2013 Volkswagen Passat vs. 2013 Nissan Maxima

A tale of two labels: 2013 Volkswagen Passat vs. 2013 Nissan Maxima
By Teddy Field

The basic idea behind the two sedans in this car comparison, is to offer the buyer something they want, but can’t have. The 2013 Nissan Maxima for instance, is marketed as a 4-door sports car. A guilty pleasure with room for the kids. The 2013 Volkswagen Passat on the other hand, is pitched as a German luxury car, that you can actually afford. Both do offer a unique experience, that’s far from the double-vanilla of most competitors. But which one should you choose? Glad you asked…

2013 Nissan Maxima

Nissan’s flagship sedan has always been somehow more exciting than its competitors. Camry has always been about comfort, Honda’s have always been about reliability and safety, and the Nissan Maxima is about fun. Not a run around screaming like a lunatic kind of fun, but more of a mischievous, ‘I’ve got a little secret’ kind of fun. You probably won’t win many stoplight races, but you’ll be able to carve up the morning traffic like nobody’s business.

2013 Nissan Maxima

The 2013 Nissan Maxima carries on that sporting tradition with a combination of little details that add up to a sporty car. To start, the 2013 Nissan Maxima has nearly the same footprint as the 2013 Nissan Altima, but there’s actually a lot less room in the cabin. Back seat occupants above 5’1” are advised to remove their feet and legs before entering, and the trunk space suffers slightly from the protruding suspension bulges in the floor. But 14 cu-ft is a livable amount of trunk space, and the rear seats fold 60/40…sort of like a 300ZX. So drop dead gorgeous lines, and no passenger room. Sounds like a sports car.

Unlike most of the competition, the 2013 Nissan Maxima still uses a hydraulic steering system. This ancient mechanical system allows for crisp response, and a real feeling of the road beneath you. The suspension keeps the big Maxima adhered to the curves, and the hallowed VQ 290-hp 3.5L V6 growls as it propels you across the earth’s surface. The gearless CVT transmission may take a bit of getting used to, but you can change gears through a pre-set ratio program with the large paddle shifters (it also blips the throttle when you change down). So great performance, with a funky mechanical twist. Sounds like a sports car.

2013 Nissan Maxima

The inside of the 2013 Nissan Maxima is clearly designed around the driver. With a similar dash to the 370Z, the Maxima feels like a sportscar from the drivers seat. All of the materials are top-notch, and the build quality is excellent. The 2013 Nissan Maxima is priced considerably higher that an ordinary midsize sedan (like a sports car), but it feels like a much more expensive car. And it looks fantastic too, which makes you feel good about yourself. Maybe it is a 4-door a sports car afterall.

2013 Volkswagen Passat

Okay, the 2013 Nissan Maxima is for the person who has to give up the Honda S2000, or Corvette C6, in favor of more practical transportation. It’s also a nice alternative to the more mundane choices in this class. The 2013 Volkswagen Passat on the other hand, is for those people who want a luxury car that’s actually affordable. And the 2013 Volkswagen Passat 3.6 SE is just what the newly appointed Regional Sales Director might be looking for.

2013 Volkswagen Passat

With a starting price of around $30k, the 2013 VW Passat 3.6 SE gets heated sport seats, covered in one of several Germanic upholstery patterns. There’s also a fancy touchscreen Fender audio system, a big sunroof, and the SEL gets some premium looking wood trim on the dash. Overall, the cabin of the 2013 Volkswagen Passat 3.6 feels much more expensive than it really is.

2013 Volkswagen Passat

Under the hood of the 2013 Volkswagen Passat VR6 is a smooth 3.6 liter dual overhead cam engine, making a healthy 280-hp and 258 lb-ft of torque. This gets routed to the front wheels through a 6-speed DSG automated manual, with paddle shifters. It’s not tuned to mimic a sport sedan, like the Maxima. But the 2013 Volkswagen Passat VR6 handles exceptionally well…for a faux luxury car.


So there you have it, two cars that sort of live up to their labels. If you’re tired of ordinary transportation, you need to check these two out.

<strong>Car Comparison: 2013 Nissan Maxima vs. </strong><strong>2013 Volkswagen Passat</strong><br />

SPECIFICATION2013 Nissan Maxima2013 Volkswagen Passat
Fuel Economy19/26/22 3.5L / CVT20/28/23
Suburban Snob Factor10 / 10 Camrys8 / 10 Camrys
NHTSA RankingTop Safety Pick = NTop Safety Pick = Y
NHTSA Ranking4 / 5 Stars5 / 5 Stars

(Note: All vehicles provided by manufacturers for comparison test purposes. Photos provided by Volkswagen and Nissan.)