Either way you play it, the Nissan Maxima provides good cruising for families while satisfying drivers seeking fast pick-up. (Cars.com)
Either way you play it, the Nissan Maxima provides good cruising for families while satisfying drivers seeking fast pick-up. (Cars.com)

From the moment it showed up in my driveway, I was deeply in like with the 2013 Nissan Maxima. While its good-looking exterior grabbed me initially, it turns out the 2013 Nissan Maxima is a comfortable family cruiser with plenty of power for both the city and highway.

With its 3.5-literV-6 engine and continuously variable automatic transmission, the Maxima’s drive is satisfying.The CVT configuration is quieter than that of the Nissan Rogue, even as it provided a somewhat bland driving experience, which many don’t mind and may even prefer. Those who like a sportier drive will want to look into the Maxima’s Sport Package ($3,250), which includes a sport-tuned suspension and 19-inch aluminum-alloy wheels. Eighteen-inch wheels are standard.

My test Maxima had a ton of features, thanks to the addition of the available Monitor Package ($700) that added the RearView Monitor and a 7-inch color screen; the SVValue Package ($1,000) with its heated front seats, heated steering wheel and heated side mirrors; and the Technology Package ($1,850) with a navigation system and Bluetooth streaming audio.This is not to say I wouldn’t have liked the Maxima before all the goodies, but they sure made me feel pampered.

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The 2013 Maxima has a starting price of $33,570, including a $790 destination charge. In my higher trim level test car, the Maxima SV, the starting price is $35,870, but my test car cost $40,005.

This Maxima has a sinewy exterior, with a low grille in front. A full-size sedan, its rear looks good with flared back fenders and taillights angling down to the sculpted hatch and bumper.

This five-seater was easy to get into thanks to keyless entry and its low step-in height. Its lightweight doors with simple handles were easy for my school-aged kids to open. The low, sloping roofline says, “Watch your head!”to parents helping little ones into their child-safety seats.

The Maxima’s larger size doesn’t translate into a large trunk. It has a 14.2-cubic-foot trunk, which is much smaller than some of its competitors, the FordTaurus (20.1 cubic feet) and Hyundai Azera (16.3). Though it’s on the smaller side, the Maxima’s trunk handled a trip to Costco, though it must be noted I bought neither diapers nor a flat-screen television.The 60/40-split rear seats fold should you opt for the TV. Almost any size stroller will fit in the trunk, too.

The Maxima has a 290-horsepower, 3.5-literV-6 engine that’s paired to a CVT. It gets an EPA-estimated 19/26 mpg city/highway and uses premium gas.

As someone who can spend a lot of time in the car, I appreciated the Maxima’s comfort

and ease of use.The seats have super-soft leather and a seat cushion extender for additional thigh support, making for less fatigue. The steering wheel was comfortable to grip. Add the surprise of a heated steering wheel as part of the SVValue Package and I start thinking my like of the Maxima would turn to love.

The center stack is minimal and usually this is cause for concern for me. Fewer buttons and knobs usually mean an unwanted reliance on a multimedia system, requiring me to take my eyes off the road all too often. Not only that, but also I need to remember all the hoops to jump through to get the air conditioning or the stereo system’s volume adjusted.

In the Maxima, I needed to use the multimedia system for some things, but when I did, it was intuitive.When I didn’t, the buttons were well marked and easy to use. I loved the look of the controls with the brushed-metal trim around them that organizes the controls and keeps them easy to delineate. The rest of the interior looks upscale, too. There’s a nice balance of color and materials along with the aforementioned buttons, and the standard moonroof makes the interior airy and bright.

The front row has plenty of storage with two covered cup holders, a covered cubby, and a center console for smaller items, including a net to corral your gadgets. Both front doors have bottle holders, too. In the rear, my kids had plenty of legroom, and there’s a center-seat armrest with two cup holders.There also are seat-back pockets for more storage.

In crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the 2013 Maxima received the top score of Good in front and side crash tests, Acceptable in roof-strength tests, and a second-from-the-bottom Marginal score in rear crash tests. It also received an overall safety rating of four stars out of five from the National HighwayTraffic Safety Administration. It earned five stars of five in side-impact and rollover crash tests and three stars in frontal crash tests.

The Maxima has standard front-wheel drive, four-wheel-disc antilock brakes with brake assist, an electronic stability system with traction control, active front head restraints, and six airbags, including side curtains for both rows. Optional features are xenon high-intensity-discharge headlights and a backup camera, which is part of the Monitor Package ($700).