The 2019 Nissan Maxima Sticks It Out with Small Improvements

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Detroit thinks large sedans are dead. Ford is phasing out the Taurus after 32 years of nearly uninterrupted production, General Motors has announced plans to kill both the Chevrolet Impala and the Buick LaCrosse, and Fiat Chrysler is letting the Chrysler 300 and the Dodge Charger languish. Bucking the trend, Nissan seems committed to its large, near-luxury Maxima sedan, ushering in a host of refinements, a light styling refresh, and new features for 2019.

The Maxima is no sports sedan, but it’s far from stodgy. It shares space with the Kia Cadenza on our Editors’ Choice list for best full-size sedans. It’s a handsome package made from quality materials and well-engineered components with a generous dollop of premium features to sweeten the deal.

What’s New

The changes for 2019 amount to a mid-cycle refresh for the Maxima, which was last fully redesigned for the 2016 model year. New LED headlamps, revised LED taillamps, a more pronounced grille, larger fog-lamp surrounds, new chrome detailing on the front bumper, and a new lower rear fascia with integrated quad exhaust finishers differentiate the 2019 model visually. The look is cohesive and nicely integrates the Maxima into the Nissan lineup among all-new models such as the Altima mid-size sedan and the subcompact Kicks crossover. The Maxima’s crossover cousin, the Murano, receives similar styling upgrades this year.

Changes are even subtler inside. Upgraded materials are used throughout, from the instrument panel to the upholstery. The SR model now comes with a black headliner and orange detailing on the quilted leather and microsuede seats, while the top-of-the-line Platinum trim can be had with the Platinum Reserve package that brings lovely saddle-colored semi-aniline leather seats and faceted satin-bronze interior accents. The cabin is still comfortable and spacious, and it features driver-focused cockpit styling-all things that have charmed us in the past.

The Maxima receives a tech upgrade as well, with updated navigation on all but the base S model, additional USB-C ports, and Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant integration. A bundle of driver-assistance features includes front and rear automated emergency braking, pedestrian detection, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, and automatic high-beam headlamps, but it’s only offered on the top two trim levels, the SR (where it’s optional) and the Platinum (where it’s standard).

What’s Unchanged

The Maxima still offers the same dynamic traits that have endeared us to Nissan’s flagship four-door in the past: a supple but controlled ride, assertive V-6 power, and predictable handling. But we can’t help wondering why the Maxima didn’t inherit the Altima’s new variable-compression turbo four-cylinder engine or its optional all-wheel drive. Although the redesigned steering wheel borrows more than a few design details from the helm found in the mighty GT-R, the steering itself is just as numb and uncommunicative as before. The same goes for the mushy brake pedal, which is a blemish on the above-average braking performance we’ve recorded in the past.

2019 Nissan Maxima

With the 3.5-liter V-6 making the same 300 horsepower and 261 lb-ft of torque as before, the Maxima’s acceleration isn’t expected to differ from that of the pre-refresh models. That’s not a complaint, however: A 2017 Maxima Platinum delivered a brisk 5.7-second zero-to-60 mph time at our test track, scooted from 50 to 70 mph in a quick 3.9 seconds, and blew through the quarter-mile in 14.2 seconds at 102 mph.

Maybe what’s most impressive here is that Nissan is still committed to the Maxima-a nameplate that goes back decades-even though it’s in a declining segment. After all, the market can be fickle. SUVs are hot today, but it’s possible sedans could come back into fashion. Should that happen, stylish, luxurious offerings like the Maxima seem the most likely to benefit.

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