The styling direction Nissan has taken with two of its highest volume vehicles, last year with the 2015 Murano mid-sized crossover and now with the 2016 Maxima sedan have proven to be alluring head-turners. Even though many manufacturers are leery of taking design risks, Nissan’s vehicles, especially the new Maxima, seem to resonate giving buyers a compelling choice.
The new sedan—which is 2.2 inches longer and 1.3 inches lower than the outgoing car—features such cutting-edge touches as boomerang-style lights, a double U-shaped grille, intersecting creases, swooping character lines, blacked-out pillars, and quarter-panel flares. There’s so much going on it’s almost too much to take in on first sight, but it all seems to work as a package. The downside to taking such a design risk is that it might become quickly dated.
The interior is equally as interesting and stylish with a driver-oriented cockpit, quilted seats, contrasting stitching, a center stack angled by seven degrees toward the driver, and a flat-bottomed steering wheel.
The new sedan is designed for those buyers who are luxury intenders, but looking for a vehicle that is more sporting in both appearance and road manners. Thanks to a healthy 3.5 L V6 engine producing 300 hp and 261 lb-ft of torque with a sport-tuned (stiff) suspension in the SR trim level the Maxima adds a measure of sports sedan drama to the equation although most will probably feel more comfortable in the other, more plush-riding trim levels.
Maxima is driven through the front wheels and mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Nissan has done a commendable job in advancing the CVT’s feel whether in idling around town or under pedal-to-the-metal acceleration. Nissan said they used six variables—accelerator-pedal position, road grade, acceleration and cornering g’s, road speed, and braking—in determining how the transmission behaves, and artificial gear ratio changes closely mimic the action of a conventional automatic transmission.
We were not only impressed with the performance in a week of varied driving but we had the opportunity to take the Maxima SR edition out to our usual winding rural paved-road “test track” where we were pleasantly surprised at its cornering and handling attributes. The Maxima, we discovered, is not a sports sedan, but it handles itself quite effectively when there are a lot of bends in the road. And we are impressed with the car’s EPA-rated gas mileage of 22 mpg city, 30 highway and 25 combined on premium gas.
A word of warning here, many people in the market for this car might find the suspension too stiff in the SR. Be advised to take a test drive and you might find the other trim levels more to your taste.
Either way you should find the V6 rewarding in all driving situations with recorded 0-to-60 times of 5.8 seconds and a quarter mile in 14.5 seconds at 99.5 mph. And above-average performance is not limited just to fast forward. The SR edition we drove will stop the car from 60 mph in a short 115 feet.
Rather than sell the Maxima in a limited number of versions with a monster-sized options list, Nissan took a different path with the eighth generation. It packaged the sedan into five trim grades (S, SV, SL, SR and Platinum) then decreed that no options would be offered, though this claim isn’t strictly true.
There are a number of items like floor mats, spoilers, wheels and trim pieces that can be added, but you can’t add something from a higher grade onto a lower one. This simple change decreases the number of potential build combinations, should increase build quality, and helps keep costs in check.
In the safety department, the three top grades offer Blind Spot Warning with Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Intelligent Cruise Control, Predictive Forward Collision Warning, Forward Emergency Braking, a heated steering wheel, Active Sound Enhancement (a.k.a. noise cancellation), and an 11-speaker Bose premium audio system. The Platinum grade adds Driver Attention Alert (DAA) and Around View Monitor. The DAA determines whether or not a driver is getting drowsy by monitoring steering wheel inputs and comparing them to those generated during the first 15-20 minutes of travel.
The Maxima appears well priced against much of its competition starting at $33,235 for the base S and ranges up to $40,685 for the loaded Platinum. What might be the most popular is the mid-level SL, which comes with considerable standard equipment at $37,715. Our SR trim test car carried a bottom line of $38,750 with the only option $255 floor mats.