In order to shake up the large sedan segment, Nissan had to show off its expertise in several key areas. Here’s what really stands out in the brand new 2016 Nissan Maxima.
Engine: 3.5-liter V6, 300 hp, 261 lb-ft
Transmission: Continuously variable automatic
Price: Base, $33,235; as tested, $40,685 (including $825 in destination fees)
Fuel economy: 22 city, 30 highway, 25 combined
1. Design borrows from the best in the biz
The 2016 Nissan Maxima is, without a doubt, the best looking generation of the sedan.
Sitting 1.3 inches lower and 2.2 inches longer, it looks much leaner than past models, and is easily one of sportiest looking cars in its segment. My favorite element of the exterior design is the appearance of a floating roof, achieved by blacking out the A-Pillar and a portion of the C-Pillar.
The Platinum trim model tested also features tasteful chrome accents on the grille and rear bumper, and chrome door handles. I’m glad Nissan didn’t go overboard with the chrome, as that can make a car look tacky and cheap. I also love the look of the LED daytime running lights that create an easy to recognize front profile. The bulges and flared wheel arches also help make the car stand out as something that’s a bit sportier than other large sedans and is reminiscent of the Mazda6.
2. Interior design impresses
Even with its slick exterior design, the interior of this Maxima is what really stands out, specifically the quilted patterned leather seats, a surprising detail to see in this segment. The front half of the cabin is set up nicely, surrounding the front two passengers as if they’re in their own pod separate from one another.
The seats proved to be very comfortable over the course of several long trips during my week of testing. Described as Zero Gravity seats, they were also outfitted with heated and cooled functions, the latter of which was especially useful during this hot and sticky summer.
3. Fit and Finish of luxury grade
Also notable is the interior fit and finish in addition to the fantastic mix of materials. For starters, the knobs and switchgear are really high quality and border on luxury car territory. We compared the Maxima to the Hyundai Genesis sedan, a vehicle that’s clearly targeting the luxury car segment, and the Nissan had nothing to be worried about against the Hyundai.
In fact, looking at some of the accents inside the Maxima will spur your imagination. The wood trim has a three-dimensional aspect to it, angled to show off the details a bit more.
4. Technology is its middle name
Nissan is packing the Maxima with an excessive amount of cool technology. Take the eight-inch infotainment screen, that is controllable via a responsive touchscreen and a knob on the center console by the gear selector. It’s a small thing that helps make the infotainment system easier to use while driving.
Of course, the Maxima is loaded with more technology than just the infotainment system. There’s safety features like a forward collision warning, forward emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot warning. There’s also driver assists like adaptive cruise control and a 360-degree camera. Very little has been left out and it all worked very well to make the car feel like a really well packaged vehicle.
5. Engine a sweet spot
The 3.5-liter V6 engine found under the hood of the Maxima may be familiar, but is very heavily revised with 60 percent new parts. Making 300 hp and 261 lb-ft of torque, the output is adequate and the engine responsive, but the most exciting part of the motor is just how nice it sounds. Nissan fans will easily recognize the howl of a VQ engine, and the Maxima certainly has that vocal personality.
6. CVT isn’t a dirty word
That engine is mated to Nissan’s Xtronic CVT, a transmission that’s known for sucking the fun out of potent cars. Fortunately in this case, the CVT is very quick to adjust its gear ratio to deliver swift acceleration when needed and thrifty fuel economy when you take it easy on the throttle.
A handy feature is the sport button. As soon as you put the Maxima in this mode, the transmission pretends to be a conventional auto, and changes gears between pre-set gear ratios, making the car feel far more exciting than its CVT would suggest in the normal mode.
7. 4DSC may be a bit much, but it’s not far off
You may hear Nissan call its big sedan 4DSC, or the four-door sports car. This is a nickname the company used on the Maxima since 1989, when the Maxima packed a 190-hp 3.0-liter V6 engine. Now, despite the Maxima weighing in under 3,600 lbs, the car still feels relatively sporty. Its heavy steering wheel provided a confident feel on the road, and even had some feedback, unlike other modern cars that are very artificial in terms of feel.
While the car is relatively lightweight, the steering engaging and the powertrain responsive, don’t get too carried away with the 4DSC claims. This is still a large car and doesn’t quite feel like it can carve canyons like a sports car.
8. Fuel Economy is superb
While the car is exciting to drive in the sport mode, the CVT helps the 300-hp sedan stretch out its fuel tank. A long drive route that involved both highway and suburban driving saw the Maxima net 26 mpg. On a longer highway drive, the Maxima surprised further, easily getting over 30 mpg. If fuel economy in your full-size sedan is a concern and you don’t want a hybrid the Maxima should be at the top of your list.
Starting at $33,235, the base Maxima is a large sedan that is refined and well equipped. Opt to get the platinum model we tested and you’ll spend just $40,685 for a car that easily keeps up with premium grade vehicles from Acura and Buick.