2014 Nissan Maxima

While it doesn't live up to its "four-door sports car" billing, Nissan's full-size Maxima sedan is still one of the more engaging rides in its segment thanks to a firm suspension and a rorty V6. These features, along with a comfortable and high-quality interior, make the Maxima a worthy option for those seeking a large sedan with a dash of excitement.

First introduced in 2009, the current-generation Maxima recently received a modest update that included a few styling tweaks. The car is visually defined by pointed "fish hook" headlights, muscular haunches and a wide stance.

Those sporty exterior cues are backed up by a 3.5-liter V6 that serves up a healthy 290 horsepower and 261 lb-ft of torque. A continuously variable transmission (CVT) sends power to the front wheels. Zero-to-60 mph is achieved in roughly six seconds, and fuel economy is rated at 19 mpg in the city and 26 mpg on the highway.

Riding on Nissan's all-purpose D-platform, the Maxima has taut suspension tuning and reasonably prompt responses to control inputs, but it's perhaps most at home on the freeway. In that environment, the Maxima's comfortable interior - complete with an expensive-looking dashboard and Infiniti-quality trimmings - truly shines.

Potential Maxima buyers looking for a sedan with maximum space, take note - while it's ostensibly the full-size sedan in Nissan's lineup, the Maxima is actually bested in cabin and trunk space by the less-expensive Altima.

Trim Level Breakdown
The Maxima is offered in S and SV trim levels.

The entry-level S is outfitted with dual-zone automatic climate control, an eight-speaker audio system with a six-disc CD changer and an AUX input jack, cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity, a sunroof, power-adjustable front seats and 18-inch aluminum alloy wheels.

The S can be spec'd with the S Value Package, which includes smoked HID Xenon headlights, a compass integrated in the rearview mirror, 18-inch aluminum-alloy Dark Hyper Silver wheels, a rear spoiler, fog lights, exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals and metallic trim treatment.

The SV adds leather upholstery, a Bose audio system, fog lights and universal garage-door opener. A rearview camera, USB connectivity and a seven-inch color monitor were new for the last model year.

Three optional equipment packages are available for the SV trim. The SV Value Package brings heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and heated outside mirror. The SV Sport Package includes a performance-tuned suspension, 19-inch aluminum wheels, sport-themed grille and headlights, rear spoiler a climate-controlled driver's seat and an iPod net in center console. Finally, the SV Premium Package brings a dual-panel sunroof, cherry wood-tone interior trim and a rear-window power sunshade.

A navigation system can also be spec'd as an option.

Occupant Safety
Standard safety features include dual front, front side and full-length side curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

Key Competitors
The Maxima offers a slightly sportier alternative to rivals such as the Buick LaCrosse, Ford Taurus, and Lexus ES 350.