The sedan is clearly not dead if cars like the Nissan Maxima and VW Arteon still available.
There is no reason to wonder why carmakers continue to develop and build sedans – the demand remains strong, at least when it comes to compacts and midsize ones. The participants in this brief comparison test, the Nissan Maxima and Volkswagen Arteon, are neither of these. They are rare members of the elite and variable full-size sedan segment.
This category once thrived but as 2020 rolls in, less than a handful remain. Amazingly perhaps, those that are still for sale nearly all happen to be surprisingly good, including the heavily aged Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger. As the curtains drop on the Buick Lacrosse and Chevrolet Impala by the end of the year, this leaves only the tremendous Toyota Avalon, momentous Kia Stinger, the boring Kia Cadenza as well as the Nissan Maxima and VW Arteon. The latter doesn’t exactly belong but pricing and features line it up among these cars.
If you are shopping in the segment, the Avalon is the best. Period. With the exception of the lack of AWD, it is perfect. The FCA dinosaurs are loads of fun and the Stinger could be worthwhile if you like taking chances. Historically, the Nissan Maxima was an unavoidable car – it was sporty, mesmerizing, a living legend and then, Nissan murdered all of that, or nearly. The VW Arteon, by contrast, is right out of left-field but on paper and on the road, it is teaching the established names a few things.
Since you are torn between a historically-loved nameplate and a weird one, why not compare them to see which is more worthy?
With the sole exception of the FCA cars, all of these competitors offer only one powertrain configuration (the Stinger’s 2.0-litre turbo is rumoured to be discontinued.)
The Nissan Maxima is gifted with the wonderful VQ35 normally-aspirated 3.5-litre V6. It produces 300-horsepower and 261 lb.-ft. at 4,400 rpm. The transmission is an Xtronic CVT which sends the power to the front wheels. The Volkswagen Arteon depends on the turbocharged 2.0-litre TSI 4-cylinder engine that generates 268-horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque from 1,950 rpm. The 8-speed automatic transmission sends power to the standard 4MOTION AWD system.
The differences continue with chassis tuning. The Nissan Maxima uses regular dampers and springs in its fully independent suspension. The SR’s suspension is sport-tuned and thus stiffer. The VW Arteon benefits from the company’s Dynamic Chassis Control technology which includes adjustable dampers.
The Nissan Maxima, as it is, is a car from an era that has passed. Despite being only a few years old, the combination of a static suspension and FWD severely limits the car’s refinement and drivability levels. It suffers from terrible torque steer and, the SR in particular, does not provide a plush-like driving experience when desired. It is however extremely dynamic and eager to be driven hard.
In contrast, the Volkswagen Arteon can be compliant and, alternatively, fairly aggressive with the provided drive modes. Despite the lower power output, the Arteon is quick thanks to the low-end torque and the AWD advantage is immediately obvious.
The Maxima is, without a doubt, the 4-door sports car (4DSC) but it no longer fits as it once did in the large sedan market.
The Ins and Outs
The Nissan Maxima is physically disadvantaged because of its near identical look to the “lesser” Nissan Altima. The Volkswagen Arteon is unique, period. The latter also happens to be a 5-door hatchback, like the Kia Stinger. The fastback 4-door coupe look is all the rage at the moment and VW’s capitalized on this.
The tested Maxima SR benefits from the black 19-inch wheels and various black trims add-ons. Likewise, the Arteon is dressed in R-Line with its 20-inch wheels and specific bumper trims.
Both cabins are attractive and well laid out. The VW’s typically German layout is not quite as busy but the Nissan’s switchgear is straight-forward and user-friendly. Both cars provides excellent seats and a fair amount of interior passenger room. The Arteon’s enormous boot is a definite plus.
Pricing could be an issue for the Volkswagen. The decision to introduce a single fully-loaded trim has set the base price at $47,995. Spec and feature-wise, the Maxima Platinum is the closest and retails for $45,900. It lacks AWD which easily justifies the gap. The base Maxima SL sports a $41,140 price and happens to be a good value overall. The SR goes for $43,490. The tested Arteon, with the R-Line package and Driver Assistance package balloon the price tag to $53,085.
The 2019 VW Arteon’s biggest issue is the Audi A5 Sportback 45 TFSI. Its base price is $49,200. It may not be as well equipped, but it’s an Audi…
Our Thoughts On The 2019 Nissan Maxima vs 2019 Volkswagen Arteon
The desire to love the Nissan Maxima is very strong. It is exactly what it is supposed to be save for the fact that its current configuration is behind the times. Nissan should have built a Maxima with Altima AWD underpinnings and spruced it up. The Max’s torque steer is completely unacceptable.
The Volkswagen Arteon’s best attributes are its uniqueness, its powertrain and styling. Problem is that it’s a VW that ends up playing ball with Audi, BMW and Mercedes-Benz 4-door coupe equivalents.
Bottom line is that every member in this segment is no longer really relevant. As luxury carmakers have moved down-market, their brand-power is impossible to overlook and typically to overcome. Spending $40k or more on any of these cars seems like a missed opportunity to get into a luxury brand’s lineup. Having said that, you’ll certainly standout if you select the Arteon. Between the Max and the Art, that’s what we’d do.