2020 Nissan Maxima Test Drive

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By | 2020-02-14T15:58:04+00:00 February 14, 2020 - 03:58PM|Car Research|
  • Trim Tested: Maxima SR
  • Price as Tested: $44,030
  • Likes: Strong V6, upscale interior, comfortable front seats
  • Dislikes: Skimpy rear seat headroom, cluttered infotainment screen, performance-sapping transmission
  • Changes for 2020: Nissan made the panoramic moonroof and 360-degree parking camera standard in the SR trim. The automaker also added more advanced safety features to the SR and lower trims.

The Maxima is Nissan’s top sedan, aimed at midsize sedan buyers looking for a sportier ride. It’s more expensive than most midsize cars, but it comes with a standard V6, more standard features and a nicer interior than less expensive cars like the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima. We recently test drove the 2020 Maxima SR, the sporty trim in the Maxima lineup. Check out our driving impressions below.


The Maxima SR we tested is the sporty trim in the Maxima lineup, so Nissan gave it a stiffer suspension. That means a stiffer ride. It isn’t uncomfortable, but passengers will feel every bump. The upside is that the Maxima corners well, though it’s front-wheel drive, so it isn’t as sporty as a rear-wheel-drive BMW 3 Series, which starts at a similar price.

Acceleration is strong with the standard V6 – stronger than in most family sedans. However, Nissan uses a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which is like putting a squishy piece of rubber between your foot and the gas pedal. I wish they would give the Maxima a conventional automatic with fixed gears – they make me feel more connected to the engine and make driving more enjoyable. Drivers can press the “Sport” button on the center console, which sharpens up the transmission shifting a bit, but Sport mode turns off automatically when the car does, so you have to press it every time you drive, if you want to keep it on.

Comfort & Quality

The Maxima’s interior has solid build quality and looks upscale. Alcantara (that means synthetic suede) inserts on the leather seats hold passengers in place during cornering, and the seats themselves (Nissan’s Zero Gravity seats) are nicely supportive. My editor, who is taller than me, wished the front seats were wider for his knees. A larger sedan like the Toyota Avalon would have wider front seats.

The seats in back are a different story. There’s isn’t enough thigh support, which is common for the class, but I also found my head scraping against the ceiling (I’m 6 feet tall). That’s not common for a midsize sedan. Nissan should sacrifice the slick roofline in favor of more headroom. Knee room is fine in the back.

Technology & Usability

The infotainment system is older and it has a bunch of features I would never use, like weather reports and analog clock displays. Luckily, the audio controls are easy to use, and that’s probably all drivers would use the touch screen for, unless they plug in their smartphone to activate the standard Apple CarPlay or Android Auto systems. There are also helpful controls outside of the touch screen, including a big button marked “Audio”, separate volume and radio tuning knobs, and a big camera button for the 360 degree parking camera.

Not ready for a new car? Find a Used Nissan Maxima

Our vehicle overviews let you compare a vehicle’s specs against competitors. However, some aspects of a vehicle – performance, comfort, usability – can only be evaluated through actual driving. That’s why we evaluate as many vehicles as we can, so you’ll know what to expect.

If you have questions about this story, please contact us at Editors@carfax.com

About the Author:

I have been covering the automotive industry since my days at the University of Michigan. I’ve worked at Car & Driver, Michigan Radio and U.S. News & World Report, where I was Senior Editor for automotive coverage. As Carfax Managing Editor, I work every day to make buying and owning cars easier for our readers. In my free time, you can find me biking, attending Cars and Coffee and catching the latest movies. My personal cars tend to be ‘90s Japanese sedans with manual transmissions. I serve as Vice President of the Washington Automotive Press Association and live in the Washington D.C. area.