Review by Paul Williams, photos by Paul Williams and courtesy of Nissan Motor Corporation

2014 Nissan Maxima
2014 Nissan Maxima
2014 Nissan Maxima. Click image to enlarge

Newport Beach, California – At the recent Nissan 360 event in Newport Beach, I had the opportunity to drive a 2014 Nissan Maxima after stepping out of the new-to-the-market Infiniti Q50 sedan. It was an interesting, albeit coincidental, comparison. Obviously these are not direct competitors but they can operate in the same price range.

As a bona fide luxury marque – newly refocused and reimagined in the Q50 – Infiniti is all about technology with an emotional flourish, along with a tangible element of high performance and exclusivity.

In contrast, the Maxima is the flagship Nissan sedan. It’s luxurious in its way, but Nissan itself is not a luxury marque. The Maxima is more traditional, more conventional, if you will, in its conception than the Infiniti. It’s comfier, shinier, glossier, with less of an overt sporty, high-technology character.

That’s not to say that the front-wheel drive Maxima doesn’t have the looks of a large sport sedan, but I’d think that typical Maxima drivers may not want the engagement that quick steering, a firm sports-oriented suspension and possibly a raspy exhaust note may bring. They may be more likely to want an environment that separates them from the business of the outside world and from the sophisticated mechanics and technologies built into their car (paddle shifters notwithstanding!).

So the 2014 Maxima delicately walks a line between luxury and luxurious; genuinely high-performance and sporty. Like the Toyota Avalon, for instance, it’s at the interstices of the luxury and mainstream segments, straddling them in places. From this position, consumers may have to reflect on whether they should spend more and go up, spend less and go down, or be what is effectively a value luxury buyer.

2014 Nissan Maxima
2014 Nissan Maxima. Click image to enlarge

For 2014, Maxima continues to be offered in three models: the 3.5 SV, 3.5 SV Sport Navigation Package and 3.5 SV Premium Navigation Package. Motive power is the ubiquitous Nissan 3.5L V6 making 290 hp and 261 lb-ft of torque, matched to an Xtronic CVT transmission with manual and DS (Drive Sport) modes and the available paddle shifters.

New this year is a choice of Gun Metallic replacing Dark Gray, and Midnight Garnet replacing Tuscan Sun. HID xenon headlights and a rear-view monitor with seven-inch are now added to the SV grade model.

In other words, Maxima pretty much carries over unchanged from the 2013 to 2014 model years.

But back to the luxury. I was very impressed with the rich, deep, glossy paint on my Midnight Garnet test car, and this generation (introduced in 2009) Maxima’s somewhat muscular exterior design. It’s a formidable looking machine, and as you take in its low, wide stance and brawny fenders, it looks like it’s built to travel.

2014 Nissan Maxima2014 Nissan Maxima
2014 Nissan Maxima. Click image to enlarge

Nissan points out that the front fascia recalls the company’s raucous GT-R sport coupe, and it’s true that the Maxima grille, hood and headlight treatment has a certain purposeful nature to it. Not beautiful, I’d say, but mildly aggressive, for sure.

I know, it sounds like the car is all about sport and performance and I’ve been saying it’s not. That’s been this model’s history, after all, and there’s even a Sport Package with 19-inch wheels and a rear spoiler available. I’d argue that sport and performance has more to do with Maxima’s image, but the reality emerges when you open the door.

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