissan's 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 300 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of twist. It's mated exclusively to a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and can be optioned with paddle shifters that simulate gears in SR trims. The Altima shares a similar, but less potent, version of the V-6 as its top engine. The CVTs are more closely related, but the Maxima's final drive is geared more toward keeping the car in higher revs.
We've found the Maxima to be fairly brisk—it can race up to 60 mph in around six seconds—but unsettling. The aging V-6 can border on too loud, and its sound isn't wholly satisfying, either. Thankfully, most Maximas will come equipped with active noise cancellation and acoustic windshield glass that will damp some of those nasty waves.
Quality, safety, and features
Between the wheels, the Maxima is 109.3 inches (same as the Altima) but has less interior space. Most of the Altima's cabin is packed with deeper, firmer buckets, and more available interior tech. If you're looking to haul five, we wouldn't recommend it for long jaunts. The roofline angle penalizes a rear middle passenger, and in SR trims the panoramic sunroof cuts deeply into available head space.
This year's Maxima aced the federal battery and the IIHS tests too. The 2017 Maxima managed perfect scores from the NHTSA (although its initial crash test prompted a stop-sale and recall) and the IIHS designated the sedan as a Top Safety Pick+, which is its highest award.
The 2017 Nissan Maxima is priced within $50 of the 2016 model, and starts around $33,000 for a well-equipped base sedan. Base S models sport navigation with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth, two USB ports, power adjustable front seats, and rearview camera.
Subsequent trims from SV to SL, SR, and Platinum, add varying levels of creature comforts and leather. The SR model boasts suspension upgrades and bigger wheels to be the "sport" version of the bunch; Platinum is the primo-luxury offering with wood trim and leather everywhere.
The Maxima doesn't offer much in the way of fuel-saving devices, but manages to be relatively competitive with non-hybrid models from other automakers. It's rated by the EPA at 21 mpg city, 30 highway, 25 combined.
2017 Nissan Maxima
The 2017 Nissan Maxima is a fresh take on a full-sizer that looks good now. How it ages is less certain.
The 2017 Nissan Maxima has style and swerve beyond its class and price. It doesn't look like the related Altima, though it shares its architecture and powertrain, and we say it's succeeded. The Maxima has a quirky flair that's global in appeal, if a bit thick in some places.
The Maxima tries very hard to hide its mid-size roots and we think it's somewhat effective. It earned a 7 out of 10 on our scale. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Maxima reads differently depending on where you gaze. Its big grille and boomerang headlights up front have been duplicated throughout much of the Nissan lineup; and from the rear its tall tail is overshadowed by the roof, which appears to float. The floating effect is established by blacked out rear pillar, though it is toned down in darker shades of paint, if you're nervous about how it will age. From the rear three-quarter perspective, the Maxima's fenders capture every flick of light—nearly to the point of being a distraction.
From the side, the Maxima looks a little more subdued and less muscular. The body shows its overall length—192.8 inches—and looks related to the Murano SUV, with which it shares its architecture.
Inside, it’s as different from the Altima as fraternal twins can be. The Maxima’s cockpit wraps around the driver more tightly than the Altima’s cabin, and the details say “sport sedan," from the flat-bottomed steering wheel to the glints of metallic trim across the dash. All Maximas get a large 8.0-inch touchscreen framed by simple secondary controls; it's a substantial-looking set of controls that's more adventurous than the Altima's very conservative center stack.
2017 Nissan Maxima
The 2017 Nissan Maxima is legitimately sportier than the related Altima, but it's not quite a sports car.
The Maxima and Altima share a significant powertrain skeleton, albeit slightly changed in the Maxima. Its 3.5-liter V-6 engine is reworked from the Altima for more power—300 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque—and its continuously variable transmission (CVT) has a higher final drive ratio to keep the engine on song.
The Maxima's ride is fairly good and it borders on sporty. We gave it a 7 out of 10 thanks to those suspension components, with room to improve under the hood. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The V-6 in the Maxima is a new offshoot for a relatively old engine family for Nissan, and one that we've found comes with its drawbacks. It's not particularly pleasant to listen to at higher revs, and at full throttle, it can venture into the too-loud zone. Thankfully, an acoustic windshield is standard and active noise cancellation comes in all but the base model; both work to tone down the noise.
The Maxima weighs about as much as a new Camaro and has similar power, so we expect 0-60 mph times in the six-second range—an estimate clearly backed up by the Maxima's gutsy hustle away from stoplights.
It's a willing partner in crime looking for a sportier transmission. Nissan's continuously variable transmission (CVT) gets shift paddles in some Maximas, and a Sport mode that quickens its responses, but it's still a CVT. It uses belts and pulleys to wend its way between gear ratios, instead of shifting between fixed gears. As a result, even the Maxima's programmed "gear" steps roll fluidly into one another, but the pace of ratio changes is slower than a snappy dual-clutch gearbox would be.
With a fully independent front strut/rear multi-link suspension, disc brakes all around, and 18- or 19-inch wheels, the Maxima acquits itself well when the road turns from flat and straight, to hilly and curvy. If you're seeking something that takes an even sharper handling tack, you'll want to spend time in the top Maxima SR.
The Maxima SR has the tautest suspension setup of the range, with its own shock and stabilizer bar spec, monotube rear shocks, shift paddles, the bigger wheel and tire package, and available summer tires. It drops the sunroof—Nissan says for lower weight and better body rigidity—and gets a chassis damper to stop the stiffer setup from transmitting too much of the bad kind of road feel. On the Maxima SR, Nissan also tweaks the braking system so that the car slows the engine down and applies brakes to take corners better.
Equipped with all the edge the order sheet can muster, the Maxima is still just on the right side of firm. Drive a Lincoln MKZ without adaptive damping (which the Maxima also doesn't offer) and you're likely to come away more impressed with the Nissan's well-balanced ride.
What's even more appreciated is the Maxima's clean tracking. Recent Nissans and Infinitis with big tires are known for bump-steering their way over rough pavement, but the Maxima takes a set and keeps focus, with very little of the wandering and bump-steering that makes long interstate rides and back-country touring equally tedious.
The Maxima's still a front-driver, though, and it has moderate torque steer on launch. Nearly all of its direct rivals offer all-wheel drive as an option, while ordinary family sedans as prosaic as a Subaru Legacy make it standard.
2017 Nissan Maxima
Comfort & Quality
The Maxima has thoughtful touches, but is missing some space and comfort that the smaller Altima offers.
The 2017 Maxima is one year removed from a significant overhaul, but at its base is a full-size competitor with a mid-size frame. The Maxima is a spin off the related Altima, albeit more sporty and handsome. For better or worse, it's adept at carrying four people—sporting potential is in the eye of the beholder.
By the numbers, the Maxima measures 109.3 inches between the wheels and 192.8 inches long. The first figure is identical to that of the Altima, and the second figure is within an inch of the Altima's.
We gave the Maxima points for good front seats and good cargo storage inside. It's trunk isn't particularly big, and packaging is a little tight for its size. We gave it a 6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Interior space in the Maxima is well below mid-size average, just 112.8 cubic feet, and is several cubes smaller than you'll get in the Altima. The Maxima weighs in at 3,500 pounds—yup, right near the Altima, too.
In case you're not picking up what we're putting down here, the Maxima and Altima are closer now than ever before.
In terms of interior comfort, that's a good thing. The Maxima uses the same high-density-foam construction for its front seats as the Altima—famously called "Zero Gravity"—but adds more bolstering to make the chairs more supportive. They're more tightly fitted into the Maxima than they are into the Altima, and while we can't say they'd be the greatest thrones for long hauls, on back roads, the Maxima's seats are king.
Power front seats are standard on the Maxima in cloth or leather; heated seats are standard on trim levels above base, and ventilated seats are available on SR and Platinum editions.
The Maxima packages a lot of rear-seat room into its spacey outline. That floating-canopy roofline disguises a lot of it without impinging on easy access to the back bench seat. We wouldn't want to be the middle passenger between two adults—in that space, head room and seat support are lacking—but the outboard spots are a great place to be driven, even for tall passengers.
Trunk space is 14.3 cubic feet, about average for the class, and the Maxima has lots of little storage pockets and bins throughout its cabin.
Attention to detail is part of what Nissan hopes will sell the Maxima versus the Altima, and it has it. Some versions sport Alcantara trim inserts on the doors and steering wheel, even quilting on the leather seats. The cupholders are sized for small and large drinks, and there's a large pocket for holding cellphones, located right along with the USB port for charging and connecting your phone.
2017 Nissan Maxima
The Nissan Maxima has earned top marks by both major U.S. safety agencies and can be equipped with the latest active safety devices.
The 2017 Nissan Maxima earns top scores across the board from both federal testers and the IIHS, and it aces our test.
Federal testers gave this year's Maxima perfect scores in all categories this year after it re-tested the car. During its initial test last year, NHTSA officials observed a fuel leak in crash tests, which prompted a nationwide stop-sale and recall of the new car. In subsequent testing, the Maxima performed well without incident, according to officials.
The Maxima earned top "Good" scores in all tests—including the small-overlap crash—conducted by the insurance industry-funded IIHS, and the agency graded its front crash prevention as "Superior." For 2017, the Nissan Maxima was rated a Top Safety Pick+ by the IIHS.
It's hard to do better than perfect, so the Maxima earned a 10 on our safety scale this year. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
All 2017 Maximas come with the usual standard safety equipment, including airbags and stability control. Nissan's suite of active safety features is standard on SL, SR, or Platinum models only and isn't available on S or SV grades. It includes forward-collision warning, blind spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control. Platinum models add moving object detection, drowsy driver alert, and a surround-view camera system.
The Maxima SR also gets some nifty programming that uses stability and anti-lock sensors to help the car corner better. It can clamp on a brake rotor to tighten a cornering line, cut power to the engine to assist in heavy braking situations, and apply the rear brakes after the car goes over a bump, to settle the ride on the smoother pavement that follows.
2017 Nissan Maxima
The 2017 Nissan Maxima is fairly well equipped in base guise. Upper trims do even better and are good relative values.
For 2017, Nissan has added Apple CarPlay to its list of standard features in the Maxima.
We gave the Maxima a 7 out of 10 on our scale thanks to good base features, including its generous infotainment system. Like many Nissan cars, a dearth of options outside of trim packages mean many people won't be able to customize their car. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The Maxima is again available in five different trims: S, SV, SL, SR, and Platinum. For buyers on a budget, the Maxima is equipped with an impressive list of standard features, including a rearview camera, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, Bluetooth audio streaming, two USB ports, 18-inch wheels and power-adjustable driver and passenger seats.
Stepping up to the SV trim, buyers are treated to heated front seats, leather upholstery, and heated outside mirrors. The Maxima SL adds a panoramic sunroof, 11-speaker Bose audio, and LED lighting. A suite of active safety features including forward-collision warning, blind spot monitors with rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control is also standard on SL and higher trims.
The sportier SR trim ditches the panoramic sunroof, but adds Alcantara seat inserts, ventilated front seats, LED headlights, 19-inch wheels, sport-tuned suspension, Nissan's dynamic handling package (which includes adjustable suspension, and Active Trace Control), optional summer tires, and steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.
Platinum-trimmed Maximas are geared toward luxury buyers and eschew the SR trim's go-fast bits in favor of richly appointed materials. Platinum models include a power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, LED headlights, rain-sensing front wipers, Nissan Connect telematics, mahogany wood-tone finishes, a surround-view camera system, a power rear window sunshade, moving object detection, and a driver alert system.
Last year's Midnight Edition for SR-equipped cars remains as a factory option. The appearance package adds a black spoiler and gloss black wheels. Platinum Maxima buyers can opt for a similar Medallion Edition that includes illuminated kick plates, a special spoiler, and interior accent lighting.
As with many Nissan cars, the Maxima offers a very short list of factory-installed options. Beyond paint and interior trim colors, buyers won't have any ways to customize their cars.
Pricing for the 2017 Nissan Maxima has stayed largely the same: S, SV, SL, and SR models cost $50 more than last year's model; the cost of a Platinum model has increased by $30.
2017 Nissan Maxima
The 2017 Nissan Maxima manages to be fairly fuel efficient, considering its powertrain and size.
The 2017 Nissan Maxima is fairly fuel-efficient for a naturally aspirated full-size sedan—but, admittedly, the bar isn't all that high.
The EPA has rated the 2017 Maxima at 21 mpg city, 30 highway, 25 combined, which is roughly the same as last year's 22/30/25 mpg rating.
The Maxima doesn't include any fuel-saving features such as stop-start technology, electrification, or active aerodynamic assistance.
Other full-size sedans such as the Toyota Avalon include some, or several, of those features. The Avalon Hybrid manages 40/39/40 mpg, according to the EPA, or 21/31/24 mpg in gasoline-only models. The Chevrolet Impala, when equipped with a V-6, manages 18/28/22 mpg.