By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
When the time came for our annual pilgrimage to visit friends and family in California for Christmas, Nissan offered us the 2016 Nissan Maxima Platinum for the trip. How could we say no to that?
The 2016 Maxima, which just went on sale, is all-new from the ground up representing the latest generation of Nissan?s largest sedan and the rebirth of the ?4-Door Sport Car? (4DSC). Bill bought the original version of the Maxima 4-Door Sports Car in 1984 which came complete with a five-speed manual transmission, adjustable shock dampening and a ?voice? that reminded you to buckle your seatbelts along with several other verbal warnings. It was also the first front-wheel drive version of the Maxima. Bill considered it one of his favorite cars, and drove it for four years before selling it to a friend who continued to drive it to nearly 200,000 miles.
The Maxima is one of the first Nissans to get the company?s more extreme new design language, which started last year with the Murano. The new design turned a lot of heads on the road and in parking lots. Inspired by the U.S. Navy?s Blue Angels? planes it has a low, sculptured and streamline look that sets it apart from any of the other sporty large four-door sedans. Up front the signature Nissan V-Motion grille, LED headlights and distinctive boomerang style LED daytime running lights easily identify the Nissan flagship to on-coming traffic. The new Maxima is 2.2-inches longer, 1.3-inches lower and 82 pounds lighter than its predecessor.
Strong body side sculpting adds to the unique look as does the fin-like window line that flows up toward the rear roof pillar, but not quite meeting it and in the process creating a distinctive Nissan design element — the floating roofline. The Maxima design treatment is finished with two piece LED taillights.
Inside the 4-Door Sports Car continues with the Blue Angel inspiration with a cockpit style layout that gives the driver easy access to all the controls and a racy flat-bottomed steering wheel to hold on to. There are also convenient compartments to store and plug in digital devices.
We sometimes feel ?Bluetooth challenged?, but the Maxima was easy to set up. A major part of our travel regiment is to listen to audio books, which we did on this trip both from CDs and using the Bluetooth connection to a phone. The controls were easy to operate, but we on occasion found restarting the book after a break awkward, but we attribute that more to our ignorance from not reading the proper procedures and our use of the ?push-the-buttons-until-something-works? approach.
With its soft quilted Ascot leather seats, the interior looks more like it belongs in a much more expensive luxury sedan. A 1,600-mile round trip gives a good indication of comfort and the Maxima is one of the most comfortable we?ve taken on a road trip. The seats are a unique Zero Gravity design up front with sport bolstering and the driver?s seat even has a thigh extension. The seats use three layers of foam and we didn?t feel beat up every time we stopped for a break. Having heated and ventilated front seats was a big plus as was the heated steering wheel when starting out on cold mornings. Eight-way standard adjustments for the driver?s seat and a four-way front seat passenger made it easy to find a comfortable positon for both of us. Other than tighter access and egress (Barb?s brother wacked his head), the rear seat area is comfortable for two and a bit tight for three. Cargo space is a little snug at 14.1 cubic feet, but most of our cargo fit.
Traveling in December is always a roll of the dice when it comes to highway conditions. We?d would have liked to have had all-wheel drive, but the front-drive Maxima worked great, especially when we didn?t have to deal with snow. We did carry chains, but don?t know if they fit this car or not. Overall we found the Maxima to be quiet, economical and very comfortable.
A 300-hp 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 engine powers the Nissan 4DSC driving the front wheels through Nissan?s Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT). We aren?t big fans of CVTs, but this is one of the better ones we?ve driven. It has a more positive feel and the simulated gear changes works well using the gated shift linkage. The sporty SR model also has paddle shifters for an extra dash of sportiness. What we can?t argue with is the good fuel economy of the V-6/CVT team. Driving usually five to eight miles per hour over the posted speeds which general were 65 to 75 mph we averaged 30 mpg on the highway. Combined with a lot of in town driving while at our destination in the Monterey Bay area, we averaged 28.7 mpg for the entire trip. The EPA rates the Maxima at 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined.
The 2016 Nissan Maxima Platinum edition we drove had all the latest electronic safety and comfort features we like. We believe features like blind spot warning, navigation, Intelligent cruise control, rain-detecting wipers and rear camera are a ?must have? and the Maxima has them all. However, Maxima goes beyond features like Forward Emergency Braking which warns of an obstacle ahead and actually brakes if the driver doesn?t, Around View Monitor and other handy features like active noise cancellation.
Most of the drive to California and back was on freeways and divided highways. However, on our return north on Hwy 101 to Eureka and then north to Grant?s Pass, Oregon we had a good chance to put the 4DSC through its paces on the windy mountain and canyon roads. Maxima performed beautifully, staying flat on the corners and producing very good passing power when required.
The car has a solid, planted feel and very rigid platform. The brakes are strong and with a solid pedal. The Maxima has first time Drive Selector Mode switches mounted to the rear of the console. Pushing the ?Sport? button changes the car to a more aggressive throttle response, transmission turning, steering feel and kicks in the Active Sound Enhancement System which pipes in a more aggressive engine note into the cabin which enhances the sportiness of the car. The ?Normal? button returned response to the default and more sedate settings.
The 2016 Nissan Maxima is available in five trim levels: S, SV, SL, SR and Platinum. Base prices range from $34,345, including the destination charge, for the S and go up to $40,795 for the Platinum. All versions have the same drive train and the only options for each trim level is limited to cosmetics like guards, spoilers, mats, lighting and wheels.
We think the new Nissan 4DSC is a winner, it?s extremely comfortable even on long road trips. The quality, fit and finish is excellent, and the performance is very good. It?s the perfect kind of family car for drivers who enjoy going places in comfort, quickly and quite economically.