The year was 1981, when Nissan decided it needed a larger, sportier sedan. Yes, it is hard to believe, but the Nissan Maxima has been around for 35 years, and the 2016 I am reviewing this week is the 8th generation of Nissan’s flagship sedan.
In the past five years, sales of the Maxima have waned, and there was talk Nissan would kill it off. Instead, they decided to go for it…to design a car that is different, edgy, and recognizable at a glance. They were successful.
On the exterior, the styling begins with a large V that starts at the front and continues up and into the hood. From the side, you see sculpted, bulging lines, and the use of chrome and glossy black at the beltline, that gives you the “floating roof” effect that I showed you on the new Murano. It appears the roof is not connected to the car.
The 18” aluminum wheels are standard, then from behind, the tail lights extend around to the side of the car and are connected with a wide chrome strip above chrome dual exhaust tips. Nissan engineers did their job with the exterior styling, and are quick to point out they took design cues inside and outside from airplanes flown by the Blue Angels.
The 2016 Maxima is 2.2 inches longer, 1.3 inches lower, and 82 pounds lighter than the 2015 model.
Under the hood, all Maximas come with a new 3.5-Liter 6-cylinder engine, that is putting out 300-horses, and it is paired with a continuously variable transmission, also known as a CVT. All Maximas are front-wheel drive, with no all-wheel drive available.
The 2016 Maxima comes in five trim levels, and Nissan made it really easy to choose. There are no options on any of the trim levels, if you want more options, you just move up to the next level. I don’t recall any other cars I have reviewed that are packaged like this. Here is an over view of the five different models:
You start with the entry-level S-model, but it is important to note that the S is nicely equipped including navigation system, remote start, and rearview camera. As you can see, there is no stripped-down Maxima. This edition will run you $32,400.
From there, you move to the SV, which is what I am reviewing this week. You get everything that comes on the S-model, plus leather heated power seats for an upcharge of $2000. Next is the SL, which for $2500 more adds a panoramic moon roof, Bose stereo, blind spot monitoring, and forward collision warning. The SR is the next step up which gets even nicer, with more plush leather seating and 19” wheels for $800.
Finally, the top of the line is the Platinum, which adds air-conditioned seats, driver attention alert, and an around-view rear camera. That sets you back an additional $2100.
As you can see, all Maximas come nicely equipped and range from $32,400 at the bottom, and they go up to $39,800.
On this particular SV model, other features of note include front and rear parking sensors, LED daytime running lights, pushbutton start, hands-free Bluetooth, USB ports, and dual power front seats.
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Moving to the inside of the car, I would call this a near-luxury interior. The seats are comfortable, and you’ll find real stitching all around the interior, a really nice touch. Nissan solicited help from NASA in the design of the front seats, and they call them “zero gravity” seats, and they are very comfortable. In fact, I would go so far as to say the Maxima is loaded with high-end materials throughout the cabin. You get steering wheel controls, and I love the new flat bottom steering wheel.
The center console is well laid out, and in a brilliant stroke of engineering, the center stack is pitched toward the driver for easy use. There is both a standard 8” multi-touch screen in the center, and a 7” Advanced Drive Assist Display in the middle of the dash that keeps important information at a glance. When you use the Navigation System, you can see map directions on both screens, along with the posted speed limit.
Just behind the gearshift is Nissan’s display commander that lets you toggle up and down, side-to-side, rotate, scroll through, and control your infotainment system, without the need to look down or touch the display screen if you choose.
Also there, you can switch to Sport Mode, and completely change the handling, steering, and sound of the Maxima. Just as a side note, the engine sound you hear is enhanced through the stereo speakers, but it is the true sound, just amplified. You’ll have trouble resisting the urge to stay in Sport Mode 100% of the time.
The interior is roomy for 4 adults, although you could squeeze in 5 if you had to. Trunk space is very large and will handle a lot of luggage.
Nissan calls the Maxima a 4DSC, which stands for 4-door sports car. While the Maxima is much improved, I stop short of going all the way to sports car because of the continuously variable transmission. For me, sports cars have real transmissions. With that said, this is probably the most enjoyable CVT I’ve driven.
Nissan went to a lot of trouble to make the Maxima CVT “feel” like it is shifting through electronic manipulation. CVTs do not actually shift, but with this car, you can feel the drive-ratio changes, and it does resemble a shifting sensation, but it is not real.
This Maxima, especially in Sport Mode, handles well and is actually fun to drive. It is poised, and this Tennessee-built sedan is clearly the best Maxima to date.
Gas mileage is good at 22 in town and 30 on the highway. At times, holding the speed to 65, I got 33 miles per gallon on the highway. My review Maxima comes in at just over $35,000 on the window sticker, which is in line for what you get.
My test vehicle is a prototype, and will ultimately be destroyed. Even though it is not a production car, the quality seems to be extremely good. If it had a 6 or 7-speed transmission, I would give it a full 5 star rating, but with the CVT, I give it 4 out of 5 Stars.
What I liked most: Exterior looks, and interior quality.
What I would change: Give me a 7-speed automatic and I’ll love this car!
MSRP: Base price $35,215, as equipped $35,215.
Fuel Economy: EPA rated at 22 City/30 Highway, 25 Combined.
Fuel Tank: 18 gallons.
Dimensions: 192.8” long/73.2” wide/56.5” high.
2015 Maxima in a few words: Much-improved sporty sedan that drives great.
Trailer Towing: N/A
Warranty: 3-year/36,000 mile bumper to bumper, 5-year/60,000 mile powertrain warranty and roadside assistance.
Car Pro Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars.
Dealers: We have great Nissan dealers in Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas-Fort Worth, Grand Rapids, Houston, Sacramento, and San Marcos, TX.
Manufacturer’s website: Nissan