by Michael Butler
In a world dominated by SUVs and, slowly but surely, electric vehicles, large V6-powered family sedans seem somewhat outdated. Enter the Nissan Maxima, the answer to a question no one in 2022 was asking. A big, 300-horsepower V6 that sends its power to the front wheels via a CVT transmission makes this car less than sporty, despite Nissan's best efforts with the SR trim. At least it's safe and well equipped, but it is hopelessly overshadowed by more accomplished competitors such as the Honda Accord and Mazda 6. There are some redeeming traits, however, such as the aforementioned 300 ponies, and seats that live up to their Zero Gravity nomenclature with unrivaled levels of comfort. Nissan might market the Maxima as a performance-focused midsize sedan, but in reality, it's a comfy, well-equipped, safe sedan with a fun side.
The Maxima soldiers on untouched for the 2022 model year save for two small changes - heated outboard rear seats have been added as standard to the top Platinum trim and on the paint palette, Carnelian Red Tintcoat is replaced with Scarlet Ember Tintcoat. Prices are up by between $150 and $220, depending on the trim.
See trim levels and configurations:
Nissan's engineers must have been confused when they set up the Maxima's suspension system. The car is not aimed at fans of traditional sport sedans; take a look at the engine and transmission setup and this becomes abundantly clear. So it remains a mystery as to why they made the suspension so firm. The suspension is damped for a more aggressive driving style, which then naturally sacrifices ride comfort. This issue reveals itself at almost any speed: over low-speed surfaces, imperfections are felt more so than in most competitors. The Sporty SR trim gets the worst of it thanks to a stiffer suspension setup. The upside to all of this is that the Maxima is one of the better-handling cars in this segment. The sharp and responsive steering inspires confidence, although the Maxima struggles to hide its weight through the twisty bits.
With all that weight and power sloshing over the front wheels, the Maxima will eventually turn toward understeer as is to be expected of an FWD car of this size. On the plus side, Nissan has done a good job of canceling out road noise, which adds a touch of refinement.
Looking at images of the Maxima can be deceiving: this car is not exceptional at anything it does. The exterior is handsome, and the interior is well-appointed, but there are competitors that do it all better. The 3.5-liter V6 offers good potential performance but is let down by a lethargic CVT transmission and, on the road, competitors from Toyota and Honda are more comfortable. The interior of the Maxima stands out as its best attribute. High-quality materials and a solid list of standard features all help the Maxima rival the class leaders. Another big reason for looking at the Maxima is its brilliant safety record. With a full five-star rating from the NHTSA and a 2021 Top Safety Pick+ award from the IIHS, the Maxima is as safe as they get. There are better deals out there, but you could certainly do worse.
|Nissan Maxima||300 hp||20/30 mpg||$38,340|
|Nissan Altima||188 hp||27/39 mpg||$25,490|
|Honda Accord||192 hp||29/37 mpg||$27,295|
The Altima slots below the Maxima in Nissan's sedan range and is classified as a midsize sedan. From the outside, the Altima is arguably the better-looking car. It's powered by a 2.5-liter four-pot engine or 2.0-liter turbocharged unit. While less powerful, it offers similar performance levels thanks to a lower curb weight, while boasting superior gas-mileage figures. Sitting on a longer wheelbase means the Altima provides more interior space and larger trunk space. Nissan has really screwed up here: not only is the Altima better to look at, but it's almost $12,000 cheaper, offers more space, is more fuel-efficient, and delivers similar performance levels. The choice should be obvious.
Nissan made a massive faux-pas when it made the Maxima over $10,000 more expensive than the similarly-sized Honda Accord. Its rival has been a traditional front-runner in this class and offers a brilliantly balanced package that is hard to beat. From the outside, the Accord is the better-looking car. With two turbocharged engines and a better choice of transmissions, the Accord is more efficient, more fun to drive, and will blow the Maxima away through a set of twisty roads. The Accord's interior feels just as well put together and luxurious, and Honda has not been stingy when it comes to standard features. It is also safe as houses, and with such a massive price gap and a far larger trunk, Honda is the only way to go.
The most popular competitors of 2022 Nissan Maxima: