2016 Nissan Maxima: More Power, New Looks

By Frank A. Aukofer, June 6th, 2015

Up close, Nissan's 2016 Maxima's grille has the menacing look that the designers likely intended to flaunt the car's performance personality. It is a serious rendition of a modern upscale sports sedan, inspired, Nissan says, by the design of the FA/18 warplane flown by the Blue Angels of the U.S. Navy.

The Maxima can be equipped minimally or luxuriously. In any trim, however, it distinguishes itself with rapid acceleration, accurate steering and handling, a steady ride that never punishes, and supportive comfort for occupants. Nissan calls it the 4DSC, or 4 Door Sports Car, an apt moniker.

strong>There are five trim levels: S, SV, SL, SR, and Platinum. Borrowing from a marketing method originally used by Honda, each version comes with its own equipment. There are no freestanding factory options.

As a result, even the base S model, with a $33,235 price tag, comes with a healthy load of standard equipment. All versions get the same engine and transmission, so performance is similar across the board. Only the sport-oriented SR gets a few sporty tweaks, including steering wheel paddles for manual shifting.

The reworked engine is Nissan's formidable 3.5-liter V-6, which delivers 300 horsepower and 261 lb.-ft. of torque. Unlike some of its all-wheel-drive competitors, the Maxima comes only with front drive. It uses a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which employs chain belts and adjustable pulleys to seamlessly multiply the engine's power.

Unlike conventional automatics, there are no shift points, which makes some drivers and critics uncomfortable. But Nissan has nicely finessed that characteristic, using computer software to build in steps under hard acceleration. Also, the manual shift mode mimics an eight-speed automatic.

All Maxima versions come with navigation, remote starting, and a rear-view camera. The S model, at $33,235 comes with high-quality cloth upholstery. Move up to the $35,215 SV, the test-drive subject here, and you get leather upholstery, heated front seats and outside mirrors, and a front and rear sonar warning system.

strong>Other prices: SL, $37,715; sporty SR, $38,495, and Platinum, $40,685. Depending on the trim, the Maxima offers a full suite of modern safety equipment, including forward collision warning, blind spot warning, side moving object detection, rear cross traffic alert, and a 360-degree "Around View" monitor.

Nissan says the Maxima has features that are not available at any price on some of its competitors' products, specifically naming the Toyota Avalon and Acura TLX. These include the Around View monitor, power tilt and telescoping steering wheel, heated steering wheel, and panoramic sunroof.

The Maxima is marketed as a large car, like the Toyota Avalon, but it is classified by the EPA as a midsize, like the Acura TLX.

On the road, besides its strong acceleration at any speed, the Maxima delivers hunker down handling and accurate steering. Pushbutton Sport and Normal drive modes alter throttle response, steering effort, transmission shift mapping, and even the engine sounds that make their way into the passenger pod. Acceleration is felt stronger in the Sport mode.

Nevertheless, we prefer the Normal setting, which delivers lighter (but no less accurate) steering and a comfortable ride without detracting from the handling. In the Sport mode, the steering became so heavy that it felt as if the driver had to fight a tendency to plow straight ahead in turns -- sort of an artificial understeer.

Overall, the improved Maxima delivers sports sedan bang for a relatively small amount of bucks.

Specifications

Base price $34,390 (as tested: $35,215)
Curb weight 3,488 lbs.
Displacement 3.5-liter
Engine type DOHC V-6 w/SMPFI
Epa mileage rating 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 18.0 gal.
Horsepower (net) 300 at 6400 rpm
Overall length 192.8 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 261 at 4400 rpm
Transmission CVT
Vehicle type 5-passenger FWD midsize sedan
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