Big sedans don’t quite have the control of the average family’s wallet as much as they did in pre-crossover days. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth your consideration, especially the 2018 Nissan Maxima. The Maxima is a unique breed in this class, as it delivers more sportiness than most but also lacks in family-hauling abilities. But does this combination add up to a sedan that’s worth buying? Keep reading to find out.

Best Value

While there are plenty of trim levels to choose from, the best value is the mid-range SL. It carries in the plethora of standard features from the S and SV trims and adds in a few more comfort bits like leather upholstery, heated seats, driver-side thigh extension, an 11-speaker Bose audio system, LED interior lights, and active noise cancellation.

In addition to its long line of standard features, the 2018 Maxima SL also has loads of standalone options, including rocker panel moldings, a rear diffuser, illuminated kick panels, a spoiler, and more. Though there are all these individual options, there are no optional packages to choose from.

  • Model: 2018 Nissan Maxima SL
  • Engine: 3.5-liter V6
  • Output: 300 hp / 261 lb-ft
  • Transmission:Continuously variable transmission
  • Drivetrain: Front-wheel drive
  • MPG: 21 city / 30 hwy
  • Options: Carnelian Red ($395)
  • Base Price:$38,575 (including the $885 destination fee)
  • Best Value Price:$38,970

Performance

Nissan Maxima

The Maxima has long carried the “four-door sports car” moniker, and the 2018 version still carries that torch in some ways. Its 3.5-liter V6 engine is plenty powerful at 300 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque, and its suspension is tuned well for the corners for such a heavy car.

That said, that V6 is unrefined and requires a deep trip into the RPM band to milk all of its power. Not only do you have to go deep to get the most from this big sedan, but the continuously variable transmission keeps the revs screaming the whole way.

Style

Nissan was daring in designing the Maxima, giving it a sporty look that’s not very common in its segment. There’s also plenty of room to show off all its curves and angles thanks to its 193-inch length.

With this unorthodox styling also comes the risk of pushing some buyers away, which the Maxima does plenty of. Inside, the cabin is surprisingly tight, as the center console eats up some space and the rear seats have an alarmingly tiny 34.2 inches of leg room.

The Best and Worst Things

The Maxima is about as safe as a large sedan gets. It comes standard with all the goodies, like six airbags, stability control, a rearview camera, and automatic emergency braking. This all adds up to an IIHS Top Safety Pick rating – it only missed the Top Safety Pick Plus designation due to the base headlights receiving a “Poor” rating.

While being inside the Maxima is safe, it's far from comfortable, especially considering the class it’s in. As a large sedan, the Maxima should push nearly 40 inches of rear leg room and have all the knee room in the world up front. Sadly, it lags way behind in these areas.

Right For? Wrong For?

Nissan Altima

Empty nesters are the perfect Maxima buyers – especially those looking for that little bit of added pep its V6 delivers. Because they're free of kids, they can enjoy all the Maxima has to offer without worrying about how tight the back seats are.

Growing families often find themselves checking out large sedans, but this is one big four-door they should skip. As their kiddos reach pre-teen and teenage years, the Maxima’s rear seats will give them yet another reason to whine.

The Bottom Line

The 2018 Nissan Maxima, while not the standout it once was, still carries its four-door sports car badge confidently. That said, its closed-in cabin will have some buyers questioning whether or not they accidentally bought a true sports car.