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2016 Nissan Maxima: New Car Review

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ADDITIONAL MODEL INFORMATION

author photo by Autotrader April 2016

The Maxima has always been a rather unique car for Nissan, sportier and more luxurious than other Nissan sedans but not quite in the same league as BMW or Audi. In the 2016 Nissan Maxima, the company has created a modern interpretation of its 4-door sports car theme. Opting to remain with front-wheel drive over rear-wheel drive, however, has the new Maxima coming up a bit short of the mark. Of course, we understand Nissan doesn't want to step on the rear-wheel-drive sedans from its premier Infiniti luxury group, so for now the Maxima is relegated to fighting cars such as the Toyota Avalon, Chevrolet Impala and Hyundai Azera.

While the Maxima's handling may not be up to standards set by most European sport sedans, its styling leaves many of them in the dust. A bold design comprised of folds, creases and an almost truck-sized chrome grille creates a futuristic sedan unlike any other on the road. Inside, the Maxima offers a set of thickly bolstered sport seats, high-quality soft-touch materials and unexpected touches such as a standard navigation radio and a flat-bottom steering wheel.

What's New for 2016?

Nissan has redesigned its flagship sedan from the ground up, creating a truly unmistakable car big on power and comfort, but at a price tens of thousands less than similar-sized luxury sport sedans from Audi, Lexus and Cadillac.

What We Like

Direct steering; powerful V6 engine; comfortable ride; sport seats; lovely interior; futuristic exterior styling

What We Don't

Doesn't corner as well as some rear-drive sport sedans; interior feels a bit cramped; NissanConnect could be more app-friendly; small trunk; no advanced collision-avoidance technology on lower trims

How Much?

$33,345-$43,000

Fuel Economy

The Maxima comes equipped with a 3.5-liter V6 good for 300 horsepower and 261 lb-ft of torque. A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) with a manual shift mode and D-Step Shift Logic simulated gear changing is the only transmission choice, but it helps the Maxima attain an Environmental Protection Agency-estimated 22 miles per gallon in the city and 30 mpg on the highway.

Standard Features & Options

The 2016 Maxima from Nissan offers five distinct trims: S, SV, SL, SR and Platinum. Features are packaged by trim, leaving only some dealer-installed items as optional equipment.

The Maxima S ($33,345) features a manual tilt-telescopic steering column, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, 18-inch aluminum wheels, auto headlights, fog lights, an 8-speaker AM/FM/6-CD stereo with an 8-in color touchscreen, navigation with SiriusXM and Bluetooth streaming audio, NissanConnect mobile apps, two USB ports, a rearview monitor, cloth seating, an 8-way power driver's seat, a 4-way power passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, Intelligent Key with push-button starting and a 7-in Advanced Drive-Assist Display.

The SV ($35,325) adds driver's-seat manual thigh extension and power lumbar support, leather seating, heated front seats, heated outside mirrors with integrated turn signals and front and rear parking sensors.

The SL ($37,825) adds a heated steering wheel, a dual-panel panoramic sunroof, 11-speaker Bose audio, active noise cancellation and active sound enhancement. Standard safety features include a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, Intelligent Cruise Control, predictive forward-collision warning (which can sense trouble at a distance of two cars ahead) and forward emergency braking.

The SR ($38,605) loses the panoramic sunroof but gains a sport-tuned electronic adjustable suspension with Yamaha Performance Dampers, Nissan's Active Trace Control and Active Engine Brake, 19-in alloy wheels, LED projector headlights, upgraded leather seating with quilted-pattern Alcantara inserts, heated and ventilated front seats, and aluminum sport pedals.

The Platinum ($40,795) adds to the SL's equipment list with upgraded leather seating, a power adjustable steering column, LED projector headlights, rain-sensing wipers, NissanConnect Services, 2-position memory for the driver's seat, steering column and mirrors, a power rear sunshade and the Around View monitor. Additional safety features include moving-object detection and the driver's-attention alert system.

Safety

Along with its impressive suite of optional safety and collision-avoidance equipment, the Maxima comes standard with electronic traction and stability control, anti-lock brakes, and front, front side-impact and side-curtain airbags.

In crash tests, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the 2016 Maxima five out of five stars overall, with top scores in the front, side and rollover tests. Oddly, NHTSA also notes there were some problems that occurred not covered by the crash tests, but they do not elaborate on the exact nature of those issues.

The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the Maxima its best rating of Good in every crash-test category, as well as a Superior rating for crash avoidance and mitigation. IIHS has also awarded the Maxima a Top Safety Pick+ award.

Behind the Wheel

Kirk Bell spent time behind the wheel of the 2016 Maxima. He came away impressed but not totally convinced this was the best 4-door sport sedan Nissan could build.

Bell wrote: "On the road, the V6 delivers as much punch as anything this side of a V8 or turbocharged V6. Nissan says 0 to 60 miles per hour takes less than 6 seconds. From a stop and in the midrange, power is willing to provide passing punch, and the transmission does a good job of sidestepping the drawbacks that are common with CVTs; that's because it has seven preset gear ratios that kick in if the driver applies three-eighths throttle or more. The result is the stepped acceleration that Americans are used to in traditional automatics, rather than the slurred gear-ratio changes whining at high rpm with a rubber-band feel that plague other CVTs. If you apply anything less than three-eighths throttle, you'll never notice that this transmission is constantly adjusting gear ratios instead of shifting. The new Nissan Murano has the same programmed shift points in its CVT, but the features makes more sense and are more rewarding in the Maxima.

"Now in its eighth generation, the 2016 Nissan Maxima is more of a luxury car than it's ever been. It features a truly impressive cabin, ready and willing power, and a bold new design that gives the model some of the cache that the brand can't. While it's fairly fun to drive, the Maxima is more of a pleasant family car than a sport sedan, and it sure isn't a 4-door sports car."

Other Cars to Consider

2016 Chevrolet Impala -- The Impala isn't as sporty to drive, and its V6 engine is optional, but the Impala is every bit as sophisticated as the Maxima, with more interior room and a better infotainment system.

2016 Hyundai Azera -- The Azera is more about luxury and content for a good price than performance. It isn't as fun to drive, but it delivers a more comfortable interior and an unbeatable warranty.

2016 Toyota Avalon -- The Avalon has a level of sophistication that trumps the Maxima, plus it has a huge back seat, less polarizing styling and a hybrid model.

Used BMW 5 Series -- A used 2010-2014 BMW 5 Series will give you about the same interior room as the Maxima, but with the ride and handling expected of a vehicle labeled as a sport sedan.

Autotrader's Advice

If you're looking to the Maxima for its maximum performance potential, the SR is the clear choice. However, if you're looking for a less jarring ride with the same acceleration and luxury, the SV satisfies most needs. Unfortunately, if you want the advanced collision-avoidance systems obtainable on many of the Maxima's less expensive competitors, the more expensive SL and Platinum are the only way to get them.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2016 Nissan Maxima: New Car Review - Autotrader