As I’ve mentioned in the past I’m a huge fan of the 3rd gen Nissan Maxima, you know the boxy yet somehow ahead of it’s time one. This was the first Maxima to have a 4DSC(Four Door Sports Car) sticker slapped on it and in my opinion the only one worthy of wearing it. The 4th gen Maxima was OK but the bloat had begun and the 5th, 6th and 7th generation cars all gained weight like a retired linebacker. They were not fleet of foot, had next to zero curb appeal and yet the 7th gen Maxima was the best selling large sedan with six cylinders in the past 5 years.
Full Disclosure : Nissan wanted me to drive the 2016 Maxima so bad they told me that the GT-R Nismo and 370Z Nismo would also be on site and available for me to drive provided I was able to say some nice things about the Nissan Versa Note. It was a struggle but I dug down deep and said the Versa Note is a cute name. I guess that was good enough because I got to take the 3z0Z Nismo for a spin...in rush hour traffic...yaaay.
Think about that for a moment, arguably the worst iteration of the car outsold the Chrysler 300, Dodge Charger, Ford Taurus and Chevrolet Impala. I’m not sure if that says more about the car or the market for large sedans but either way, I found it rather surprising that it was a segment leader. What’s even more interesting to me is how that sets the table for this new 8th gen Maxima. Clearly Nissan has a whole lot of confidence in this car because it’s positioned to do battle not only with midsize/large sedans but also the seriously competitive entry level luxury sedan segment as well.
As one of my peers put it, “The Maxima is midsize +” and I think that’s spot on. It’s nearly a foot longer than an F30 BMW 328i but has a better power to weight ratio less thanks to an obsessive search by Nissan engineers for any way to save weight. Those of you who poked fun at the NASA inspired “Zero Gravity” seats may want to to think again because the new frames took 23lbs off the curb weight. In addition to being lighter the new car is also 25% stiffer thanks to new steel, more efficient thanks to a wide ratio CVT that also has 40% less friction than the last one.
Of course none of this #humblebrag PowerPoint info matters if it doesn’t translate to the real world driving experience. All too often I end up behind the wheel of a car that is “new & improved” but it doesn’t feel like it. Ladies and gentlemen, I’m just a caveman, I’m not a numbers guy, numbers frighten and confuse me. If my butt dyno can’t feel the improvement in acceleration or my body isn’t tossed around significantly less, then I’m going to dismiss the scary charts and infographics, retreat to the shadows and throw verbal stones at the car. I’m happy to say that isn’t the case with the all new Maxima, the improvements can be seen, felt and heard across the board.
For 2016 Nissan has opted to go with a simplified trim system that I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of from many automakers that aren’t German in the coming years. Instead of having a whole lot of confusing options to choose from, Maxima buyers need only pick a trim, color and that’s it, ya dun. What that means is a host of standard features, things like navigation, keyless entry w/remote start, push button ignition and backup camera are all there. With a base model “S” starting at $32,410 I think this represents one of the best deals in the segment given how much more premium this car feels than the competition. It is a feeling that increases exponentially as you move up the trim range with the $39,860 “Platinum” coming damn close to Infiniti levels of refinement. That being said, I have to say that I don’t think anyone will really cross shop the Maxima and the Q50, they’re very different cars for very different customers. The Maxima is like an athlete with sartorial inclinations and the Q50 is the international businessman who does marathons here and there. Each would like to be the other but they’ve finally accepted that they’re not and that’s ok.
For my seat time I chose a Deep Blue Pearl “SR” with the contrasting Camel interior. When I sat in the Maxima back at the New York Auto Show this past April I was really impressed with the steering wheel, great shape, nice thickness, perforated alcantara inserts. I was psyched to get my hands on it again and even more psyched on the feedback it offered up when rounding some of my favorite Malibu corners. The steering itself isn’t particularly great, even in sport mode it’s on the light side with a vague center but at least I clearly knew that was the case.
While rounding those corners both myself and my driving companion remained stationary in our nicely bolstered seats with quilted alcantara inserts and remarked on how little body roll there was. I’m sure this is thanks largely in part to the SR specific sport tuned ZF Sachs monotube dampers, a front chassis damper and Goodyear F1 Eagle all season tires. Bridgestone Potenza summer tires are available but the 245/40R/19 Goodyears were developed specifically for the SR trim and they’re what the car was wearing when it bested times posted by an A4 Quattro, TLX V6 and 328i at Buttonwillow. 2016 Nissan SR, four door sedan for the weekend racer? Eh, not quite but it’ll probably ease the pain of a few folks who’ve recently had to let their Z go, you know because kids or whatever.
The Maxima SR has heated and cooled front seats, aluminum sport pedals, “Liquid Chrome” faceted trim pieces that remind me of a diner interior and wonderfully sized paddle shifters that should be magnesium like those found in the GT-R and Q50 S, not plastic like those found on my Mad Catz gaming wheel. As far as creature comforts go it’s rather refreshing to say that nothing is missing. Everything you would expect to find in a $38,495 sedan is there and even better, some stuff you might not. Intelligent cruise control, predictive forward collision warning, forward emergency braking are all included, hooray for the S-Class trickle down effect!
So I think it’s fair to say the Maxima SR is truly the sum of its parts but is it worthy of the 4DSC name “hidden” in the headlights and taillights?
I don’t think so but it’s nice that Nissan is trying to conjure up some interest among driving enthusiasts, shows that they care, at least to some degree. The car is certainly the best it has been in a long time but not the best ever. That distinction belongs to a wonderfully boxy relic from a quarter century ago. Sounds a whole lot longer when you say it that way doesn’t it?
The 2016 Nissan Maxima is on sale today so if you’re in the market for a mid size-ish sedan I’d suggest taking one of these for a spin at the very least. Style wise you’ll either come ‘round quickly as I did once I saw it in person or you’ll dismiss it as a hot mess, as I did when I first saw it in that Super Bowl commercial. Regardless of how it looks Nissan has a pretty solid driving machine in the new Maxima and for many people, that’ll be enough.
Andrew T. Maness
email: firstname.lastname@example.org Insta: @theroadlessdriven