Behind the Wheel

2020 Nissan Maxima Review: Good enough to fill the small void left by Buick, Chevrolet

Nissan refreshed the Maxima for the 2019 model year. For 2020, there's a few improvements and the model still retains its comfortable seats and spacious trunk.

Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

In the words of Andre 3000 at the 1995 Source Awards, "the South got something to say." The mass market large car segment is nearing extinction, according to most of the headlines and statistics you'll read. Nissan, whose North American HQ is located squarely in the Southern U.S., has found itself in a strong position to pick up the slack left behind by General Motors.

The 2020 Nissan Maxima is relatively the same as the 2019 model, with a few differences. Nissan Safety Shield 360 is now standard on the car, adding automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, high beam assist, and rear automatic braking to every Maxima model.

2020 Nissan MaximaThe Nissan Maxima still features the updated exterior that was given to the car for the 2019 model year.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Nissan has also added the Integrated Dynamics Control Module to every grade of the car (previously in SR only), which includes intelligent trace control, active ride control, and intelligent engine brake, to the car.

The enhancements make the Maxima, which is powered by a capable but not exhilarating 300-horsepower, 3.5-liter V6 engine, a formidable choice for buyers who want a competent daily driver with a little more rear seat and trunk space than what is in the midsize Nissan Altima.

Nissan has done interiors quite well for years now and the Maxima is not an exception to that rule. For its $40,000-ish price tag when fully equipped, buyers get smooth surfaces with sleek accents. Despite cries from reviewers for Nissan to up its game here, a quick look at the market reveals that these materials are at least as nice as what you'll find in the Toyota Avalon, if not nicer.

2020 Nissan MaximaThe car has a large center stack that doesn't give the feeling of roominess that makes cars like the Genesis G90 and Audi A8 so desirable. Still, it feels roomier than the Lexus LS.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Large car buyers want comfort and the Maxima delivers. Its seats are spacious and feature Nissan's Zero Gravity technology, which keeps tiredness at bay for hours at a time. The back seats are equally comfortable carrying adult occupants and in top trims, the leather on the seats, steering wheel, and shifter are supple.

The car's sore spots are predictable and common in aging Nissan vehicles like the Maxima and Murano. The car's 8-inch infotainment touch screen features outdated graphics that get crowded when using the audio function and don't know enough clear detail when using the navigation system. The A-pillar isn't the easiest to see around. It could stand to be more athletic and isn't terribly fuel efficient.

2020 Nissan MaximaThe Nissan Maxima has comfortable seats, good forward visibility, and an available panoramic sunroof - all for around $40,000 fully loaded. That's a good price for a good car.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

Still, the Maxima delivers a lot of what buyers are looking for. Sure, it's not as well-equipped or engaging as large cars by BMW, Audi, Genesis, and Mercedes-Benz, but it's literally half the price.

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The new Z starts at under $40,000.

Nissan

The new Nissan Z is finally here, and the 400-horsepower sports car is hitting the market with a reasonable price. The car starts at just $39,990 before a $1,025 destination charge. That's significantly cheaper than the least expensive Toyota Supra for a car with impressive specs and great style.

2023 Nissan ZThe Z gets a 400-horsepower V6 from Infiniti.Nissan

The 2023 Z comes with a twin-turbocharged 3.0-liter V6 that makes 400 horsepower. It's paired with either a six-speed manual or nine-speed automatic transmission and rear-wheel drive. That's the enthusiast's dream setup, and it's one of few cars available in the U.S. with a manual gearbox. The body is stiffer and features more reinforcements from prior cars, and the steering system now features electric assistance instead of hydraulics. 18-inch wheels are standard and 19-inchers are available.

When it announced the car, Nissan made a point to talk about its retro-inspired styling and classic proportions. The coupe features a sweeping roofline, a distinct front fascia, and is unmistakeably a Z car, through and through. Inside, the car features a three anlog gauges for a classic look, 12.3-inch configurable digital gauge cluster and a 9-inch touchscreen display. The cabin looks upscale and tech-forward, with deep bucket seats.

2023 Nissan ZThe 2023 Z lands this summer. Nissan

Nissan says the new Z will go on sale in summer 2022. Pricing starts at $39,990 for the base Sport trim, $49,990 for the mid-range Performance trim, and $52,990 for the limited-edition range-topping Proto Spec trim.

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The IIHS may increase the speeds it uses to test advanced driver aids.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently announced that it is considering changing the speeds it uses to test vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention systems. The agency currently tests the systems at 12 and 25 mph, but says that the speeds don't accurately represent the types of crashes the safety tech is meant to prevent.

Front crash preventionwww.youtube.com

Automatic emergency braking (AEB) is designed to notify of a possible collision and help respond with automatic application of braking. Just like a human using the brake pedal, it can stop the car, but higher speeds make it difficult to stop in time. The new tests would be conducted at 35 to 45 mph, which is the range where a large number of rear-end crashes occur. As Automotive News noted, an IIHS study showed 43 percent of rear-end crashes occur at speeds of 45 mph or less, so it's important to have a test that shows how well the tech performs at those levels.

A whopping 85 percent of 2022 vehicles earned a "Superior" rating in the current testing regime, so the IIHS will remove it from 2023 testing and Top Safety Pick award evaluations. Their view is that, since the majority of vehicles meet the criteria, it's no longer an accurate way of evaluating performance. In its place, the agency introduced a night test for automatic emergency braking systems that will begin next year.

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