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).
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.
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.