2019 Nissan Maxima vs. 2018 BMW 3 Series Sedan

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

For enhanced safety, the front seat shoulder belts of the Nissan Maxima are height-adjustable to accommodate a wide variety of driver and passenger heights. A better fit can prevent injuries and the increased comfort also encourages passengers to buckle up. The BMW 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer height-adjustable seat belts.

In the past twenty years hundreds of infants and young children have died after being left in vehicles, usually by accident. When turning the vehicle off, drivers of the Maxima are reminded to check the back seat if they opened the rear door before starting out. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests front crash prevention systems. With a score of 5 points, IIHS rates the Forward Emergency Braking optional in the Maxima as “Superior.” The 3 Series Sedan scores at most only 3 points and is rated only “Advanced.”

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The Maxima (except S/SV/SL) offers optional Rear Automatic Braking which use rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

To help make backing safer, the Maxima SL/SR/Platinum’s cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

The Maxima’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Maxima and the 3 Series Sedan have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, daytime running lights, rearview cameras, available lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems and around view monitors.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Nissan Maxima is safer than the BMW 3 Series Sedan:

 

Maxima

3 Series Sedan

OVERALL STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

 

Driver

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

106

232

Neck Stress

328 lbs.

345 lbs.

Neck Compression

20 lbs.

113 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

67/94 lbs.

321/434 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

A significantly tougher test than their original offset frontal crash test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does 40 MPH small overlap frontal offset crash tests. In this test, where only 25% of the total width of the vehicle is struck, results indicate that the Nissan Maxima is safer than the 3 Series Sedan:

 

Maxima

3 Series Sedan

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Head Neck Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Head injury index

168

549

Chest Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Max Chest Compression

15 cm

19 cm

Hip & Thigh Evaluation

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Femur Force R/L

.2/.1 kN

3.4/3.4 kN

Hip & Thigh Injury Risk R/L

0%/0%

1%/1%

Lower Leg Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Tibia index R/L

.51/.43

.65/.82

Tibia forces R/L

2.1/.4 kN

3.4/4.2 kN

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does side impact tests on new vehicles. In this test, which crashes the vehicle into a flat barrier at 38.5 MPH, results indicate that the Nissan Maxima is safer than the BMW 3 Series Sedan:

 

Maxima

3 Series Sedan

 

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Chest Movement

.9 inches

1.1 inches

Abdominal Force

188 G’s

232 G’s

 

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Spine Acceleration

57 G’s

64 G’s

Hip Force

591 lbs.

688 lbs.

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

Warranty

Nissan’s powertrain warranty covers the Maxima 1 year and 10,000 miles longer than BMW covers the 3 Series Sedan. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 5 years or 60,000 miles. Coverage on the 3 Series Sedan ends after only 4 years or 50,000 miles.

There are over 3 times as many Nissan dealers as there are BMW dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Maxima’s warranty.

Reliability

A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the Maxima’s reliability 17 points higher than the 3 Series Sedan.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Maxima first among large cars in their 2018 Initial Quality Study. The 3 Series Sedan isn’t in the top three in its category.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Nissan vehicles are better in initial quality than BMW vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Nissan 10th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 2 more problems per 100 vehicles, BMW is ranked 11th.

Engine

The Maxima’s 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 120 more horsepower (300 vs. 180) and 61 lbs.-ft. more torque (261 vs. 200) than the 320i’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. The Maxima’s 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 52 more horsepower (300 vs. 248) and 3 lbs.-ft. more torque (261 vs. 258) than the 330i’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

As tested in Motor Trend the Nissan Maxima is faster than the 320i 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. (automatics tested):

 

Maxima

3 Series Sedan

Zero to 60 MPH

5.7 sec

6.6 sec

Quarter Mile

14.2 sec

15.1 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

100.5 MPH

90.7 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

The Maxima has 3 gallons more fuel capacity than the 3 Series Sedan Diesel’s standard fuel tank (18 vs. 15 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups. The Maxima has 2.2 gallons more fuel capacity than the 3 Series Sedan’s standard fuel tank (18 vs. 15.8 gallons).

Transmission

The Maxima has a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT). With no “steps” between gears, it can keep the engine at the most efficient speed for fuel economy, or keep it at its peak horsepower indefinitely for maximum acceleration. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer a CVT.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the Maxima’s standard brake rotors are larger than those on the 3 Series Sedan:

 

Maxima

3 Series Sedan

Front Rotors

12.6 inches

12.3 inches

Rear Rotors

12.13 inches

11.8 inches

The Maxima stops much shorter than the 3 Series Sedan:

 

Maxima

3 Series Sedan

 

70 to 0 MPH

168 feet

191 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

141 feet

143 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Maxima has larger tires than the 3 Series Sedan (245/45R18 vs. 225/50R17). The Maxima’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the 3 Series Sedan (245/45R18 vs. 225/40R19).

The Maxima’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 45 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the 3 Series Sedan’s standard 50 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Maxima has standard 18-inch wheels. Smaller 17-inch wheels are standard on the 3 Series Sedan.

The Maxima has a standard easy tire fill system. When inflating the tires, the vehicle’s integrated tire pressure sensors keep track of the pressure as the tires fill and tell the driver when the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

The Maxima offers an optional full size spare tire so a flat doesn’t interrupt your trip. A full size spare isn’t available on the 3 Series Sedan, it requires you to depend on its run-flat tires, which limits mileage and speed before they are repaired. If a run-flat is damaged beyond repair by a road hazard your vehicle will have to be towed. Some models of the 3 Series Sedan don’t even offer run-flats.

Suspension and Handling

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Maxima is 2.1 inches wider in the front and .5 inches wider in the rear than on the 3 Series Sedan.

The Maxima SR handles at .86 G’s, while the 340i pulls only .84 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

Chassis

The Maxima SL/SR/Platinum uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

Passenger Space

Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the EPA rates the Maxima a Mid-size car, while the 3 Series Sedan is rated a Compact.

The Maxima has 2.3 cubic feet more passenger volume than the 3 Series Sedan (98.5 vs. 96.2).

The Maxima has 3 inches more front legroom, 1.6 inches more front shoulder room and .6 inches more rear shoulder room than the 3 Series Sedan.

Cargo Capacity

The Maxima has a much larger trunk than the 3 Series Sedan (14.3 vs. 13 cubic feet).

Ergonomics

The Maxima has a standard remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

The Maxima Platinum’s standard easy entry system raises the steering wheel and glides the driver’s seat back when the door is unlocked or the ignition is switched off, making it easier for the driver to get in and out. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer an easy entry system.

The Maxima’s instruments include an oil pressure gauge and a temperature gauge – which could save your engine! Often ‘idiot lights’ don’t warn you until damage has been done. The 3 Series Sedan has neither an oil pressure gauge nor a temperature gauge.

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the Maxima has standard extendable sun visors. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer extendable visors.

Standard air-conditioned seats in the Maxima SR/Platinum keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The 3 Series Sedan doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the Maxima owner. The Car Book by Jack Gillis rates the Maxima with a number “1” insurance rate while the 3 Series Sedan is rated higher at a number “3” rate.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Maxima is less expensive to operate than the 3 Series Sedan because it costs $117 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Maxima than the 3 Series Sedan, including $340 less for a water pump, $231 less for a muffler, $74 less for front brake pads, $214 less for a starter, $72 less for fuel injection, $354 less for front struts, $315 less for a timing belt/chain and $9 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends both the Nissan Maxima and the BMW 3 Series Sedan, based on reliability, safety and performance.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Maxima second among large cars in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The 3 Series Sedan isn’t in the top three in its category.

The Nissan Maxima outsold the BMW 3 Series by 14% during 2017.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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