A NEW IDENTITY
The Nissan Maxima, the flagship of the Nissan brand, has been around for three decades now. However, in recent years, it seemed to lose its identity. Buyers didn’t see the value of the Maxima, which was not that much different than its lower-priced sibling, the Altima. Now, that’s all changed with the 2016 Maxima. This latest version stands out like no recent Maxima has been able to.
It starts with the exterior styling. The 2016 Maxima is the most aggressive looking sedan in its class. Nissan calls its styling language “V-Motion,” and says it was inspired by jet fighters. Boomerang-shaped headlights flank a protruding grille, which proudly presents Nissan’s “V” design in chrome. Swooping character lines on the flanks lead to large taillights that mimic the lights up front. Blacked-out trim around the side windows creates the illusion of a “floating” roof. Some like this feature—others don’t.
Stepping into the cabin, one is greeted by Nissan’s “Zero Gravity” front seats, which coddle the front passengers. However, seating in the rear is not as good. Backseat riders have adequate legroom, but Nissan’s designers had to lower the seat height to gain additional headroom. Unfortunately, this detracts from thigh support and overall comfort. Trunk space is a bit tight too, at just 14.3 cubic-feet.
However, one thing that should please everyone is the infotainment interface on the dash. The system succeeds at being flexible and user-friendly. Drivers have a choice of touching an 8-inch screen, or twisting a controller dial on the console, or even using voice commands to access what they want. Furthermore, radio and air conditioning can still be tuned by turning knobs. Another user-friendly feature worthy of note is the small covered bin on the console that houses two USB ports, and is deep enough to hold a smartphone as well.
Under the hood, Nissan powers the Maxima with an updated 3.5-liter V-6. This engine now generates 300 horsepower, up 10 from before. Power transfers to the front wheels via a CVT automatic transmission. But before you groan about this, let me tell you that this one is one of best in the business. It mimics traditional automatic gear-shifts, and doesn’t sound stressed when you stomp on the gas. Furthermore, it contributes to theMaxima’s getting a class-high 25-mpg in combined city/highway driving.
Nissan offers its flagship in five levels of trim, S, SV, SL, SR, and Platinum. In most versions, each model builds on the equipment of the model below it. The base S comes with features like navigation, a rearview camera, an eight-speaker audio system and keyless entry/start. The SV adds heated front seats, leather upholstery and parking sensors. The SL ups the ante with Bose audio, adaptive cruise control and a panoramic moonroof. Finally, Platinum piles on more luxury with premium leather, a power rear sunshade, a 360-degree parking camera and Nissan Connect communication system.
However, the Maxima SR forgoes some of the luxury features like the moonroof, and focuses on handling with a sport suspension and three electronic driving assists. The first, Active Trace Control, applies brake pressure to individual wheels when necessary to maintain a cornering line. Active Engine Braking automatically downshifts the transmission when you are coming down from speed, and Active Ride Control smoothes out bumps in the road through subtle braking to keep your Maxima on an even keel.
Over the years, Nissan has claimed that the Maxima is a “four-door sports car.” Most will agree that this has been an exaggeration, but the 2016 Maxima SR definitely qualifies as a sports sedan. It holds the road with the tenacity of a leach, and feels sure footed negotiating twists and turns on country roads. The ride quality is fairly firm, but all-in-all, it’s a kick in the pants to drive.
Maxima pricing starts at a reasonable $33,235 for the S model, and ranges up to a hefty $40,685 for the Platinum. My SR test car, with optional floor mats, had a suggested retail price of $38,750.
Sport-Sedan Handling (SR)