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Exterior view of the 2021 Nissan Maxima 40th Anniversary Edition

For the 1981 model year, Datsun introduced a new trim level on its 810 sedan. In the United States, that automaker went on to be known as Nissan and that trim level, Maxima, eventually became the longest-running Nissan nameplate in the country. This year marks the Maxima's 40th anniversary. Nissan is not passing up the opportunity to celebrate it. It's marking the milestone with a commemorative edition Maxima decked out with unique paint and wheels, black trim and badges, distinctive red seats and other special touches.

Nissan is also using the 2021 model year as a chance to streamline the rest of the Maxima range. There are now three trim levels: SV, SR, and Platinum. All 2021 Maximas come standard with leather seats, an onboard Wi-Fi hotspot, Nissan Door-to-Door Navigation, and NissanConnect Services, such as Automatic Collision Notification, Emergency Call, and Stolen Vehicle Locator.

The 40th Anniversary Maxima is based on the flagship Platinum model, so it's equipped from the start with a variety of comfort, convenience, and tech features. The 40th Anniversary Package tacks on an additional $2,125; the optional matching floor mats that my test car had add $375 to the price. Altogether, my press loaner had a final price of $45,850.

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2021 Nissan Maxima 40th Anniversary Edition Exterior

Exterior view of the 2021 Nissan Maxima 40th Anniversary Edition

Nissan chose an age-appropriate look for the 40th Anniversary Maxima. Instead of a loud color and flashy embellishments, it opted for the stealthy, low-key combo of a Ruby Slate Gray Pearl body and black roof. With the exception of the Nissan emblems, everything else, including the V-Motion grille, Maxima and 40th Anniversary badges, and exhaust outlet bezels are black. As far as birthday celebrations go, the 40th Anniversary Maxima is a quiet dinner and wine with a few close friends at a high-end restaurant instead of overpriced shots and obnoxiously loud music at a trendy night club with a handful of true pals and people that make you wonder, "Why are they here?"

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2021 Nissan Maxima 40th Anniversary Edition Interior

Exterior view of the 2021 Nissan Maxima 40th Anniversary Edition

Think of the cabin as the part of that mellow evening when you and your friends start reminiscing about the highlights of the years you've known each other. The white gauges are a throwback to Maximas of the 1990s. My test car's red quilted semi-aniline leather seats made me think of the '80s, the decade that brought us the original Maxima and one in which red and even blue seats (like the ones in my first car, a 1989 Toyota Cressida) were relatively common.

I spent my weekend in the Maxima exploring the Phoenix area with my fiancé and her parents. I was initially concerned the low roofline wouldn't allow my 6'5" future father-in-law to fit in the six-way power front passenger seat, but after tilting the seat back to an almost comical angle, he was able to sit comfortably. The temperature topped out at nearly 90 degrees, which made the three-stage ventilated Zero Gravity front seats a luxury and a necessity at the same time. The eight-way power driver's seat was even more comfortable, thanks to a manual slide-out thigh bolster.

Whether we were on our way to eat Italian food in downtown Phoenix, see the murals on Roosevelt Row, or sample the offerings at the Litchfield Park Art and Wine Festival, we had music playing on the clear and bass-rich 11-speaker Bose audio system.

We didn't know exactly how to get to some of our destinations, so I punched a couple of them into the navigation system using the eight-inch touchscreen display. All other major functions were accessible through the wide hard buttons next to it. I appreciated the setup's nice balance of modern tech and simple and effective analog controls.

Despite the extreme angle that my future father-in-law had his seat set to, my future mother-in-law had enough legroom to sit comfortably behind him. I'm only 5'10", so legroom was not an issue for my fiancé. To make their time in the back more pleasant, I hit a button to the left of the steering wheel to raise the power rear sunshade. After the sun went down, I retracted the shades on the dual-panel moonroof to let the stars shine through.

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2021 Nissan Maxima 40th Anniversary Edition Performance

Exterior view of the 2021 Nissan Maxima 40th Anniversary Edition

All of those miles on the road revealed that Nissan dialed in the suspension just right for the Platinum-grade Maxima. It was always compliant and never lost its composure. In turns, I could feel some truth in the Maxima's title of "4-Door Sports Car." Its center of gravity seemed to be only inches above the pavement. In addition to sharper throttle response and transmission timing, Sport mode added a substantial digital weight to the otherwise relaxed steering that immediately made it feel more prepared for taking on twists and turns. 

I used every freeway on-ramp as an opportunity to wring as much acceleration as possible out of the Maxima's naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6. Its 300 horsepower and 261 lb-ft of torque were enough to make those deep-throttle merges satisfyingly quick. The big six's throaty growl was a nice surprise. Although I typically prefer traditional automatics to continuously variable transmissions (CVTs), I was pleased with the Maxima CVT's responsiveness when I used the gear lever to snap off "manual shifts." 

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2021 Nissan Maxima 40th Anniversary Edition Safety

Exterior view of the 2021 Nissan Maxima 40th Anniversary Edition

All of us were protected from every angle by the Maxima's standard Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite of technologies, which included Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and more. When I had enough time on the freeway, I made sure to engage the Intelligent Cruise Control and let the Traffic Sign Recognition feature keep me informed of the speed limit. Parking at our destinations was a lot less stressful because the Intelligent Around View Monitor gave me a 360-degree look at my surroundings.

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2021 Nissan Maxima 40th Anniversary Edition Overall

Exterior view of the 2021 Nissan Maxima 40th Anniversary Edition

The Maxima has come a long way since 1981. It's lasted through recessions and the truck and SUV booms. It's even managed to stick around long after its short-lived glory in the original "The Fast and the Furious" movie. But its 40th anniversary only lasts the length of the 2021 model year, so if you want one of these special Maximas, you need to get to an AutoNation Nissan dealership right away.

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Derek Shiekhi | Jun 01, 2021

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2021 Nissan Maxima 40th Anniversary Edition Specs

Layout

4-door, 5-passenger, FWD

Engine/Transmission

3.5L V6, 300 hp, 261 lb-ft
CVT automatic

Mileage

20/30 mpg (city/hwy)

NHTSA Safety Rating

★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 


AutoNation Drive Test Drive Review: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★


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*MSRP excludes tax, license, registration, destination charge and options. Dealer prices may vary.

**Based on EPA mileage ratings. Your mileage will vary depending on specific vehicle trim, how you drive and maintain your vehicle, driving conditions, and other factors.