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Tom Crosby: 2018 Nissan Maxima SR melds safety and looks

Tom Crosby

Nissan is adding the eye-catching Midnight Edition option to the SR Maxima for 2018 that will help the popular mid-size sedan continue to be a best-seller.

Sales of sedans sagged nationally in 2017 but not for the sharply styled Maxima, which had its best sales year ever. It is the company’s flagship mid-size sedan, increasing in popularity even though SUV’s and trucks rule public buying preferences.

The Maxima attracts envious glances, having been redesigned in 2016 and the SR, our test drive, was cloaked in Midnight Edition options not available on the SR last year.

SR Midnight enhances the already sleek, upscale profile atop 19″ black alloy wheels on all-season tires, dark rear spoiler, Midnight badging, black V-motion grille and black mirror tops. Even floor mats are inscribed.

This year all Maximas add a standard forward-collision warning with automatic emergency braking to complement already top safety ratings in government and insurance crash tests.

Driver aids are strong and although there is no lane keeping assist or alert, Nissan’s intelligent trace control applies brakes when cornering to maintain the steering line.

SR drivers choose either normal or sport mode, which tightens the already firm suspension and provides road feedback on all-season tires even in normal mode. Handling is responsive and controlled. Nissan touts the Maxima as a “four-door sports coupe” and it has similar driving dynamics.

Unfortunately, it also resembles a typical coupe’s cramped rear seat space. Two adults will fit snugly but comfort will dissipate on longer drives.

There are five main trims: base S, SV, SL, our sport-oriented SR and top trim Platinum, all using the same 300-horsepower V-6 engine. Inside, an aura of luxury prevails, with Ascot leather appointed seats with diamond-quilted Alcantara® insets, diamond-quilted chrome-like door trim and expensive appearing black dashboard and door materials with white piping.

Voice recognition is excellent, controls are easy to manipulate via the 8-inch touchscreen or a central console knob. Information is intuitively accessed.

Front seats are heated/cooled and the BOSE sound system provides clear audibility with nearly inaudible engine or road noise except under acceleration. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone are standard.

Surround sensors help avoid minor scrapes while parking and NissanConnect telematics includes automatic collision notification and 911 emergency calls, plus roadside assistance.

Knick knack spaces are plentiful; there is a spare tire, a first aid kit and visors are extendable. Trunk space is adequate.

LIKE: Handling, looks, power, cabin, safety, tech interfaces, price

DISLIKE: Smallish trunk and rear seating, firm ride

BOTTOM LINE: Sporty when it needs to be with luxury appeal

FACT FILE

2018 NISSAN MAXIMA SR

Base price w/destination fee       $39,415 ($41,495 as tested)

Curb weight                             3,552 lbs.

Wheelbase                                   109.3 inches

Length                                   192.8 inches

Width                                   73.2 inches

Engine specs (gas)                     3.5-liter, V6, DOHC

Horsepower                            300-hp @ 66,400rpm

Torque                                   261 lbs.-ft. @ 4,400rpm

Transmission                            Xtronic CVA w/manual paddles

EPA Rating                            21 mpg city and 30 mpg highway

Range                                   18-gallons, premium recommended

Performance                            0-60 in just under 6 seconds

 

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years.

 

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