2016 Nissan Maxima SLPosted on November 24th, 2015
All-new sport sedan adds spice to the daily commute
By Nina Russin
Performance has always been Nissan’s forte. That continues to be the case for the newest Maxima: a sport sedan capable of giving the best Europe has to offer real competition at a more affordable price.
Unlike many cars in the segment, the Maxima chassis is front-wheel drive with a continuously variable automatic transmission, both if which might make driving purists wrinkle their noses.
But it’s hard to argue with its 300 horsepower engine, excellent throttle response, and near perfect front-to-rear weight balance. In other words, don’t judge a book by its cover. Technology changes, often for the better.
Base price for the redesigned 2016 model starts at $32,410. Final MSRP on the well-loaded SL test car with leather upholstery, a panoramic moonroof, power heated front seats and Bose premium sound system is $37,935 including delivery.
Test drive in Southern Arizona
This week I had the opportunity to test-drive the new Maxima around Phoenix, Chandler and Scottsdale, Arizona as well as the Gila River Indian Community south of town. From its redesigned exterior to improved NVH, the Maxima is a car that will make its owners proud, with enhanced infotainment daily commuters will appreciate.
Engineers borrowed technology such as sodium filled valves in redesigning the 3.5-liter V-6 engine. While the transmission’s lack of fixed gears might take some getting used to, no one can argue with its linear response. A drive mode select feature modifies the throttle, transmission tuning and exhaust note.
CVTs got a bad rep in the technology’s early days because of their rubber band feel. Basically, the driver could modulate the throttle and not feel a whole lot under the seat. This is not the case for the new Maxima. In the 20-to-60 MPH race on freeway entrance ramps, the Maxima had no problem moving out in front.
Using more high strength steel throughout the body enabled engineers to boost torsional rigidity for better steering response. Although I’m not generally a fan of electric power steering systems, the one in the new Maxima is remarkably good. On-center response is hard to distinguish from a traditional hydraulic system.
Eighteen-inch alloy rims on the test car provide a fat footprint for better performance on winding roads.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of independent struts with coil springs and twin-tube shocks up front and a multi-link setup with monotube shocks in the back. The suspension does a good job of smoothing out bumps in the road while maintaining the nimble response buyers in this segment look for.
Visibility around the perimeter is pretty good. A-pillars are located so as not to interfere with the driver’s forward view. I had no problems monitoring oncoming traffic when making left-hand turns.
Blind spot monitoring on the test car illuminates LED signals in the A pillars when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. However over-the-shoulder visibility is good enough that this feature is more of a convenience than a necessity.
The standard rearview camera projects a wide-angle view to the back of the car when the driver shifts into reverse, eliminating problems with blind spots in the back corners. The camera works quite well in daylight but the image can be a bit fuzzy at night.
Engineers did a good job of enhancing NVH, making it easy for both rows of occupants to converse on the highway or enjoy the Bose premium sound system.
Designers took the Maxima’s driver focus into account when redesigning the interior, with nice touches such as a flat bottom steering wheel and power driver’s seat with adjustable lumbar and thigh support. Engineers use the same NASA zero gravity technology as one find’s in the current Altima, preventing hot spots during long road trips.
The center stack screen is bright and easy to read in bright sunlight as well as after dark. Graphics are some of the best in the industry.
Keyless entry and start saves the driver from having to fumble for the key fob, adding a measure of safety after dark.
Dual-zone climate controls as well as front seat heaters on the test car keep occupants comfortable in temperature extremes. I really appreciated the seat heaters getting into the car early in the morning to drive to the trailhead. They’re a nice way to warm up the legs and back muscles.
Rear seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the cargo floor. While the Maxima isn’t as easy to stuff a road bike into as the brand’s crossovers and sport-utility vehicles, it’s nice to have the capability in a pinch.
The Bose audio system has excellent sound quality for listening to the standard satellite radio feature or Bluetooth streaming audio.
The Nissan Maxima comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, forward collision warning with emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, antilock brakes, electronic stability control and tire pressure monitoring. Halogen headlamps provide bright, long beams to enhance visibility after dark, while LED daytime running lamps make the sedan more visible to other vehicles in low light conditions.
Nissan builds the new Maxima at its Smyrna, Tennessee assembly plant.
Like: A stylish sport sedan with excellent power and performance.
Dislike: Rearview camera image is fuzzy after dark. Floor mats are a $220 option.
Model: Maxima SL
Base price: $36,890
As tested: $37,935
Horsepower: 300 Hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 261 lbs.-ft. @ 4400 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 22/30 mpg city/highway
Comment: The manufacturer requires the use of premium unleaded gasoline.