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Why Buy a Nissan Maxima SR When You Can Buy a Toyota Avalon TRD?

The full-size sedan segment doesn’t seem to get as much love and attention as the mid-size sedan segment (Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, etc.), but cars like the Nissan Maxima SR and the Toyota Avalon TRD are looking to change that. These two large sedans are the performance-oriented trims from each automaker and they stack up quite well against each other. The Maxima has also been known as the “four-door sports car,” but with help from Toyota’s in-house tuner, the new 2020 Avalon TRD could be a much better performer.

The 2020 Nissan Maxima SR vs the 2020 Toyota Avalon TRD

The Nissan Maxima has been in its sixth-generation since 2016 and received a mid-cycle refresh in 2019. The major update came with new design features inside and out as well as some attractive features including standard driver-assist features. There are six different trims levels to choose from, however, the SR is billed as the sportiest one, thanks to its paddle shifters, a sport-tuned suspension, and 19-inch gloss black wheels. While the additions on this version are merely appearance modifications, it definitely gives the Maxima a sharper look to go with its lively V6 engine.

On the other hand, the 2020 Toyota Avalon TRD is much more than just a trim level. Toyota’s in-house tuner, Toyota Racing Development, went to work on the full-size comfortable sedan and imbued it with a stiffer suspension, larger wheels and brakes, and a sharp-looking body kit. And while it’s tough to think of anyone that’s shopping in the full-size-sedan bracket to pick the spruced-up Avalon over the wild-styled Maxima, we think that the Toyota could actually be the better choice.

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2020 Nissan Maxima | Nissan
2020 Nissan Maxima | Nissan

Why is the Toyota Avalon TRD a better choice?

We spent some time with the Toyota Avalon TRD and came away impressed with its soft, yet sporty ride and handling characteristics as well as its buttery-smooth engine. The Avalon is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine that produces 301 horsepower and 267 lb-ft of torque and is mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The power comes through the front wheels as all-wheel-drive is not an option, however, we were surprised at the lack of torque steer and snappy acceleration. The TRD trim also includes a sport exhaust system that sounded deep and throaty upon start-up and heavy acceleration, however, it didn’t drone during highway cruising.

Additionally, we were shocked at how much grip the car had. The tuned suspension and bigger wheels did well in holding the 3,600-pound car in the corners and apparently, the whole combination really helps performance as Car and Driver was able to lay down 0-60 times in about six seconds flat. To back it all up, the 2020 Avalon is rated at 22 mpg in the city and 31 on the highway, which is spot on considering we achieved an average of 28 mpg under mixed driving conditions.

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the red rear of an all new 2020 Toyota Camry with the sporty TRD package
2020 Toyota Camry | Toyota

What about the Nissan Maxima?

To be honest, the Nissan Maxima SR looks to be a formidable contender in the segment and matches up almost exactly with the Avalon TRD. The Maxima SR trim level comes with a smooth 300-hp V6 engine, however, it’s attached to a CVT transmission, which has always been known to make the engine drone under heavy acceleration. However, it does put down quicker 0-60 times in the 5.7-second range, according to Car and Driver’s testing. As far as fuel economy, the Maxima is rated at 20 mpg in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

Despite the performance similarities between these two hefty family haulers, we would still pick the Toyota Avalon TRD for it’s more subtle looks, comfortable ride, and excellent application of TRD parts. While they don’t make the car a full-on racecar by any means, they do well to inject some much-needed sportiness into the otherwise sedate full-size sedan. It’s not that choosing the Maxima would be a mistake since both cars are priced and equipped similarly, we just think that the Avalon carries Toyota’s excellent level of refinement.