As the Nissan Maxima is about to leave production we determine if it or one of its lightly used siblings is the better value right now.
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The Maxima has been around since 1980 and over those decades it’s been the flagship sedan for Nissan. Now, as it’s going out of production we’re taking a deeper dive into what it has on offer to determine if a used model might be a better value. We’ll compare the 2023 Maxima against a 2021 model.
In 2021, the Maxima was celebrating its 40th anniversary and had a simplified lineup that was identical to the one used for the 2023 model. We’ll compare specs, driving characteristics, interior comfort, and features, and make a final ruling on which is the better buy right now.
The Maxima has been on sale with the same 3.5-liter V6 powertrain since the mid-2010s. Both the 2021 and the 2023 models utilize it across the entire trim lineup. It develops 300 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque and then sends that power through a continuously variable transmission to the front wheels only. All-wheel drive is not an option Since they use the same powertrain and have no appreciable physical differences it should be no shock that they achieve fuel economy scores of 20 mpg in the city, 30 on the highway, and 24 combined. Nissan recommends using 91 octane fuel in both cars.
That doesn’t mean that they’re perfectly identical though. In fact, pricing is one area where there’s a dramatic difference. Despite only a couple of years between the two cars, the older Maxima can be had for thousands less depending on condition, mileage, and other factors. For example, the new 2023 Nissan Maxima starts at $37,840 for the SV model and rises to a starting price of $43,150 for the Platinum model.
Conversely, it’s not impossible to find a 2021 SV for Less than $27,000. The mid-level SR model is available with reasonable mileage for less than $35,000, and the Platinum sits only a few hundred dollars higher in some states. That’s a massive difference on paper.
As one might expect, these two sedans behave almost identically with their small differences most likely due to wear on the used components. Back when we reviewed the 2021 Maxima we noted how it’s the best handling front-wheel drive sedan on the market and that continues to feel like the case even if the Honda Accord is a better overall driver’s car. The SR trim level also adds a set of stiffer suspension springs and paddle shifters that aren’t as silly as they might sound on a car only equipped with a CVT. On top of those accolades, it has to be said that the VQ V6 under the hood is a fantastic engine. No, it’s not as smooth or refined as some of its rivals but it’s peppy and reliable, and it sounds pretty good too.
In the same way that these vehicles perform similarly on the road, they feel similarly from the cabin. The seats are comfortable, supportive, and highly adjustable. We’re also a big fan of the high quality build quality of the cabin itself. Both the 2021 and the 2023 models each have excellent panel gap consistency and above-average switchgear.
Sadly, the same downsides of one model also affect the other. For example, neither model year is blessed with an updated and modern infotainment system. As a result, the largest screen you’ll see in either car is just 8-inches wide. Additionally, visibility is a concern in each car with diminutive blind-spot windows and thick pillars. There is one difference that is worthy of note. Firstly, the 2023 Maxima can be had with heated outboard rear seats which aren’t available in the 2021 model unless you find the rare 40th Anniversary model.
Both the 2021 Maxima and the 2023 Maxima are available in three distinct trim levels. For 2021, the base model, SV, came with LED headlights, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, an 8-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple Carplay, eight speakers, satellite radio, and a wifi hotspot. Standard safety equipment included adaptive cruise control, forward collision mitigation, lane-departure warning, and automatic high beams.
The SR added paddle shifters, a sport-tuned suspension, fog lights, ventilated front seats, driver-side memory function, an 11-speaker Bose sound system, faux-suede seat upholstery, a sunroof, parking sensors, lane-keep assist, and a surround-view camera.
The Platinum trim adds automatic wipers, premium leather upholstery, and a rear window sunshade. Those who look for the 40th-anniversary package will also get two-tone paint, heated rear seats, and unique trim to celebrate the occasion.
We’re still waiting to find out exactly what, if anything, is different about the trim levels in the 2023 Maxima lineup but from what we do know, it looks like it’ll be identical to the 2021 model year in every way save for the fact that heated rear seats are standard on the Premium trim. That was the case for the 2022 model year and we expect it to be the same again for 2023.
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If you’ve got to have a warranty then the new Maxima is the outright winner here as most of the coverage on a 2021-year model has lapsed even if it hasn’t driven past its mileage limits. For everyone else, and we expect that to be most of you, the used Maxima is a much better deal for the cash right now. Not only does it have nearly every single feature that the 2023 model does, but it’s literally thousands of dollars cheaper to purchase. They also ride, drive, and feel the same inside. The technology is identical too. If Nissan competed with the likes of Kia or Hyundai and offered a better warranty this competition would be even more of a slam dunk.