NAPA, Calif. — I must admit, when I think of midsize sedans, the first cars that come to mind are Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. These are quickly followed by Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima.
But after having spent some time with the refreshed 2019 Nissan Maxima, I kind of wonder why it doesn’t make the list. It’s not even an afterthought on the list.
It’s attractively designed, nicely appointed and handles really well. It’s more near luxury than mainstream, yet the price point at around $34K isn’t egregious.
Then it hits me: Advanced safety isn’t standard.
Features such as blind spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane keep assist, automatic rear braking and automatic high beams, which are standard on other Asian automaker vehicles, are merely optional on the Maxima.
Nissan made a big deal about adding Safety Shield 360 to the 2019 model year, but it’s only standard on the top-tier Platinum trim. It’s offered as a package option on the SR trim. It’s not available on any other trim. At all.
Especially in a vehicle that has a lot going for it.
During our first-look, we had access to the Platinum model with its plush quilted seats and up-level trim accents. The interior is well designed and attractive, the touch points are solid, and the overall schema is more elegant than plain.
Other than the SR trim with its sport-tuned suspension and paddle shifters, the ride and handling will be similar from the S to the Platinum models.
The Maxima maintains the same 3.5-liter, 300-horsepower V-6 engine for 2019, and this is really nice power for a vehicle of this size.
It is fast with off-the-line starts and does really well in passing maneuvers. Overall ride-and handling comes off as sporty rather than cushy – even without the sport suspension.
The overall shape and design of the Maxima is also the same for 2019.
So, what’s new for 2019? The front and rear fascia get some design tweaks, interior materials get an upgrade, there are two new wheel designs, and there is a new exterior color.
I spent a lot of time toggling between 2018 and 2019 photos to catch the design changes, and I will say they aren’t obvious. The headlights are upgraded, the grille has a more distinct V-Motion design and the quad-tip exhaust is new.
Because this is a refresh instead of a redesign, the changes are necessarily subtle and small.
The one thing I can’t wait for them to change in the next generation: the driver’s seat. The driver’s position isn’t designed for the fifth percentile female – or someone who’s about 5-feet tall.
The seat bottom was very large, and I couldn’t adjust the seat high enough to give me a primo view out the windshield.
I even had a hard time adjusting the rearview mirror for my far-forward position.
Despite that, I really liked how the refreshed Maxima looked and felt.
For 2019 there will be five trims and just two package options. The breakdown is as follows:
S ($34,845): At this base level, you’ll get features such as automatic emergency braking, rear door alert, Apple Carplay/Android Auto, two front USB charge ports and intelligent automatic headlights.
SV ($36,855): This trim adds leather appointed seats and navigation.
SL ($39,335): At this level, you’ll add the dual-pane panoramic moonroof and Bose premium audio.
SR ($40,425): Dubbed the sporty trim, at this level you’ll get a sport-tuned suspension, 19-inch gloss black alloy wheels, paddle shifters and a rear spoiler.
Platinum ($42,335): This top-tier trim adds premium Ascot leather seats, NissanConnect Services and Safety Shield 360.
The refreshed 2019 Nissan Maxima hit dealers in December, and is currently on sale.
The Bottom Line:
Nissan and the other Asian automakers refuse to give up on the sedan market –for good reason. Around 3 million sedans are sold in the United States each year. If you make a nice car, why wouldn’t you get a piece of that pie?
And the Nissan Maxima is a nice vehicle. With automakers like Ford and General Motors exiting the sedan market, it has the potential to make some bigger gains.
The refresh for 2019 is more like a fine-tuning, and the changes are more subtle than obvious. But the overall effect turns a nice vehicle into something nicer.
We just wish Safety Shield 360 was standard.
Editor’s Note: Driving impressions in this “First Look” review are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Nissan covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.