Used Vehicle Review: Nissan Maxima, 2016-2018

Vehicle Type

The Maxima seems to strike an ideal balance of handling and comfort that satisfies on long highway drives and in winding backroads alike.

Sport sedan

History/Description

Nissan’s Maxima entered its latest generation after decades of affordable sports sedan popularity, and hit Canadian roads in 2015 as a larger, more high-tech, and more upscale machine than ever. To the machine’s original recipe of punchy V6 performance and sporty moves, the latest Maxima added no shortage of luxury, connectivity, and communications features, while maintaining a sensible blend of firepower, fuel economy, and driving thrills.

Features included climate-controlled seats, a heated steering wheel, navigation, the Around View parking monitor, Bluetooth, high-end Bose stereo provisions, push-button start, full multimedia connectivity, and more.

Several trim grades were available, including the top-line and fully-loaded Maxima SR and Platinum models, respectively.

The Maxima’s all-new platform debuted the first-ever use of 1.2 GPa-grade high-strength steel in a Nissan sedan. That’s engineering-speak for extremely strong and light steel, which allows stronger structures to be built from less steel, enhancing strength, weight, and fuel efficiency simultaneously. Using high-strength steel extensively, the new Maxima was 25 percent more torsionally rigid than its predecessor, while shedding over 80 pounds.

Most shoppers should find Maxima delivers plenty of space for a roomy adult road trip with a full complement of passengers and luggage in tow, and the model is also widely considered an excellent long-haul touring cruiser with power to spare. Cross-shop this one against other mainstream flagship sedans, like the Toyota Avalon, Chevrolet Impala, Dodge Charger, and Kia Cadenza.

Engines

All units ran the latest version of Nissan’s acclaimed 3.5-litre V6 engine, with an improved 300 horsepower available despite a notable improvement in highway fuel economy. All units were front-wheel drive and came with Nissan’s XTronic CVT transmission – which mostly works just like a conventional automatic.

What Owners Like

Build quality, above-average handling and steering response, an attractive cabin, plenty of space, a generous trunk, and a slick navigation system were all highly rated by owners. The Maxima seems to strike an ideal balance of handling and comfort that satisfies on long highway drives and in winding backroads alike.

What Owners Dislike

Some owners wish for a manual transmission option, saying that the CVT transmission takes away some of the sporty edge of the V6 engine. Higher-than-expected levels of wind and road noise were also reported, though this may be a function of the type and condition of the tires installed to the particular unit in question. Some also wish for more headroom, and a sharper “feel” to the steering.

Pro Tip: Budget for Upkeep Costs

Understand the costs. If Maxima will be your first foray into a higher-end sedan, be sure you’re able to handle the purchase costs, as well as the costs to keep it ticking. If you’re coming into the Maxima from a smaller economy model, expect to pay more for fuel, tires, maintenance, oil-changes, insurance, replacement parts like brakes and bushings, and replacement lighting provisions, too.

Pro Tip: Keep to the Upkeep

Stick to the plan. The exact, specific, and precise maintenance requirements of the Nissan Maxima are clearly listed in the owner’s manual, though many owners still consider these requirements to be debatable or optional. In this discussion, several owners question which grade of fuel they “really” need to use, or whether or not their Maxima “really” needs an oil change as often as is listed in the owner’s manual. For best results, check all service records, and ensure you’re not buying a used Maxima from a seller who considered its maintenance requirements to be subject to interpretation.

The Test Drive

Nissan CVT Transmission

Nissan has built countless copies of their Xtronic CVT transmission and owners tend to report few issues as this transmission ages (relative to overall sales volumes). Still, shoppers are advised to check for potential warning signs, including limited throttle response, limited performance, a whining sound, and any unwelcome sensations during shifting (including banging, lurching, or shaky acceleration). If you detect any of the above, be sure to have the vehicle cleared by a Nissan technician before you buy, or move to another unit.

In many cases, driveability issues related to this transmission, if detected, are easily remedied with updated transmission control software which is an easy fix. Still, the same warning signs can be an indication of a more serious problem.

Poor maintenance can also cause issues with this (or any) transmission. For maximum peace of mind, seek out service records indicating that the transmission in the Maxima you’re considering has been regularly serviced, on time, in a Nissan dealer setting.

Finally, check the automatic gear shifter for proper operation, ensuring it slips smoothly between the gears with no hesitation or difficulty. A faulty shifter button, cable and/or brake interlock switch could be to blame if that’s not the case.

Here’s some additional reading about possible transmission trouble warning signs.

Sports Car Checks

Maxima is a sports sedan, which means there’s a higher-than-average likelihood it’s been driven hard by previous owners. A such, shoppers are advised to pay extra attention to the shape of wearable items, including tires, brake system components, and suspension components. If the seller would rather you foot the bill for replacement parts, you’ll want to know about it before you buy. Ask a technician to help assess the shape of these components, if you’re not sure how.

Note, finally, that a full tune-up and fluid/filter change is a great idea ahead at the time of purchase if you’ll buy a used Maxima without full service records – though doing so is not advised.

Unwelcome Vibration

According to this discussion, some owners have reported unwanted vibrations from their Maximas that may be hard to source. In some cases, the cause of a slight and perpetual vibration from the vehicle at moderate to highway speeds may be related to over-inflated tires, a problem with the programming of the transmission, or improperly balanced wheels. Take any unwanted vibrations as a sign to have the vehicle professionally assessed before you buy.

Help it Last

According to many owners, their Maxima is their pride and joy. Many shoppers have faithfully driven Nissan models for years, before “treating” themselves to Nissan’s top car. If that’s the case for you, consider budgeting a few extra dollars to protect your investment.

Professional cleaning and conditioning of leather seating surfaces, and professional cleaning and protective coating of the paint are two services worth their cost, provided a reputable professional carried out the work. Both of these services can enhance long-term resale value by maintaining the Maxima’s appearance for years to come.

Central Command Workout

Maxima’s central command system allows for control of hundreds of functions from a touchscreen on the dash. Some owners have reported that this system may crash, lag, choke, or otherwise act up, sometimes for no apparent reason. In numerous cases, simply restarting the vehicle solves this rare and random annoyance. Recurring issues may require a system “hard reset” to remedy. If unsuccessful, the head-unit may need to be replaced. Work the system hard on your test drive, confirming all functions operate as intended, and that all connected devices work favorably. If the Maxima’s central touchscreen unit is acting up, you’ll want to know before you buy.

If you have any issues connecting your smartphone to the Maxima’s Bluetooth system, give this a read.

Skip the Mods

Maxima is a somewhat-popular candidate for owner modifications – which commonly come in the form of lowered suspension, up-sized wheels, and various engine performance parts. For the average shopper, sticking to a model that’s never been modified is typically best – as non-factory add-ons or modifications can cause headaches and issues, as well as damage and wear that aren’t covered by any remaining warranty. Buying a used Maxima with non-factory suspension or engine performance parts is not advisable for most shoppers.

The Most Common Issues?

According to this discussion, most owners report some minor issues with their Maximas. Deformed fuel-tank shielding, annoying interior rattles (caused by a seatbelt, rocker-panel clip, or seat mounting hardware), and fussy audio controls have all been reported, as have possibly noisy air leaks from the sunroof, which may require some professional adjustment to fix. Test drive your used Maxima candidate when you have time to do so thoroughly, in order to detect possible issues like these.

Here’s some more reading on unwanted sounds. And some more. And some more.

Check the Brakes

Based on numerous owner reports of unwanted noises, poor brake pedal feel, and (especially) because of this recall, owners are advised to hold off on purchasing a used Maxima until the braking system has been cleared by a licensed technician.

Numerous models were recalled to address a latent safety defect that could allow a fluid leak from the braking system, which could lead to a loss of stopping power, or even cause a fire. Only 2016 and 2017 Maxima models were affected by the recall.

As this issue was addressed by a safety recall, dealers will perform repair work to fix it, free of charge. Contact a Nissan service advisor with the VIN number of the specific unit you’re considering, to see if the recall applies to that model. If you haven’t yet purchased the vehicle, this may require the seller’s permission.

Other Recalls

Here’s a full list of recalls from Transport Canada. You can quickly check if a recall applies to the vehicle you’re considering by entering its VIN on the Nissan website.

Verdict

By and large, it seems like most Maxima owners have enjoyed an upscale, comfortable, and sporty driving experience with minimal issues. Still, given a list of safety-related recalls and several possibly annoying issues, shoppers are advised not to purchase a used Maxima until a qualified technician has inspected the vehicle, and specifically, the transmission and braking system. Be certain to confirm that no recall work is outstanding, for maximum safety.

Safety Ratings

IIHS: Top Safety Pick + (2016)
NHTSA: 5/5 Stars

A quality sports sedan that warrants careful scrutiny. 4/25/2019 6:28:00 AM