There are many good reasons to continue buying cars, despite the market shift to crossover. The 2020 Nissan Maxima SR should convince a lot buyers to not give up on sedans.
After a few months of test driving nothing but crossovers and trucks, I was pleasantly surprised when Nissan's sporty version of their largest car arrived. For starters, it looks great. With a huge front grill, sharp exterior edges, big wheels and low profile tires, and burnt orange paint, it jumped out in the company parking lot.
Let's face it, many of today's crossovers are pretty generic looking. Not the current version of the midsize Maxima, which attracted a lot of attention everywhere I went.
But when I first prepared to drive away, I was surprised by how easy it was in to slip into the driver's seat. I'd gotten used to climbing up into vehicles, not just stepping into them, like with any car. That really is an ease of effort sacrificed with taller vehicles.
On the road, it was refreshing to once again be sitting just a foot or so off the ground in a vehicle with a low center of gravity. Yes, crossovers offer better visibility because the seating is higher, but the Maxima immediately felt much more connected to road.
Of course, it helped that the 2020 Maxima is one of the best affordable family cars on the market and the SR package includes some genuine performance upgrades including a sport-tuned suspension and 19-inch alloy wheels with low profile tires. Nissan advertises it as a four-door sports car with good cause.
But the most fun was generated by the normally-aspirated 3.5-liter V6 that pumped out 300 horsepower and 261 foot-pounds of torque. Unlike the smaller turbocharged four cylinder engines that some manufacturers prefer because of their slightly better fuel economy, Nissan's proven V6 feels much faster off the line, especially in the Sport mode that increases throttle response.
The engine is also mated to one of the best continuously variable transmissions available today, which includes both a manual shift mode and paddle shifter for even more control.
Although the Maxima is Nissan's largest car (as the name suggests), it is not as big as other full-size cars, some of which are being phased out of production because of the shift to crossover, like the departing Chevy Impala and Ford Taurus. Because it is more of a midsize, the Maximum is easier to drive around town than larger sedans. But, thanks to the wonders of modern engineering and manufacturer, the Maxima still has an enormous amount of interior space. Five adults can ride comfortably in it, at least on reasonable trips.
Because the Maxima is first and foremost a family car, Nissan has packed it with a lot of standard and available safety features. They include automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, high beam assist and rear automatic braking, a 360-degree camera system and road sign recognition.
The Maxima also comes with great tech packages, especially in the higher trims. They include an 8.0-inch touchscreen system with support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. It is also one of the few remaining cars to offer a CD player. And if you opt for the the Platinum Reserve package, you'll swear you're driving a genuine luxury package.
There are many reasons why buyers are shifting to crossovers, but don't count cars out yet, especially when you can still buy the sporty version of the 2020 Nissan Maxima for under $45,000.
2019 Nissan Maxima SR
Base price: $34,250
Price as tested: $44,030
Type: Mid-size sedan
Engine: 3.5-liter V6 (300 hp, 261 lbs-ft)
Transmissions: Continuously Variable Transmission
EPA estimated mileage: 20/30
Overall length: 193 inches
Curb weight: 3,676 pounds
Final assembly: Smyrna, Tennessee
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