2021 Nissan Maxima 40th Anniversary Edition Test Drive
Nissan created a schtick that stuck to the Maxima in 1989. The car was marketed and sold in North America under the name 4DSC, which is the abbreviation for “four-door sports car. There was a 4DSC sticker on the window and everything. Whether it lives up to its name is the subject of considerable debate. For a historical perspective, MotorWeeknotice of of the car when it was new, it reached 100 km / h in 8.2 seconds. The car’s propensity for heavy body roll has been mentioned more than once. None of these qualities sound like a commendable sports car, but regardless, the 4DSC brand inevitably pops up in any discussion of Maxima.
One of the reasons for this is Nissan’s continued use of the four-door sports car slogan. It hasn’t been as long as Bmw“Ultimate Driving Machine”, but it is certainly one of the oldest at this point, with over 30 years covering its first and most recent use. That said, the name Maxima itself is even older.
“Maxima” was first written on the back of a Datsun 810 for the 1981 model year, the full model name being the Datsun 810 Maxima. This model became named the Datsun Maxima a year later, then Nissan Maxima after the official switch from Datsun to Nissan. Nissan’s second-generation Maxima hit the road in 1985 for four years. It was the third generation in 1989 that was crowned 4DSC Maxima. Throughout the 1990s, it enjoyed its greatest success as a Nissan midsize sedan, but when the Altima started to fill that slot, the Maxima was pushed to the top of the range. Each generation of this century has adopted a slightly different concept than the one before it.
So it’s 40 years of Maxima, distilled, and now there is a car to ring the culmination and celebration of these decades: the Nissan Maxima 2021 40th anniversary edition. It is a sedan with a sharp look in modern sheet metal. Clean enough (and perhaps intriguing enough) that the car is revealed was one of Autoblog the most read stories last fall. We don’t know exactly why. Just be aware that the internet doesn’t always make sense. Seeing the rabid interest, we figured we’d better put one in the fleet for testing to satisfy all of our seemingly hungry Maxima readers. You are welcome.
The 40th Anniversary Edition model basically comes down to a full appearance package. Like most special edition cars these days, this one leans heavily on the theme of dark trim. Its stealthy and exclusive Ruby Slate Gray Pearl paintwork is paired with a black roof and 19-inch black rims. The two shades of darkness blend well with each other and work with the overall design aesthetic of the Maxima. The black trim is used where the garish chrome was before, although there is oddly still a single strip of shiny trim used to mark the bottom line of the window. A 40th anniversary badge completes the exterior work well. It’s an upgrade from the standard Maxima as a whole, which is a stylish car from the get-go.
This package really makes its way once you open the door. Dark red semi-aniline leather adorns the doors and comfy seats (embossed with the 40th anniversary logo), and red stitching is used throughout the cabin. It is truly luxurious in its appearance and workmanship, and comes across as a thoughtful, contrasting effort to balance the darkness of the exterior. White-faced speedometer and tachometer gauges are added in homage to those of the past Maximas – including this 4DSC in MotorWeek see again. It’s a nice touch, and their functionality and visibility is not reduced due to their retro aesthetic. The worst part of the interior are the faceted “satin dark chrome” interior finishes that Nissan uses as trim. They’re horribly cheap and they feel the role too.
There are no mechanical changes to speak of with the 40th Anniversary Edition. This means that it progresses further with a 3.5-liter V6 mated to a CVT that sends all the power to the front wheels. A throwback to the days of the manual transmission would have been lovely, but it will remain a feverish dream. Engine power is sufficient at 300 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque. Just spin the front wheels from any stop, which is a testament to how quickly the CVT is able to propel you forward. And how much this car would benefit from the all-wheel drive option.
The 5.7 second zero to 60 mph time is much faster these days than the 8.2 seconds it took in 1989. Neither is excessively slow for its time. , but neither is particularly fast either. The Maxima’s CVT bounces off the upper rev range when pinned with simulated “offsets”. Acceleration is still super smooth with a break in forward momentum, and the V6 produces a semi-seductive growl that is augmented by the speakers.
Driving the Maxima like a sports car (as Nissan’s marketing suggests) has its ups and downs. The transmission is inconsistent in Sport mode, keeping revs high where they should be every now and then, but lowering them randomly and intermittently. It is a frustrating experience. Putting it in “Manual” mode allows the driver to fix the problem, but there are no paddle shifters and the shift lever is pointed in the wrong direction – there are no shift paddles. should be pulled back to go up and push forward to downshift.
The chassis is a bright spot, as the Maxima strikes a fine balance between handling and road comfort. Nissan’s fixed damping technology is much less exciting than the 1989 Maxima adaptive road scan sonar suspension (How cool is that?), But it gets the job done. Body movements are controlled as you would expect in a sedan with a performance tilt. Unfortunately, the hydraulic-electric steering system ruins much of the good this chassis does. It has a feeling of numbness and off-center float which reinforces the initial cornering sensation, creating a disconnect between the wheels and what you are doing with your hands. Putting it in Sport mode fixes that with heavier weight on the wheel, but it’s still present and off-putting. The weirdness of the steering is even a bit of a concern for everyday driving, as a slight arc on ramps or other gentle curves results in the same disconnect.
Eating miles of highway is where the Maxima is in its element. It’s well insulated against road noise and wind, and the suspension is consistent on rough surfaces. Just like we posed in our first disc review a few years ago, the Maxima was even more 4DGT (grand touring four-door) than 4DSC. In this way, the current Maxima is not that different from the old one. And with prices pushing it into luxury territory – this 40th anniversary edition starts at $ 45,295 – it faces the same problem that more recent generations of Maximas have faced.
It can have a nicer cabin, more standard horsepower, and a sleeker styling than various cheaper midsize sedans, including the Altima, but it still wears a non-luxurious badge and does not compare favorably in many practical respects. For example, the average size much cheaper Honda accord has more cargo space and room for the rear bench (there’s plenty of legroom in the Maxima, but anyone approaching 6ft will find their head in the roof). the Agreement also drives much better than the Maxima, offers more technical and safety features and is elegant in its own way. At the same time, similarly priced sedans like the Acura TLX and Lexus ES surpass the Maxima in a number of ways while wearing real luxury badges.
It is perhaps not surprising that sales of Maxima have fallen significantly since moving upmarket, averaging just 56,000 units between 2005 and 2018. By comparison, Nissan fell 109,000 units in 1989 and peaked at 163,000 in 1994. Then, in 2020, things really fell off a cliff. 18,000 houses were found. When people can pick up a well-equipped Murano or Scout for the same price as a Maxima, they tend to do so nowadays. Maybe nothing can save a sedan, then, but at least the Maxima might have a better chance of succeeding if it made a more believable case as a four-door sports car. As it stands, anyone who wants a fun big sedan is much better off with a 2.0T Agreement, Mazda6 Turbo, or newly available, on Kia K5 GT.
Spending over $ 40,000 on this 40th anniversary edition is tough no matter what perspective you see it from. It’s great that Nissan is still trying to get the Maxima to work here when so many others have packed their sedans and gone, but unless it’s redesigned soon, the 4DSC is hard to recommend.