Went to the Nissan dealership this weekend to get some work done on the G. Was bored while waiting so...Anyway, you know what the Maxima is- FWD, 300HP 3.5V6 large premium-ish sedan- a “sportier” alternative to an Impala/LaCrosse or Avalon. I wanted to test this specifically because of the CVT, I have seen some recent reviews of the Maxima and the brand-new Altima stating the CVT is not like the terrible soul sucking shitty excuse for transmissions from even as recent as 3 years back.
I have rented Altimas, Rogues before and they’ve all sucked for as far as I remember. But, never rented a Maxima and it’s been 2 years since I even rented any CVT car. SO, I can’t believe I am saying this- It’s actually good. Perhaps I had low expectations but anyway It was quick to respond, does that fake shifting thing where it’s imperceptible and doesn’t drone even in normal mode. It’s like an automatic without the hunting for gears and it does mimic gears when you floor it. I know some people question why the fake shifting but I hate that constant holding in an RPM and the drone that comes with it more, so I am fine with the mimicking, although I do understand CVTs are not typically meant to fake shift. I have read/seen some reviews say it switches between typical CVT behavior and fake shifting depending on the mode.
However, it was smooth and quiet in its operation- no droning, no hesitation. Just leave it on auto, Do NOT try to shift on your own though it’s not worth it, leave it be. I prefer an automatic/DCT if I want to use Paddles. Anyway, I tried all different scenarios in my 45 min test drive. Freeway 60 to 80 passing, city 30-50 passing, cruising, accelerating from a stop, city stop and go traffic- it didn’t falter. I was pleasantly surprised. One caveat is that this has the smooth 300HP and 261 LB-FT v6 so it has good response and power across the rev range to help the transmission. I tried both Normal and Sport mode, S keeps it just around 2500K RPM, D keeps it around 1500 RPM or lower.
I tested a $43K MSRP Platinum top trim. Functional interior has good quality fit but metal and wood are basically plastic made to look like it, excellent simple gauges with driver display, steering wheel design is good but needs more thickness, seats are excellent- One highlight of this car for sure, space for 4 six foot adults easy, lots of trunk space, infotainment system is straight forward has both controller and touchscreen capability, it does look dated, visibility is not bad at the back, has a big hood though but not bad either, design is meh even the Altima looks like a Maxima now but that’ subjective. I liked the looks of the older Maxima a lot more.
Anyway outside of the CVT, when driving, it’s a big car you can feel the weight, steering is light and artificial, and it has handling capability but not much feel, it’s a boat. GTFO with your “4DSC” marketing Nissan.
What it is, is Quick (5.7s 0-60), smooth, quiet, spacious and comfortable. Perfect for long freeway drives and commuting. Definitely needs AWD and much better performance tires to put the power down, reduce wheelspin, and help in handling-if it had something with torque vectoring. Now that the Altima has it, perhaps in the future?
Also, this is the new Altima and it’s now so big it’s almost the size of the Maxima and I can hardly notice any difference in exterior. I didn’t test drive this because they had no 2.0VC turbo examples available.
Overall, I’d definitely rent one, but never own one because when it comes to FWD family sedans the Mazda 6 2.5T and Accord 2.0T do it better and they’ve grown to almost full-size now.
I do have a fresh new perspective on Nissan’s CVT but I will not go so far to say all Nissan applications or even all CVTs are good- I need to try them out in individual vehicles. Let me be very clear that this pairing of the V6 in the Maxima works well but that doesn’t mean for me all CVTs are good. I have seen some reviewers praise this and trash the same combo in the Murano. Totally possible that your personal experience might be completely different if you drove this exact same Maxima. This is not an endorsement for CVTs, but what this makes me most curious about is how much they have been worked upon by manufacturers. Speaking of other applications I wonder how the new 2020 Subaru Legacy XT with the 2.4 Turbo and CVT will be? I want to test drive one.