This week we test the 8th generation Nissan Maxima. And once again Nissan has promised a return of the “four door sports car” driving experience that made Maximas of the early 90s so exciting. This car certainly looks exciting. So let’s see if this Maxima’s excitement runs more than skin deep.
The 2016 Nissan Maxima is one of the most stimulating to see sedans we’ve come across in years. It’s rakish and radical. The sexy sheet metal is supposedly inspired by jets. Now, we haven’t heard that line since the 50’s; regardless it is a looker for sure.
Nissan’s V-motion design theme sets the deep grille, and is echoed along the rest of the car as well. This Maxima adopts the floating roof look of the Murano, with partially blacked C-pillars, and a fast roof that gives the side glass a chopped appearance. Standard, beefy 18 inch wheels further compress the visual height.
But if you think this means a claustrophobic interior you’re wrong. Space is plentiful, yet still engaging, and a lot more upscale. Now, that doesn’t mean Maxima has gone near-luxury. Nissan feels there is plenty of room for classy materials in mass market mid-size sedans.
The list of standard features is also impressive, including Nissan Connect with 8.0-inch touchscreen navigation, a 7.0-inch Drive-Assist display in the instrument cluster, remote start, full power seats, and dual-zone climate.
Though oddly enough, only a basic backup camera. Only top-level Platinum trim gets Nissan’s Around View Monitor. A terrific feature you’ll find on a Versa Note for less than 20-grand. SL-trim and above add Forward Emergency Braking which in our low speed barrier test mitigated stopping distances without consistency.
On the plus side the Zero Gravity front seats were as comfy and well bolstered as advertised. Rear seats equally so, and there’s almost full-size car room back here. Storage space? Yep, got plenty of that as well, at 14.3 cubic-ft.
Any sporty car regardless of how many doors needs invigorating power. Here the new Maxima complies with a familiar 3.5-liter V6. But, with the redesign comes significant updates including GT-R goodies like sodium-filled valves. Horsepower climbs to an even 300; torque remains the same at 261 lb-ft.
The big downer to still the CVT transmission. But, it’s also upgraded and tightened up for better response, and thankfully, quieter operation. Shift paddles are nice and big; and are intelligently mounted on the steering column, not on the wheel.
So, the question remains. Can this front driver live up to its 4DSC hype? That’s a hard thing to do. We found the new Maxima drives solid. At a decent clip it remains very flat through corners, and overall feels light on its feel. Indeed, 82-lbs. has been shaved from the previous car.
To get the full experience, opt for the SR model with its unique dampers and larger front stabilizer bar. As well as an Integrated Dynamic-control Module with Active Ride Control.
We navigated the cones quickly, with sharp turn-ins and a firm feel to the wheel. Braking is undramatic, 60 to 0 in 125 feet. That’s fine, if not as short as we’d like.
Still, at this point, are we starting to be believers? Yep! But acceleration runs made us back off a bit. As one test driver put it, “the engine is willin’, but the trans is illin’”
The Maxima jumped off the line quickly, hitting 60 in 6.1-seconds. 2/10ths quicker than last gen. But after simulating a shift to second, there were awkward power surges that had our car torque steering down the track. Still the full ¼-mile went by fast at 14.3-seconds at 102 miles-per-hour. Now Nissan, give us a non-rubber band tranny and we’ll buy in completely.
New to the Maxima this year are selectable driving modes; with Sport quickening throttle response and steering, as well as adjusting the tuning of the CVT and the Active Sound Enhancement system.
Out on the road, whether you believe it is a true sport sedan or not, it sure feels like one when you’re behind the wheel. You sit very low, and the thick steering wheel feels great in your hands.
Few standalone options are available with five trim levels starting at $33,235. This SR starts at $38,495.
OK, it’s time to put up or shut up.
Does the 2016 Nissan Maxima deserve the “Four Door Sports Car” label? It’s certainly exciting inside and out, and with the exception of the CVT, an impressive performer for its size, sitting far above the typical mid-size family car class. So, we give it a qualified “yes”. But without reservations, it is the best Maxima, and the best Nissan badged sedan, we’ve ever driven.
Engine: 3.5-liter V6
Torque: 261 lb-ft.
0-60 mph: 6.1 seconds
1/4 mile: 14.3 seconds @ 102 mph