2019 Nissan Maxima vs. 2019 Volkswagen Passat

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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 Passat 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 Passat doesn’t offer a whiplash protection system.

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 Passat scores 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 Passat 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 Passat 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 Passat doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Maxima and the Passat have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, front-wheel drive, height adjustable front shoulder belts, plastic fuel tanks, 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 Volkswagen Passat:

 

Maxima

Passat

OVERALL STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

 

Driver

STARS

5 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

106

312

Neck Injury Risk

38%

39%

Neck Stress

328 lbs.

391 lbs.

Neck Compression

20 lbs.

47 lbs.

Leg Forces (l/r)

67/94 lbs.

104/367 lbs.

 

Passenger

STARS

4 Stars

4 Stars

HIC

103

384

Chest Compression

.7 inches

.8 inches

Neck Injury Risk

29%

41%

Neck Stress

114 lbs.

297 lbs.

Neck Compression

52 lbs.

85 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 Volkswagen Passat:

 

Maxima

Passat

 

Rear Seat

STARS

5 Stars

5 Stars

Spine Acceleration

57 G’s

61 G’s

Hip Force

591 lbs.

627 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 Passat was a “Top Pick” for 2017, but no longer qualifies under the tighter 2018 guidelines.

Warranty

The Maxima comes with free roadside assistance for 3 years 36,000 miles. Nissan will send help if you run out of gas, need a jump-start, lock your keys in or need any assistance on the road. Volkswagen doesn’t give free roadside assistance for the Passat.

There are over 66 percent more Nissan dealers than there are Volkswagen dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Maxima’s warranty.

Reliability

To reliably power the ignition and other systems and to recharge the battery, the Maxima has a standard 150-amp alternator. The Passat’s 140-amp alternator isn’t as powerful.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Maxima first among large cars in their 2018 Initial Quality Study. The Passat 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 Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Nissan 10th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 18 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 24th, below the industry average.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Nissan vehicles are more reliable than Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Nissan 10th in reliability, above the industry average. With 24 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 19th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Nissan vehicles are more reliable than Volkswagen vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Nissan 2 places higher in reliability than Volkswagen.

Engine

The Maxima’s 3.5 DOHC V6 produces 126 more horsepower (300 vs. 174) and 77 lbs.-ft. more torque (261 vs. 184) than the Passat’s 2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

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 Passat doesn’t offer a CVT.

Brakes and Stopping

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

 

Maxima

Passat

Front Rotors

12.6 inches

12.3 inches

Rear Rotors

12.13 inches

10.7 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 Passat are solid, not vented.

The Maxima stops much shorter than the Passat:

 

Maxima

Passat

 

70 to 0 MPH

168 feet

191 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

125 feet

130 feet

Motor Trend

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

141 feet

147 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Maxima has larger tires than the Passat (245/45R18 vs. 215/55R17). The Maxima’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Passat (245/45R18 vs. 235/45R18).

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 Passat Wolfsburg Edition’s standard 55 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Maxima has standard 18-inch wheels. Smaller 17-inch wheels are standard on the Passat Wolfsburg Edition.

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 Passat 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 Passat, 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 .3 inches wider in the front and 1.4 inches wider in the rear than on the Passat.

The Maxima SR handles at .87 G’s, while the Passat pulls only .79 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The Maxima SR executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.5 seconds quicker than the Passat SE R-Line (26.6 seconds @ .69 average G’s vs. 28.1 seconds @ .59 average G’s).

Chassis

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 Passat uses conventional solid rubber engine mounts.

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 Passat doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

Passenger Space

The Maxima has 1.1 inches more front headroom and 2.6 inches more front legroom than the Passat.

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 Passat’s useful trunk space is reduced by its intrusive beam hinge.

Ergonomics

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 Passat 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 Passat 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 Passat can’t use the remote to operate the windows.

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 Passat’s standard manually variable intermittent wipers have to be constantly adjusted.

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 Passat’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 Passat doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

A power rear sunshade is standard in the Maxima Platinum to help block heat and glare for the rear passengers. The Passat doesn’t offer a rear sunshade.

When the Maxima with available tilt-down mirrors is put in reverse, both rearview mirrors tilt from their original position. This gives the driver a better view of the curb during parallel parking maneuvers. Shifting out of reverse puts the mirrors into their original positions. The Passat’s mirrors don’t automatically adjust for backing.

The Maxima offers optional automatic dimming rear and side view mirrors which automatically darken quickly when headlights shine on them, keeping following vehicles from blinding or distracting the driver. The Passat offers an automatic rear view mirror, but its side mirrors don’t dim.

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 Passat doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

On extremely cold winter days, the Maxima SL/SR/Platinum’s standard heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the car heater warms up. The Passat doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

The Maxima has a standard dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. Dual zone air conditioning is only available on the Passat SE R-Line.

Both the Maxima and the Passat offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the Maxima has standard rear air conditioning vents to keep rear occupants cool in summer or warm in winter. The Passat doesn’t offer rear air conditioning vents, only heat vents.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Maxima is less expensive to operate than the Passat because it costs $90 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Maxima than the Passat, including $51 less for a water pump, $55 less for a muffler, $320 less for a starter, $23 less for a fuel pump, $150 less for front struts and $59 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends both the Nissan Maxima and the Volkswagen Passat, 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 Passat isn’t in the top three in its category.

The Nissan Maxima outsold the Volkswagen Passat by 14% during the 2018 model year.

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

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