2019 Nissan Maxima vs. 2019 Lexus IS Series

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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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 IS Series doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.

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 IS Series 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 IS Series 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 IS Series only offers a rear monitor and front and rear parking sensors that beep. 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 IS Series doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Maxima and the IS Series 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, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, 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 Lexus IS Series:



IS Series


5 Stars

4 Stars




5 Stars

4 Stars




Neck Stress

328 lbs.

339 lbs.

Neck Compression

20 lbs.

47 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

67/94 lbs.

271/602 lbs.




4 Stars

4 Stars




Neck Injury Risk



Neck Stress

114 lbs.

197 lbs.

Neck Compression

52 lbs.

64 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 Lexus IS Series:



IS Series


Front Seat


5 Stars

5 Stars

Chest Movement

.9 inches

.9 inches

Abdominal Force

188 G’s

193 G’s

Hip Force

286 lbs.

474 lbs.


Rear Seat


5 Stars

5 Stars

Hip Force

591 lbs.

691 lbs.

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


There are almost 5 times as many Nissan dealers as there are Lexus dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Maxima’s warranty.


The camshafts in the Maxima’s engine are driven by a hardened steel chain, with no maintenance needs. The IS 300 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.’s camshafts are driven by a rubber belt that needs periodic replacement. If the IS Series’ cam drive belt breaks the engine could be severely damaged when the pistons hit the opened valves.

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 IS Series.

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


The Maxima’s 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 59 more horsepower (300 vs. 241) and 3 lbs.-ft. more torque (261 vs. 258) than the IS 300’s standard 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. The Maxima’s 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 40 more horsepower (300 vs. 260) and 25 lbs.-ft. more torque (261 vs. 236) than the IS 300 AWD’s standard 3.5 DOHC V6.

As tested in Motor Trend the Nissan Maxima is faster than the IS 300 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.:



IS Series

Zero to 60 MPH

5.7 sec

7 sec

Quarter Mile

14.2 sec

15.4 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

100.5 MPH

89.9 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Maxima gets better fuel mileage than the IS 350 RWD 8-speed Auto 3.5 V6 (311 HP) (20 city/30 hwy vs. 20 city/28 hwy).


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 IS Series doesn’t offer a CVT.

Brakes and Stopping

The Maxima stops shorter than the IS Series:



IS Series


70 to 0 MPH

168 feet

177 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

125 feet

128 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

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

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Maxima has standard 18-inch wheels. Smaller 17-inch wheels are standard on the IS Series. The Maxima SR/Platinum’s 19-inch wheels are larger than the 18-inch wheels optional on the IS Series.

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 IS Series 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 IS Series, it requires you to depend on a temporary spare, which limits mileage and speed before replacement.

Suspension and Handling

For better handling and stability, the track (width between the wheels) on the Maxima is 2 inches wider in the front and 1.4 inches wider in the rear than on the IS Series.

The Maxima SR handles at .87 G’s, while the IS Series AWD pulls only .81 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The Maxima SR executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the IS Series (26.6 seconds @ .69 average G’s vs. 27.1 seconds @ .65 average G’s).


To almost totally eliminate engine vibration in the passenger area, the Maxima has an electronically controlled liquid-filled main engine mount. A computer controlled electric current in the liquid changes its viscosity, allowing the mount to dampen the engine completely at all RPMs. The IS Series uses conventional solid rubber engine mounts.

Passenger Space

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

The Maxima has 8.3 cubic feet more passenger volume than the IS Series (98.5 vs. 90.2).

The Maxima has 1.2 inches more front headroom, .2 inches more front legroom, .8 inches more front shoulder room, 2 inches more rear legroom and 2.3 inches more rear shoulder room than the IS Series.

Cargo Capacity

The Maxima has a much larger trunk than the IS Series (14.3 vs. 10.8 cubic feet).


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 IS Series does not have an oil pressure gauge.

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 IS Series’ standard manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

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 IS Series doesn’t offer extendable visors.

Both the Maxima and the IS Series 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 IS Series.

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the Maxima owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the Maxima will cost $2180 less than the IS Series over a five-year period.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Maxima is less expensive to operate than the IS Series because typical repairs cost much less on the Maxima than the IS Series, including $136 less for a water pump, $559 less for a starter, $226 less for fuel injection, $117 less for front struts, $437 less for a timing belt/chain and $585 less for a power steering pump.


Consumer Reports® recommends the Nissan Maxima, based on reliability, safety and performance. The Lexus IS Series isn't recommended.

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 IS Series isn’t in the top three in its category.

The Nissan Maxima outsold the Lexus IS Series by over two to one during the 2018 model year.

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

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