Although the Dodge Charger and Nissan Maxima adopt a similar form factor, these full-size sedans go about their business in very different ways. The Maxima takes a more luxurious approach to its features and appointments while still trying to be fun to drive. Meanwhile, the Charger emphasizes power and performance more than comfort or technology.
Deciding between the Charger and Maxima? Here are the pros and cons of each to consider.
2021 Dodge Charger: Pros Over the Maxima
Both the Maxima and Charger come standard with a V-6 engine. In the Nissan, it’s a 3.5-liter unit that makes 300 hp and 261 lb-ft of torque, all of which is sent to the front wheels via a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The Dodge has a 3.6-liter mill that turns out 292-300 hp and 260-264 lb-ft. Power is routed through an eight-speed automatic, and buyers can choose either rear-wheel- or all-wheel-drive.
That’s as exciting as it gets in the Maxima, but the fun has only just begun in the Charger—it’s also offered with several V-8 choices. Those range from a 370-hp 5.7-liter Hemi to the infamous 797-hp supercharged 6.2-liter powerplant in the Hellcat Redeye. Indeed, the Maxima’s V-6 provides reasonable acceleration. But for the power-hungry, a V-8-equipped Charger is the only choice here.
Passenger and Cargo Space
The Charger and Maxima trade advantages in interior capacities. Front-row headroom measures 38.6 inches in the Charger and 39.4 inches in the Maxima. Likewise, there’s less front legroom in the Dodge, which has 41.8 inches to the Nissan’s huge 45.0 inches. In the Charger’s second row, headroom is 36.6 inches, negligibly less than the Maxima’s 36.7 inches. However, back-seat legroom measures 40.1 inches in the Charger, much more than the Maxima’s 34.2 inches. Additionally, the Charger’s trunk is bigger, with 16.5 cubic feet to the Maxima’s 14.3. Long-legged drivers will appreciate the Maxima’s generous front-row space. But since the Charger is still pretty roomy up front and much more so in the second row, not to mention it has a larger trunk, it seems like the better overall package for spacious sedan practicality.
Colors and Trims
Besides black, white, and silver, the Maxima is available in eye-catching blue, orange, or red paint. We like that Nissan offers more than drab basic colors, but the fun ones are available only on certain trims and cost $395 extra. The Charger has a range of awesome paint choices. Sure, you can get black, white, or various grays, but you also have two blues, two reds, two oranges, and more to choose from—check out the classy F8 green or the sophisticated Hellraisin purple. All of these paints are available on every Charger trim level and cost the same amount: $0.00. V-8-powered Chargers also offer a range of retro-tastic stripe and decal packages and a muscular widebody kit. The Maxima looks good, but if you want a car that you can personalize with stand-out style, the Charger gives you the most options.
IntelliChoice, a MotorTrend subsidiary, works to determine car values by calculating long-term ownership costs. Between the Charger and Maxima, there’s a clear winner—with caveats. The Maxima is rated as a Poor value; insurance costs and depreciation undermine its long-term outlook. Meanwhile, the Charger lineup is rated as an Average value, but values for specific trims vary. For example, the basic SXT V-6 model is a Good value, as it shouldn’t cost a huge amount to run, insure, or repair. But choosing a V-8 Charger lessens the value equation. An R/T is an Average value, but the Hellcat is rated as Poor. Why? Well, IntelliChoice estimates that it’ll cost some $90,000 over five years, with over a third of that being depreciation and nearly $15,000 of it pumped into the gas tank. Even still, the Charger has a value advantage over the Maxima—just know that it depends on which model you get.
2021 Nissan Maxima: Pros Over the Charger
Interior Design and Materials
When you pay for a high-end Charger, your dollars go toward what’s under the hood more than inside the cabin. Besides details such as carbon-fiber trim and Alcantara upholstery, expensive Chargers share appointments with bare-bones rental lot specials. It’s the opposite case with the Maxima. All models have the same engine, so opting for a higher trim level makes things nicer inside. Quilted leather upholstery, a rear window sunshade, and multi-color ambient lighting are among the niceties added as you move up the Maxima trim walk. We think its cabin design is more aesthetically pleasing, too.
Safety and Driver Assist Features
If safety is a priority, the Maxima is the better choice. From the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the 2020 Maxima earns five-star ratings across the board (a complete set of ratings for the 2021 model hasn’t been published). The 2021 Charger gets a four-star frontal crash score and five stars in other categories. From the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Maxima received the 2020 Top Safety Pick + designation, an accolade the Charger can’t match. In the driver’s side small overlap front crash test, which replicates what happens when the front left corner of a car hits an object at 40 mph, the Dodge got the second-lowest Marginal score. Also, its headlights received the lowest Poor score.
All Maxima trims are standard equipped with adaptive cruise control, lane-keep assist, blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, front and rear automatic braking, and more driver-assist features. The Charger comes with none of these. You can add them by choosing option packages, but the Hellcat isn’t compatible with features such as adaptive cruise control.
Fuel Economy and Driving Range
Fuel economy ratings from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the 2021 Maxima are 20/30 mpg city/highway, slightly better than the V-6 Charger’s 19/30 mpg rating. The Maxima has an 18-gallon fuel tank, which provides a theoretical maximum range of 540 miles. However, the Charger’s tank holds 18.5 gallons, allowing up to 555 miles of cruising distance. This all goes out the tailpipe if you choose a V-8 Charger. Its most economical eight-pot is the 5.7-liter Hemi, which is rated at 16/25 mpg and can cover about 460 miles between fill-ups. Meanwhile, the Hellcat chugs premium fuel at 12/21 mpg for under 390 miles of driving range, assuming you’re gentle on the throttle—yeah, right.
As we found out during its year in our long-term fleet, the Maxima is a capable freeway cruiser. Its driver-assist features and comfortable ride make it a relaxing car to hit the road in, whether for everyday commutes or multi-state journeys. Although V-6 Chargers are also spacious and comfortable, the models’ absence of standard driver-assist tech makes taking to the road that much more taxing. V-8 Charger models feature sportier chassis setups, which improve handling but diminish outright comfort. Those larger engines also necessitate more frequent stops for fuel. The Charger might be better fun on a twisty road, but the Maxima is nicer for normal driving.
The Maxima is a better bet than a Charger if you’re looking for a sensible, comfortable full-size sedan. Its nicer interior and numerous driver-assist features make it more luxurious, and its strong safety scores and decent fuel economy earn it pragmatic points. However, if you’re after a thrill ride, the Charger is the only choice here. When equipped with a V-8 engine, it’s a proper muscle car, providing more power, noise, and tire smoke than any competitor can.
2021 Dodge Charger Pros Over Nissan Maxima
- V-8 engine choices
- More passenger and cargo space
- Fun color and trim options
- Better value
2021 Nissan Maxima Pros Over Dodge Charger
- Better fuel economy
- Nicer interior
- Standard safety and driver-assist tech
- A more comfortable freeway cruiser
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