Nissan Maxima vs. Toyota Avalon

By

Automotive Editor

John Diether has been a professional writer, editor, and producer since 1997. His work can be found on TV, radio, web, and various publications throughout the world.  He is a graduate of Northwestern University and has a 1992 Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance in his garage. 


, Automotive Editor - October 24, 2018

Buyers who want an upscale sedan without paying a brand premium have two long-running choices: the Nissan Maxima and Toyota Avalon. The Maxima has always been the sportier of the two, while the Avalon has concentrated on passenger comfort, though a 2019 redesign brought a more aggressive design. That distinction still stands, but not to the degree we remember. The Maxima is plusher than ever, and the Avalon is at the peak of its performance. Now that these sedans have more in common, which emerges as the better buy?

See a side-by-side comparison of the Maxima & Avalon»

What the Maxima Gets Right

The Maxima looks as lean and aggressive as a sedan of its size can. The modern interior features plenty of technology and quality trim – the mood is clearly more sophisticated here than in even the best family sedans. Handling remains the Maxima's strongest suit. It's eager to carve a path through twisty roads and exceptionally responsive in everyday driving. The suspension settles down nicely when long stretches of highway are on the route.

The 3.5-liter V6 engine sends 300 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels. The continuously variable automatic transmission quietly pours on the power when asked. It's responsive and smooth at the same time, a good match for the Maxima's sport-luxury ambitions. The EPA rates this setup at 21 miles per gallon city, 30 mpg highway, and 25 combined.

What the Avalon Gets Right

The Avalon has been redesigned for 2019 with emphasis on projecting a more youthful image. The body is more aerodynamic than before, defined by sharp angles and a wide mesh grille. The Avalon still looks like a buttoned-down sedan, but it certainly isn't dowdy.

Buyers can be assured of full-size comfort and a plush ride. A touring suspension is used on some trim levels for those who might otherwise find the Avalon too cushy for their taste.

The 3.5-liter V6 now makes 301 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque, and is paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. The Avalon is rated at 22/31/25 mpg (city/highway/combined). We still consider the Avalon much more of a cruiser rather than a sport sedan, which seems like the right approach for a car of this size.

What Matters More?

The Maxima gives buyers an extra dose of performance that's likely to be appreciated every time they get behind the wheel. The Avalon might not be as responsive, but it's no slouch, and really excels in comfort and rolling smoothness.

Our Verdict: Toyota Avalon

The Avalon can put passengers to sleep without doing the same to the driver.

Take a closer look at the Nissan Maxima »

Take a closer look at the Toyota Avalon »

Side-by-side comparison of features, pricing, photos and more!

, Automotive Editor

John Diether has been a professional writer, editor, and producer since 1997. His work can be found on TV, radio, web, and various publications throughout the world.  He is a graduate of Northwestern University and has a 1992 Cadillac Brougham d’Elegance in his garage. 


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