2021 Nissan Maxima
2021 Nissan Maxima
The 2021 Nissan Maxima is a handsome and sporty sedan with a strong V-6 engine and good safety scores.
For 2021, there’s a 40th Anniversary edition, celebrating with red leather upholstery and gloss-black trim. The S and SL models have been dropped.
The Maxima’s 3.5-liter V-6 makes a very strong 300 horsepower. It’s connected to a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) that tamps down the powertrain’s energy. Acceleration is certainly quick, but it’s not particularly responsive. Otherwise, the Maxima’s a stylish, powerful and not-inexpensive sedan with an absorbent ride and fairly quick steering.
The Maxima’s fuel economy is below average for its class, with EPA ratings of 20 mpg city, 30 highway, 24 combined—and it requires premium fuel. But its safety scores are above average, with five stars from the NHTSA (four stars in the new side-pole rating), while the IIHS says it’s a Top Safety Pick+, with the top Good scores in crash tests, with an Acceptable rating for the standard headlights.
There’s also more standard safety equipment than average, with automatic emergency braking, active lane control, blind-spot monitors, and adaptive cruise control. The top two models add a surround-view camera system.
With the Maxima S and SL models gone, the new base model is the SV, followed by the sporty SR, luxury Platinum and special 40th Anniversary Edition.
The $37,915 Maxima SV 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.
The $43,075 Maxima SR has a stiffer sport suspension, bigger brakes, 19-inch wheels, and blacked-out trim.
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.
The $45,360 40th Anniversary Edition gets red leather seats, heated rear seats, unique 19-inch wheels and black trim.
All Maximas get a 3-year/36,000-mile warranty.
The Maxima is a good-looking car, more bold than subtle. It’s large and sleek, even with chunky haunches—or, to put it more politely, muscular sculpting of the fenders. The Maxima is exaggerated in its details, and flaunts a deep V-shaped grille.
The blacked-out rear pillars make the roof appear to float—a visual trick used by other manufacturers. The sporty Maxima SR best complements these black pillars with black wheels and trim.
The cabin is visually interesting, with a cockpit that cants toward the driver as in the Nissan GT-R sports car; and like that sports car (some call it a supercar), there are real controls, not functions buried in the touchscreen as well a sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel.
The rest of the cabin is a bit dated, but bright trim and accents help it feel fresh. And with the base models gone, the materials are all good, including standard leather, except the SR gets synthetic leather for more grip in the seats.
The excellent front seats are well bolstered, with great overall support for long hours. The comfort isn’t as good in the rear, where three adults will be squeezed, their legs scrunched with only 34.2 inches of leg room, and their heads skimming the sloping roof.
The Maxima’s trunk isn’t particularly generous either, with 14.3 cubic feet, which is actually smaller than the compact Nissan Versa sedan.
The surround-view camera system is appreciated in the Platinum and 40th Anniversary Edition, as the Maxima’s rear roof pillars block some outward rear vision.
The V-6 in the Maxima is what mostly sets it apart from the Altima. The Maxima shares the Altima’s architecture, but improves on the ride and handling, as well. The Maxima’s best feature is its smooth ride, and its steering is reasonably quick.
Nissan’s 3.5-liter V-6 is an engine that’s been well-proven over the years in many Nissan cars, trucks, SUVs, and even the 350Z sports car. In the 2021 Maxima it makes 300 hp and 261 pound-feet of torque. The V-6 can power the Maxima from 0 to 60 mph in less than seven seconds, but the CVT wouldn’t be our first choice of transmissions, as it tends to zap some of the zest from the drivetrain.
The Maxima SR offers a slightly harder edge. Its firmer suspension and better brakes turn up the Maxima’s wick a bit, and give it a flatter response to tight corners and deep bends.
The 2021 Nissan Maxima has crisp styling and a high-output V-6 under its hood, and the SR takes a sporty-sedan set. The CVT is a letdown, but the Maxima’s engaging road manners will win over most buyers.
—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection