The 2016 Nissan Maxima Isn’t a Sports Sedan, But It’s Engaging: First Drive
When the 2016 Nissan Maxima was introduced at the New York Auto Show in April, the first thought that came to mind was 300 horsepower isn’t the definition of a sports sedan. But I decided to give it the benefit of the doubt until I could drive one. After spending some time behind the wheel during a recent media introduction in Nashville, Tennesse, my opinion hasn’t really changed. This isn’t the four-door sports car that Nissan portrays it to be – but it’s still an impressive sedan for its technology, luxury and safety features. RELATED: See More Photos of the 2016 Nissan Maxima
The 2016 Nissan Maxima has a 300-horsepower V6 that is 61 percent all-new parts. But 300 horsepower is no longer that impressive. Ten years ago it may have been, but now that number gets it left in the dust.
But that’s not to say it doesn’t have sporty characteristics. A redesigned platform has increased the torsional rigidity by 25 percent. It has little float in the curves and soaks up irregular road surfaces better. There’s no hesitation to pushing this hard.
The continuously variable transmission (which most folks know as CVT) also has been given more sport-oriented tuning. It’s going to perform more like traditional 7-speed and 8-speed transmissions. You’re going to feel it “shift” at higher RPMs, when in reality, CVTs don’t have that “clunk” associated with automatic transmissions. Acceleration was strong but not neck-snapping by any means. You’ll be able to dominate on ramps but you’re not going to win any pink slip drag races.
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The SR trim level comes closest to earning the sports sedan badge. It features unique suspension damper tuning, a performance chassis damper, a larger front stabilizer bar and 19-inch wheels and tires.
The 2016 Nissan Maxima also has a sporty exterior. It finds a nice balance between coupe and sedan. The roof droops in the rear but it doesn’t have a strong impact on rear-seat passenger head space like so many other sedans pretending to be coupes do. There’s an aerodynamic flow to it from the A-pillar back to the C-pillar. It’s a good-looking car in the flesh.
In the interior, it has a driver-centric cockpit. The standard navigation has a bias towards the driver, which makes it simpler to operate.
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Where the Maxima really shines is in its technology, safety, and luxury touches. Safety is at the forefront of improvements with the driver attention alert system, because 20 percent of all fatal accidents are caused by drowsy driving, according to Nissan. It takes steering input from the first 15 minutes of driving and determines if the driver is exhibiting drowsy driving patterns. Previously, it’s only been offered on high-end German sedans like the Mercedes-Benz E class costing thousands of dollars more.
The predictive forward collision warning system scans two cars ahead to sense emergency braking systems. Other systems only look at the car immediately in front of you. Focusing on the further vehicle allows more time for the brakes to pump themselves. In this day of texting and driving, it’s probably going to save your life the next time you drive distracted.
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When it comes to luxury, a personal favorite is the NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seats that absolutely eliminate driver fatigue – at least in the approximately 200 miles I spent with the Maxima as both driver and passenger. Nissan has further enhanced these seats with foam topper pads just like you find on upscale beds.
The Maxima’s noise, vibration, and harshness, commonly referred to as NVH, reduction efforts have been enhanced through measures like acoustic laminated glass on both the windshield and front windows as well as active noise cancellation.
Nissan also has a good fuel economy story to tell with the Maxima. (Just writing those words means it not a sports sedan.) The combined number has jumped from 22-mpg for the 2014 model to 25-mpg for the 2016 Maxima. (There is no 2015 Maxima.) That puts it ahead of vehicles like the Chevrolet Impala, Ford Taurus, Toyota Avalon and Chrysler 300, which could be considered its major competition. The Maxima is rated at 30-mpg highway and 22-mpg city, the latter which is impressive because that was its combined rating previously.
Horsepower: 300 @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 261 @ 4,400 rpm
Engine: 3.5-liter V6
Base Price: $33,835
Advanced safety features
It’s not a sports sedan
Acceleration could be better
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