Nissan Reimagines and Reinvents Its Upscale, Flagship Large Sedan
Ever wonder if the concept and production versions of a car you saw at the auto show will look remotely similar? Many times there may be a styling cue or two carried over from concept to production, but that is about it as the concept car is exactly that – a designer’s vision of what could be. So what Nissan did with the all-new 2016 Nissan Maxima is pretty remarkable as it is almost a clone of their Sports Sedan Concept shown in 2014. As Nissan’s flagship car, it was important that design and styling were the pacing items to set the Maxima apart from its many competitors in the midsize sedan category.
I had the chance to spend a week in the 2016 Nissan Maxima Platinum on a road trip that took my wife and me from the beach in Southern California through the Eastern Sierras into Yosemite National Park, then swinging over to California’s Central Coast before tackling Los Angeles traffic once again. If our smiles-per-miles were any way to measure our time in the Maxima, then Nissan did their job very well. And the 30+ mpg isn’t a bad measure as well.
Driving Experience: On the Road
The front-wheel drive 2016 Nissan Maxima is powered by a 3.5-liter, 24-valve V6 that produces 300 hp and 261 lb-ft of torque and is mated to Nissan’s Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission, or CVT, with Normal and Sport tuning modes. This engine has been seriously updated from the previous 3.5L V6 and the upgrade in performance shows. In conjunction with the revised wider gear ratios and shifting logic of the CVT, the 2016 Maxima allows for more aggressive driving as you press on the accelerator pedal. The 2016 Maxima is EPA rated at 30 mpg highway/ 22 mpg city / 25 mpg combined. In 1,055 miles of 75-percent highway/25-percent city driving we averaged 31.7 mpg in the Platinum model.
The 2016 Maxima is available in five trim levels: S, SV, SL, SR and Platinum. For the most sporty and best handling experience, opt for the Maxima SR, which delivers a noticeable improvement over the standard Maxima that is quite good as it is. Nissan could have improved the Maxima’s handling even more by offering an all-wheel drive version, but we are guessing this would nudge it into sister-model Infiniti’s territory just a bit too closely.
Maxima suspensions come with front independent struts with coil springs and ZF Sachs twin-tube shocks, while the rear gets a multi-link independent and ZF Sachs monotube shocks. For more
fun, the Maxima SR gets a sports-tuned suspension with Yamaha Performance Dampers and electronic suspension technologies including Active Ride Control, Active Trace Control and Active Engine Brake, all managed by Nissan’s Integrated Dynamics Control Module. The SR comes with all-season or summer (optional) 245/40R/19 tires on machined aluminum alloy wheels, while all non-SR Maxima versions get the All-season 245/45R/18 tires.
So what do you get and feel with these enhancements versus the standard Maxima set-up? No mistaking, all Maxima models handle well, with the hydro-electric power-assisted steering, and have an excellent ride. But Nissan has stepped-up and done a very nice job with the SR as the handling is tight, the car tracks great (as in: it goes where you want it and expect it to go) and the horsepower and torque are well-suited to the suspension upgrades. That performance does require premium gasoline.
A note about “sports tuning.” Clean Fleet Report drives many cars that have adjustable drive modes, such as Normal, Comfort, ECO and Sport, which is all good and can add driving comfort, economy and excitement. But what commonly happens with these cars—and that Nissan has avoided by not having a selector to go between modes—is that when choosing Sport, you not only get suspension tweaks, but the gear ratios change as do the rev bands. What ends-up happening in some competitors, when all these changes come into play, is that the car gets too stiff, revs too much and sometimes gets too loud as the exhaust note is also set to an uncomfortable rumble. Bravo to Nissan’s engineers for designing the SR to handle, accelerate, brake and sound great.
Braking on the Maxima is through power-assisted, vented front and rear discs with brake assist, electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and a four-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS).
Driving Experience: Exterior
The exterior redesign of the Maxima was long in the planning stages and, rightfully so, Nissan is very proud of what they ended up with: an upscale sports sedan that will not be confused with its Altima sibling. From the side, the most compelling feature is the “floating roof.” That is accomplished through blacked-out A, B and C-pillars resulting in, as Nissan says, “a wraparound canopy…which is accented with an optional dual-panel Panoramic Moonroof” that offers occupants an “uninhibited view of the sky.” In front Nissan has incorporated its V-Motion grille, framed by boomerang-shaped headlights, signature LED daytime running lights and Halogen fog lamps. The side panels are contoured curves with cut character lines resulting in a sleek, swept look.
Driving Experience: Interior
The Maxima has Nissan’s front driver and passenger “zero gravity seats” that were designed using seating and posture research conducted by NASA, and were first introduced in 2012 on the Altima. To continue the aerospace theme Nissan looked to the skies again and the cockpit of the F/A 18 Hornet, flown by the U.S. Navy Blue Angels, where they took cues that resulted in the wrap-around dash and interior design. Nissan is so confident you will be impressed by the Maxima’s interior that they call it a “premium class-above…that rivals luxury vehicles.” One suggestion to make it truly a class-above is for the front passenger seat to have lumbar and height adjustments.
There is no question the 2016 Nissan Maxima is a very nice place to hang out with the climate-controlled, premium leather seats that have diamond-quilted inserts, heated Ascot-leather wrapped
steering wheel and Mahogany wood accents. The 11-speaker Bose sound system, with noise cancellation and sound enhancement, delivered clear, crisp bass and treble tones for the AM/FM/CD with MP3/WMA playback, HD Radio and SiriusXM (the latter comes with three months of complimentary service). The center point for all this is the eight-inch color touch-control monitor that includes NissanConnect, navigation, voice recognition and hands-free Bluetooth for telephone and audio streaming. And for Clean Fleet Report to give a passing grade to the infotainment system, there were the convenience and safety of on/off volume and channel selector knobs.
The rear bench seat splits 60/40 and easily accommodates three adults. For longer trips or commutes, two adults would be a better arrangement to guarantee a comfortable ride. The rear seat was augmented by a locking and folding center armrest and rear heating and cooling vents, cup holders and a rear window power sunshade.
Safety and Convenience
The 2016 Maxima comes with an extensive list of safety and convenience features, which Nissan calls its “Safety Shield Technologies,” including predictive forward collision warning, forward emergency braking, blind spot warning, intelligent cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, vehicle dynamic control and traction control.
For convenience is a tire pressure monitoring system, vehicle immobilizer and security systems, power tilt/telescopic steering column, remote engine start, auto-dimming and reverse tilt-down and heated outside mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, rain detecting front wipers and Nissan’s very handy Around View Monitor, where cameras are positioned around the Maxima’s exterior so that you get a view on the monitor as if you looking down on the car.
Pricing and Warranties
Base pricing for the five 2016 Nissan Maxima models, before options, but not including the $825 destination and handling charge:
3.5 S $32,510
3.5 SV $34,490
3.5 SL $36,990
3.5 SR $37,770
Clean Fleet Report drove the 2016 Nissan Maxima Platinum with an MSRP of $40,905, before adding the $825 Destination and Handling Charge.
The 2016 Maxima has earned a NHTSA, National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration 5-Star Overall Rating.
The 2016 Nissan Maxima comes with these warranties:
- Basic – Three-year/36,000-mile
- Drivetrain – Five-year/60,000-mile
- Corrosion – Five-year/Unlimited miles
Observations: 2016 Nissan Maxima Platinum
Designed and built in the United States, Nissan pegs the all-new 2016 Maxima against, among others, the Acura TLX V6 and the BMW 335i. Pretty heady stuff. Nissan set the bar high for the Maxima and their confidence is equally high that the Maxima competes well head-to-head with these fine cars.
To support this positioning, Nissan wants you to visit a dealer and look at the Maxima as a “four-door sports car” with a “bold new design and authentic performance hardware.” Will you be disappointed if you do look at it this way? Not at all, but your personal time sitting in the Maxima and taking a recommended aggressive test drive, will be the determining factor if a Maxima will be your step-up to a more luxurious, fun-to-drive sedan.
Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!
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Clean Fleet Report is loaned free test vehicles from automakers to evaluate, typically for a week at a time. Our road tests are based on this one-week drive of a new vehicle, which does not address issues such as long-term reliability or total cost of ownership. In addition we are often invited to manufacturer events highlighting new vehicles or technology, during which we may be offered free transportation, lodging or meals. We do our best to present our unvarnished evaluations of vehicles and news irrespective of these inducements. Our focus is on vehicles that offer the best fuel economy in their class or are among the top mpg vehicles on the market. In addition, we aim to offer reviews and news on advanced technology and the alternative fuel vehicle market. We welcome any feedback from vehicle owners and are dedicated to providing a forum for alternative viewpoints. Please let us know your views at firstname.lastname@example.org.