2021 Nissan Maxima

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2021
The Car Connection
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2020
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Martin Padgett Martin Padgett Editorial Director
November 30, 2020

Buying tip

The Maxima SV has the lowest price and plenty of features, but for a slightly more sporting ride, the Maxima SR isn’t too much more expensive.

features & specs

Platinum 3.5L
SR 3.5L
SV 3.5L
MPG
20 city / 30 hwy
MPG
20 city / 30 hwy
MPG
20 city / 30 hwy
MSRP
$42,220
MSRP
$42,150
MSRP
$36,990

The 2021 Nissan Maxima slips into sporty territory with a handsome shape and good road manners, but the CVT saps its verve.

What kind of car is the 2021 Nissan Maxima? What does it compare to?

The 2021 Nissan Maxima is a four-door sedan that’s related to the Altima, but costs more and has a standard V-6. It’s handsome and sporty in its intent, which makes it a rival for cars like the Acura TLX as well as the Altima, the Toyota Camry, and the Honda Accord. 

Is the 2021 Nissan Maxima a good car?

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It’s well above average, thanks to ample power, good crash safety, and its distinctive style. We give it a TCC Rating of 6.5 out of 10 overall. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

What’s new for the 2021 Nissan Maxima?

A new 40th Anniversary edition adds red leather upholstery and gloss-black trim to the most expensive model. Meanwhile, the base S and SL Maximas have been dropped, increasing the base price.

The Maxima tailors the Altima’s business-casual wear into a track suit. It’s sleek but large, exaggerated in its details from the deep V-neck grille to the chunky haunches. It’s one of the tent poles for Nissan’s “floating-canopy” styling doctrine—and it’s a good-looking car, with a cockpit that wraps toward the driver and presents them with real controls that aren’t buried in touchscreens.

The Maxima drafts a 300-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 for power, but saddles it with a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that powers the front wheels. It’s a recipe for mediocrity: though it’s certainly quick, the Maxima drivetrain drones and isn’t particularly responsive, even when fitted with paddles that flip through programmed shift ratios. It fares better with its absorbent ride and reasonably quick steering, particularly in SR spec, which gets 19-inch wheels, beefier suspension tuning, and those paddle shifters. It’s not the blast from the past we wanted, but it’s fun to drive nevertheless.

The Maxima has seats for four big adults, and the front chairs have lots of long-distance support. Head and leg room are lacking in back, and the trunk is on the small side, but the 2021 Maxima scored well in federal and insurance-industry crash tests.

How much does the 2021 Nissan Maxima cost?

The $37,915 Maxima SV has the lowest base price, but it still comes with 18-inch wheels, an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, leather upholstery, and navigation. We like the sport-tuned $43,075 Maxima SR, with its 19-inch wheels and stiffer suspension, too.

Where is the 2021 Nissan Maxima made?

In Smyna, Tennessee.

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2021 Nissan Maxima

Styling

Nissan renders the Maxima in sleek style.

Is the Nissan Maxima a good-looking car?

We wouldn’t call the Nissan Maxima subtle by any means, but the bold shape works well, and the interior’s put together in a visually interesting way. It’s a 7 here.

With its large V-necked grille growing larger with each generation, it’s hard to miss the “NISSAN” part of the Maxima equation. The LED lighting accents a shape that was distinctive for the upmarket sedan a few years ago, but has since been applied to the Altima and Sentra sedans. The blacked-out rear pillars make the roof appear to float—a nifty visual trick that’s probably at the end of its shelf life. SR Maximas have black wheels and trim and look the sporty part; the other Maximas still look distinctive and fresh, thanks to lots of muscular sculpting of the fenders.

The interior’s slightly more dated in feel, but a flat-bottom steering wheel and bright accents keep it looking fresh. Nissan wraps the Maxima cabin in good materials on the remaining models and hasn’t moved major controls into touchscreen menus. We like the Maxima’s unburied knobs and buttons, thanks, and the way the controls cant toward the driver like they do in a GT-R supercar.

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2021 Nissan Maxima

Performance

The Maxima’s engine has a rev limiter; with the CVT it has a fun limiter, too.

At its core the 2021 Maxima is an Altima with a V-6. That’s better in terms of ride and handling than it is in terms of powertrain performance. We give the Maxima a 7 here with an extra point for the former, one for the latter, and with an asterisk.

How fast is the Nissan Maxima?

The V-6 engine in the Maxima sets it apart from its less expensive kin. It’s powerful: the 3.5-liter V-6 makes 300 hp and 261 pound-feet of torque. It’s tied to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), though, and that zaps the entertaining side of that familiar engine. What works well in a Z coupe gets smothered by the responses of the CVT as it moves pulleys and belts to simulate a cogged-gear automatic. There’s a relentless economy-car feel, not sport-sedan zest, when it lumbers and drones through its rev range—but it’s still enough to catapult the car to 60 mph in less than seven seconds. With the Maxima SR come paddle shift controls that pick from eight preset ratios, but the equation’s already solved for mediocrity.

The V-6 pitches it above the Altima, but does it make it sporty? The Maxima’s best asset, actually, is its smooth ride. It’s not quite sharp enough to be dubbed a sport sedan, but the Maxima does have reasonably quick steering to go with its absorbent ride. In the SR, the stiffer suspension tuning and upgraded brakes turn up the wick a notch or two, but at more than $40,000 we can think of a handful of sport sedans that are admittedly smaller but far more engaging to drive.

Is the Nissan Maxima 4WD?

No, all Maximas are front-wheel drive.

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2021 Nissan Maxima

Comfort & Quality

The Maxima’s front seats grip large bodies, but the back seat and trunk wear a medium label.

With its large footprint, the Nissan Maxima offers about as much interior space as the Altima four-door. No surprise there since they share an architecture. The Maxima fits its version of that running gear with excellent front seats, but it squeezes adults and their cargo into a back seat and trunk a size too small. We give it a 6 here.

Those front seats have great support, and with the departure of the old base models, all Maximas now wear leather upholstery. The seats are well-bolstered, and comfortable for very long drives. SR versions get synthetic suede trim for even more body grip.

The accommodations aren’t as good in row two, where leg room dips to 34.2 inches. Two adults will fit, not three, and the Maxima sacrifices rear-seat head room to its sloped roofline. 

The Maxima’s trunk checks in at 14.3 cubic feet, less than many mid-size sedans—the same as the Sentra, in fact. It makes up ground in fit and finish: the Maxima interior feels substantial. It’s just rich enough to justify a base price of nearly $40,000.

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2021 Nissan Maxima

Safety

Give the Maxima credit: It crashes well.

How safe is the Nissan Maxima?

Nissan has earned solid crash-test scores with the Maxima, and outfits each one with standard automatic emergency braking. To us, that’s an 8.

The NHTSA pegs the Maxima at five stars overall, with a four-star score in a new side-pole rating. The IIHS says it’s a Top Safety Pick+, thanks to “Acceptable” headlights and “Good” crash-test ratings

Along with emergency braking, the Maxima gets standard active lane control, blind-spot monitors, and adaptive cruise control. Top-end models get a surround-view camera system that comes in handy, since the Maxima’s rear roof pillars block some of the view to the hind quarters.

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7

2021 Nissan Maxima

Features

The Maxima SR offers the most sporting features.

The 2021 Maxima has grown less affordable this year, but it still offers an impressive list of standard features and a good infotainment touchscreen. We give it a 7 for features, with extra credit for those—but it leaves points for options, value, and warranty unclaimed.

This year Nissan has dropped the S and SL Maxima. The $37,915 Maxima SV is the new entry-level car. It comes with an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, power-adjustable front seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, leather upholstery, and navigation.

Which Nissan Maxima should I buy?

We’d pick the $43,075 Maxima SR, which has a stiffer sport suspension, 19-inch wheels, more responsive brakes, and blacked-out trim. It’s the model that lives up to the original “four-door sports car” hype the best.

How much is a fully loaded Nissan Maxima?

The $43,145 Maxima Platinum has Bose audio, a surround-view camera system, a dual-pane sunroof, heated and cooled leather front seats, 19-inch wheels, and wood trim. For $2,215 more, Nissan has a 40th Anniversary model that gets its own 19-inch wheels and black trim, red leather seats, and heated rear seats. 

Nissan extends a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty to the Maxima. 

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4

2021 Nissan Maxima

Fuel Economy

The Maxima hits 24 mpg combined on the EPA cycle.

Is the Nissan Maxima good on gas?

It’s on the low end of average, for its size. The EPA scores it at 20 mpg city, 30 highway, 24 combined, which earns it a 4 here. The Maxima V-6 also requires premium fuel.

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$36,990
MSRP based on SV 3.5L
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6.5
Overall
Expert Rating
Rating breakdown on a scale of 1 to 10?
Styling 7
Performance 7
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety 8
Features 7
Fuel Economy 4
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2021 Nissan Maxima Pricing Insights

  • 2020 Maxima includes new standard features
  • Rebates: Up to $3,500 cash back
  • Finance: From 0% APR for 36 months + up to $2,000 bonus
  • Lease: From $299 per month for 36 months
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