By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
Woodinville, Wash. ? We?ve always had a soft spot for the Nissan Maxima, since Bill had a 1984 Maxima SE model when we got married and Barbara had a 1984 Nissan 300ZX. That 1984 Maxima was one of the most exciting sedans built at the time with its powerful V-6 engine, five-speed manual transmission and front-wheel drive (Which was unique at the time because most cars were rear-wheel drive in 1984).
Flip forward 32 years and five generations and the 2016 Nissan Maxima is still exciting, especially in its price range, and it still has a powerful V-6 engine and front-wheel drive, but the manual transmission has been replaced by the Nissan CVT.
The 2016 Nissan Maxima flagship sedan is a couple of inches longer than the previous generation, but the revamped platform or structure of the Maxima has been constructed with more high strength steel helping create a noticeably more rigid platform and in the process they were able to cut the vehicle weight by 82 pounds.
Engineers have made major advancements in the ride, handling and performance of the Maxima, but it?s the designer?s wild new exterior and elegant interior details that grab the attention.
Weighing heavily on the revived ?Four Door Sports Car? (FDSC) theme which originated in 1988 and has been used periodically since, the 2016 Nissan Maxima looks and acts the part.
To start with, design inspiration credit goes to the U.S. Navy?s Blue Angels? aircraft. The exterior lines are tight and aerodynamic with a distinctive finned look above its rear haunches and the roofline seems to float above the sculpted body. Nissan?s signature V-Motion grille and dramatic boomerang-style headlights signature LED daytime running lights insure instant oncoming recognition.
The luxurious interior provides a cockpit style driving position with user-friendly controls and comfortable Zero Gravity Seats with sports bolsters. Even the center stack is angled to make it easier for the driver to see and reach. High quality materials and real stitching add to the opulent d?cor. All models have a high level of advanced technologies to aid the driver, and add comfort for the passengers. The rear seat is large and will hold three adults snugly, and the trunk holds a reasonable 14.3 cubic feet of cargo with ability to expand when the 60/40 split rear seat backs are folded.
?The new Maxima shares the key elements of Nissan?s new design language, which shook up the personal crossover segment with its introduction in the stunning 2015 Murano,? said Shinichiro Irie, Design Director, Nissan Design America, where the new Maxima design was executed. ?But while both Murano and Maxima utilize the aggressive V-Motion front end, boomerang lights and unique floating roof, Maxima takes the new form vocabulary in a different direction ? a direction fitting its sports car-like proportions.?
An all-new hi-tech 300-hp version of Nissan?s award-winning 3.5-liter V-6 engine supplies the power for the ?FDSC?. We?re not usually excited about CVTs — continuously variable automatic transmissions, but the Nissan Xtronic transmission does an excellent job of producing the right drive ratio at the right time. A wider gear ratio range produces quicker acceleration from a standing start and a new D-Step shifting logic allows ratios to change quickly at high throttle openings. An all-new shift logic holds rpm when it detects high-G cornering, allowing for seamless re-acceleration on corner exit. There is also a new Drive Mode Selector that allows the driver to switch between Sport and Normal modes adjusting the throttle response, steering feel, transmission tuning and the sound the car makes. An Active Sound Enhancement system enriches the engine note in the cabin on the Sport setting to create more potent sound.
The combination engine, transmission and lighter weight produce a 0 to 60 mph time of 5.8 seconds according to one buff magazine. The EPA estimates the 2016 Nissan Maxima fuel economy at 22 mpg city, 30 mpg highway and 25 mpg combined ? that?s about 15 percent better than the previous model.
The four door sports car has a refined four-wheel independent suspension, with large front and rear stabilizer bars and four-wheel vented disc brakes along with all the electronic assists. The wheels are 18- or 19-inch depending on the model.
The 2016 Nissan Maxima supplies the driver with well-balanced handling and a ride a notch closer to firm than cushy. The design, insulation and the Active Noise Control system (which works like noise canceling headphones) create a very quiet cabin, except when more engines sounds are pumped in to enhance the performance persona.
Handling is very good especially for a large front-wheel drive sedan. There was a hint of torque steer during hard acceleration, but under all other conditions the Maxima is well-balance and sure-footed. We were especially impressed by the acceleration and handling attributes.
There are no options available on the 2016 Nissan Maxima. Five well-equipped models make the shopping process easy ? you simply select a level of equipment or the price that best fits and the color. All models have standard NissanConnect navigation with 8.0-inch display along with a 7.0-inch Advanced Drive-Assist screen in the center of the instrument cluster. Also included on all models is remote engine start, SiriusXM radio, Travel Link?, 18-inch alloy wheels, power front seats, HomeLink? and many other features.
Each of the five trim levels ? 3.5 S, 3.5 SV, 3.5 SL, 3.5 SR and Platinum ? steps up the features list with each model building from the lower level. The SR gets unique performance-oriented features including sport-tuned suspension, Integrated Dynamics-control Module with Active Ride Control, Active Trace Control, Active Engine Brake, front performance dampers, special leather seats, paddle shifters, aluminum pedals, LED low beam headlights and 19-inch wheels and tires.
The Platinum model contains all the available equipment which includes features like Dual Panel Panoramic Moonroof, Ascot leather seating, AroundView Monitor with moving object detection, power rear sunshade, rain detecting windshield wipers and NissanConnect Services.
The 2016 Nissan Maxima moves to the head of its class of gifted competitors with high value, innovative styling, Four Door Sports Car performance and a higher than expected level of technology. The result is an impressive sedan that?s luxurious, fun to drive, very comfortable and damn good looking!