2019 Nissan Maxima vs. 2019 Buick LaCrosse

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The Maxima has standard Active Head Restraints, which use a specially designed headrest to protect the driver and front passenger from whiplash. During a rear-end collision, the Active Head Restraints system moves the headrests forward to prevent neck and spine injuries. The LaCrosse doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

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 LaCrosse doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

The Maxima (except S/SV/SL) offers an optional Around View® Monitor to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The LaCrosse only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the sides.

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 LaCrosse doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Maxima and the LaCrosse have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front and rear side-impact airbags, driver and front passenger knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front-wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, 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 rear cross-path warning.

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 Buick LaCrosse:

 

Maxima

LaCrosse

 

Driver

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

HIC

106

220

Neck Compression

20 lbs.

21 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

67/94 lbs.

169/229 lbs.

 

Passenger

STARS

4 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

103

320

Neck Injury Risk

29%

34.8%

Neck Stress

114 lbs.

195 lbs.

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

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 Buick LaCrosse:

 

Maxima

LaCrosse

 

Front Seat

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

Chest Movement

.9 inches

1.3 inches

Abdominal Force

188 G’s

280 G’s

 

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Spine Acceleration

57 G’s

66 G’s

Hip Force

591 lbs.

851 lbs.

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

For its top level performance in all IIHS frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, with its optional front crash prevention system, and its available headlight’s “Acceptable” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Maxima the rating of “Top Pick” for 2018, a rating granted to only 85 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The LaCrosse was a “Top Pick” for 2017, but no longer qualifies under the tighter 2018 guidelines.

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 33 points higher than the LaCrosse.

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

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 Buick vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Nissan 10th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 10 more problems per 100 vehicles, Buick is ranked 16th, below the industry average.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Nissan vehicles are more reliable than Buick vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Nissan 5 places higher in reliability than Buick.

Engine

The Maxima’s 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 106 more horsepower (300 vs. 194) and 74 lbs.-ft. more torque (261 vs. 187) than the LaCrosse’s standard 2.5 DOHC 4 cyl. hybrid.

As tested in Car and Driver the Nissan Maxima is faster than the Buick LaCrosse 4 cyl. hybrid gas:

 

Maxima

LaCrosse

Zero to 60 MPH

5.9 sec

7.8 sec

Zero to 100 MPH

14.1 sec

22.4 sec

5 to 60 MPH Rolling Start

6 sec

8.2 sec

Quarter Mile

14.4 sec

16.3 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

101 MPH

86 MPH

Top Speed

135 MPH

130 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

The Maxima has 2.2 gallons more fuel capacity than the LaCrosse FWD’s standard fuel tank (18 vs. 15.8 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups. The Maxima has 1.8 gallons more fuel capacity than the LaCrosse AWD’s standard fuel tank (18 vs. 16.2 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 LaCrosse doesn’t offer a CVT.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the Maxima’s brake rotors are larger than those on the LaCrosse:

 

Maxima

LaCrosse

Front Rotors

12.6 inches

11.8 inches

Rear Rotors

12.13 inches

11.3 inches

The Maxima’s standard front and rear disc brakes are vented to help dissipate heat for shorter stops with less fading. The rear discs on the LaCrosse are solid, not vented.

The Maxima stops shorter than the LaCrosse:

 

Maxima

LaCrosse

 

70 to 0 MPH

168 feet

173 feet

Car and Driver

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Maxima has larger tires than the LaCrosse (245/45R18 vs. 235/50R18).

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 LaCrosse’s standard 50 series tires.

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 LaCrosse 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 LaCrosse, it requires you to depend on a temporary spare, which has mileage and speed limitations, or roadside assistance and a tow-truck.

Suspension and Handling

The Maxima SR handles at .87 G’s, while the LaCrosse Essence pulls only .83 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

Chassis

The Maxima is 4.7 inches shorter than the LaCrosse, making the Maxima easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

Passenger Space

The Maxima has 1 inch more front headroom and 3 inches more front legroom than the LaCrosse.

Cargo Capacity

To allow full utilization of available cargo room, the Maxima’s trunk lid uses concealed beam hinges that don’t intrude into the trunk. The LaCrosse’s useful trunk space is reduced by its intrusive beam hinge.

A standard locking glovebox (which can’t be accessed with the valet key) keeps your small valuables safer in the Maxima. The LaCrosse doesn’t offer locking storage for small valuables.

Ergonomics

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 LaCrosse does not have an oil pressure gauge.

If the front windows are left open on the Maxima the driver can close them at the outside door handle. On a hot day the driver can lower the windows at the outside door handle or from a distance using the keyless remote. The driver of the LaCrosse can only operate the windows from inside the vehicle, with the ignition on.

The Intelligent Key standard on the Maxima allows you to unlock the driver’s door, trunk and start the engine all without removing a key from pocket or purse. This eliminates searching for keys before loading groceries, getting in the vehicle in bad weather or making a hurried start to your trip. The Buick LaCrosse’s Keyless Access doesn’t unlock the trunk.

The Maxima has a standard locking fuel door with a remote release located convenient to the driver. A locking fuel door helps prevent vandalism, such as sugar in the tank and fuel theft. The LaCrosse doesn’t offer a locking fuel door.

The Maxima’s standard speed-sensitive wipers speed up when the vehicle does, so that the driver doesn’t have to continually adjust the speed of the wipers. The LaCrosse’s manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted. The Maxima Platinum’s standard wipers adjust their speed and turn on and off automatically according to the amount of rainfall on the windshield.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts detailed tests on headlights for their range both straight ahead and in curves and to be certain they don’t exceed acceptable amounts of glare to oncoming drivers. The Maxima’s available headlights were rated “Acceptable” by the IIHS, while the LaCrosse’s headlights are rated “Poor.”

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors standard on the Maxima SR/Platinum detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The LaCrosse doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

Both the Maxima and the LaCrosse offer available heated front seats. The Maxima also offers optional heated rear seats to keep those passengers extremely comfortable in the winter. Heated rear seats aren’t available in the LaCrosse.

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 LaCrosse is rated higher at a number “5” rate.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Maxima is less expensive to operate than the LaCrosse because it costs $423 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Maxima than the LaCrosse, including $24 less for a water pump, $100 less for front brake pads, $33 less for a starter, $24 less for a fuel pump, $540 less for front struts, $274 less for a timing belt/chain and $195 less for a power steering pump.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends the Nissan Maxima, 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 LaCrosse isn’t in the top three.

The Nissan Maxima outsold the Buick LaCrosse by almost three to one during the 2018 model year.

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

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