Nissan created a schtick that caught to the Maxima again in 1989. The automotive was marketed and bought in North America because the 4DSC, which is an abbreviation for “four-door sports activities automotive.” There was a 4DSC sticker on the window and every thing. Whether or not it lived as much as the identify is up for appreciable debate. For some historic perspective, MotorWeek’s evaluation of the automotive when it was new noticed it hit 60 mph in eight.2 seconds. The automotive’s propensity for vital physique roll was introduced up greater than as soon as. Neither of these sound like laudable sports activities automotive qualities, however regardless, the 4DSC branding inevitably comes up in any Maxima dialogue.
One purpose for that’s Nissan’s continued use of the four-door sports activities automotive slogan. It hasn’t been round so long as BMW’s “Final Driving Machine,” nevertheless it’s undoubtedly one of many older ones at this level, with greater than 30 years spanning its first and most up-to-date utilization. That stated, the Maxima identify itself is even older.
“Maxima” was first spelled out on the again of a Datsun 810 for the 1981 mannequin yr, with the mannequin’s full identify being the Datsun 810 Maxima. This mannequin transitioned into being named the Datsun Maxima one yr later, after which Nissan Maxima after the official Datsun-to-Nissan switchover. Nissan’s second-gen Maxima hit the highway in 1985, lasting 4 years. It was the third era in 1989 that was topped the 4DSC Maxima. All through the ’90s, it noticed its best success as Nissan’s midsize sedan entry, however when the Altima began to fill that slot, the Maxima was pushed upmarket. Every era of this century went on to undertake a barely completely different idea than the one which got here earlier than.
In order that’s 40 years of Maxima, distilled, and now there’s a automotive to ring within the fruits and celebration of these many years: the 2021 Nissan Maxima 40th Anniversary Version. It’s a sharp-looking sedan in trendy sheetmetal. Sharp sufficient (and maybe intriguing sufficient) that the automotive’s reveal was one in every of Autoblog’s most-read tales final fall. We’re not fully positive why. Simply know that the web isn’t all the time logical. Seeing the rabid curiosity, we figured we would higher get one in every of these into the fleet for testing to fulfill all of our apparently Maxima-hungry readers. You’re welcome.
The 40th Anniversary Version mannequin basically boils all the way down to a complete look bundle. Like most special-edition vehicles lately, this one leans closely into the darkish trim theme. Its stealthy and unique Ruby Slate Grey Pearl paint is mixed with a black roof and black 19-inch wheels. The 2 shades of darkness play properly off one another, they usually work with the Maxima’s normal design aesthetic. Black trim is used the place gaudy chrome was earlier than, although there may be curiously nonetheless a single strip of shiny trim used to mark the underside window line. A 40th Anniversary badge finishes the outside job up properly. It’s an improve over the usual Maxima as a complete, which is a classy automotive from the outset.
This bundle actually hits its stride when you open the door. Darkish crimson semi-aniline leather-based graces the doorways and comfy seats (embossed with the 40th Anniversary brand), and crimson stitching is used all through the cabin. It’s genuinely luxurious in look and execution, and comes off as a considerate, contrasting effort to steadiness the outside’s darkness. White-faced speedometer and tachometer gauges are added as an homage to these in Maximas previous — together with that 4DSC within the MotorWeek evaluation. It’s a beautiful contact, and their performance and visibility is not diminished because of their retro aesthetic. The worst a part of the inside are the “satin darkish chrome” faceted inside finishers Nissan makes use of as trim. They’re horrendously cheap-looking, they usually really feel the half, too.
There are not any mechanical modifications to talk of with the 40th Anniversary Version. Meaning it’s nonetheless trudging onward with a three.5-liter V6 mated to a CVT that sends all energy to the entrance wheels. A throwback to the guide transmission days would’ve been pretty, however that may stay a fever dream. Output from the engine is ample at 300 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque. It’s sufficient to spin the entrance wheels up from any cease, which is a testomony to how shortly the CVT is able to launching you ahead. And the way a lot this automotive would profit from the choice of all-wheel drive.
The 5.7-second zero-to-60 mph time is quite a bit faster lately than the eight.2 seconds it took in 1989. Neither is excessively sluggish for its period, however neither is particularly fast, both. The Maxima’s CVT bounces concerning the higher rev vary when you will have it pinned with simulated “shifts.” Acceleration remains to be tremendous easy with nary a pause in ahead momentum, and the V6 produces a semi-enticing growl that’s augmented by way of the audio system.
Driving the Maxima like a sports activities automotive (as Nissan’s advertising would counsel you are able to do) has its ups and downs. The transmission is fickle in Sport mode, preserving the revs up the place they need to be sometimes, however then randomly dropping them down tremendous low intermittently. It’s a irritating expertise. Placing it in “Guide” mode lets the motive force resolve the problem, however there are not any paddle shifters, and the slap-shift gear lever is oriented within the improper course — it ought to be pull again for upshift, and push ahead for downshift.
The chassis is a vibrant spot, because the Maxima strikes a beautiful steadiness between dealing with capacity and highway consolation. Nissan’s mounted damper expertise is far much less thrilling than the sonar road-scanning adaptive suspension of the 1989 Maxima (how cool is that?), nevertheless it will get the job finished. Physique motions are stored in examine as you’d count on in a sedan with a efficiency slant. Sadly, the hydraulic-electric steering system ruins a lot of the great that this chassis is doing. It has a numb, floaty feeling off-center that musses up the preliminary turn-in really feel, making a disconnect between the wheels and what you’re doing together with your fingers. Placing it in Sport mode helps right this with a heavier weight to the wheel, nevertheless it’s nonetheless ever-present and off-putting. The strangeness within the steering is even a bit regarding for on a regular basis driving, as gently arcing onto on-ramps or different light curves ends in the identical disconnect.
Consuming up freeway miles is the place the Maxima is in its aspect. It’s well-insulated to highway noise and wind buffeting, plus the suspension is compliant over tough surfaces. Simply as we posited in our first drive evaluation a few years in the past, the Maxima remains to be extra 4DGT (four-door grand tourer) than 4DSC. In that approach, the present Maxima isn’t all that completely different from the outdated. And with pricing that pushes it into luxurious territory — this 40th Anniversary Version begins at $45,295 — it faces the identical situation that newer Maxima generations have handled.
It could have a nicer cabin, extra commonplace energy and sleeker styling than varied cheaper midsize sedans, together with the Altima, nevertheless it nonetheless carries a non-luxury badge and doesn’t examine favorably in quite a few sensible regards. As an example, the much-cheaper midsize Honda Accord has extra cargo house and backseat room (there’s loads of legroom within the Maxima, however anybody approaching 6 toes will discover their heads within the roof). The Accord additionally drives much better than the Maxima does, gives extra tech and security options, and is trendy in its personal approach. On the similar time, equally priced sedans just like the Acura TLX and Lexus ES outdo the Maxima in varied methods whereas carrying precise luxurious badges.
Maybe not surprisingly, Maxima gross sales dropped significantly since shifting upmarket, averaging solely about 56,000 items between 2005 and 2018. For comparability, Nissan moved 109,000 again in 1989 and peaked at 163,000 in 1994. Then in 2020, issues actually fell off a cliff as solely 18,000 discovered properties. When people can scoop up a well-equipped Murano or Pathfinder for a similar cash as a Maxima, they have an inclination to try this lately. Maybe nothing can save any sedan, then, however a minimum of the Maxima may have a greater probability at succeeding if it made a extra credible case as a four-door sports activities automotive. As it’s, anyone who needs a enjoyable, massive sedan is significantly better off with an Accord 2.0T, Mazda6 Turbo, or newly out there, the Kia K5 GT.
Spending greater than $40,000 on this 40th Anniversary Version is hard it doesn’t matter what perspective you see it from. It’s nice that Nissan remains to be attempting to make the Maxima work right here when so many others have packed up their sedans and left, however until it will get a full re-think quickly, the 4DSC is troublesome to advocate.