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2016 Nissan Maxima First Test Review

Motor Trend logo Motor Trend 7/7/2015 Zach Gale, Robert Guio

The 2016 Nissan Maxima is NOT a four-door Miata, so join me in ignoring the car's 4DSC (four-door sports car) marketing references straight away. Once you do, you're left with a damned good SPMSa semi-premium midsize sedan. For a front-drive car with a $30,000-$40,000 price range, the quick 2016 Maxima is a high-quality package that should find favor with drivers who prioritize fun over the superior rear-seat and trunk space of Nissan's competitors. The CVT helps the Maxima stand out in a good way, an interesting turnaround considering we deemed the CVT in our long-term 2009 Maxima a " major killjoy."

So what's changed? Perhaps even more than our readiness to accept CVTs is the tuning of the 2016 Maxima's transmission. It's responsive in Normal and Sport modes (the latter of which ramps up steering weight a lot), and as we found in our First Drive review, getting the car to emit that dreaded CVT whine isn't easy to do. The CVT is ready for your inputs at least as often as conventional six-speed automatics. The standard-in-every-Maxima Active Sound Enhancement system also adds to the experience by enhancing the strong engine note heard inside the cabin and increasing the driver's subjective sense of speed.

2016-Nissan-Maxima-SR-front-three-quarter-021© Provided by MotorTrend 2016-Nissan-Maxima-SR-front-three-quarter-021

Should you go Maxima or get a six-cylinder Altima instead? Read our Maximum Altimatum feature for more.
The 2016 Maxima is objectively quick, too. Every 2016 Maxima is powered by a 300-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 with 261 lb-ft of torque, and on the track, the sportier SR and upscale Platinum models both hit 60 mph in 5.8 seconds. Six-cylinder versions of the Chevrolet Impala and Toyota Avalon can keep up with the 2016 Maximas to 50 mph, but those semi-premium midsize/full-size sedans fall back by 60, at 6.2 and 6.3 seconds, respectively. We've tested a 2013 Altima 3.5 SL that kept pace with the two 2016 Maximas, clocking a 5.9-second 0-60 time. Although most Maxima buyers won't seriously consider the BMW 3 Series, those few who do should know they'll lose streetlight drag races in the Nissan: A 2015 328i Sport Line model we recently tested with an eight-speed automatic accelerated to 60 in 5.4 seconds.

2016-Nissan-Maxima-SR-rear-three-quarter1© Provided by MotorTrend 2016-Nissan-Maxima-SR-rear-three-quarter1 Yes, the Maxima exhibits a little torque steer, but only if you're really looking for it for example, simultaneously changing lanes and stabbing the throttle from a stop. Whether or not the car is in motion, you'll turn heads. Nissan has dressed the new Maxima with styling that's as bold as the car is quick. The Maxima shares a 109.3-inch wheelbase with the Altima, but the flagship sedan is just a bit longer, wider, and lower than the more mainstream four-door. We'd suggest avoiding black or other dark exterior colors to make the most of the Maxima's wild-for-a-sedan C-pillar design. After all, if you're going to go Maxima over an Impala, Avalon, Charger, or even Altima, why not maximize the black line that slices through the C-pillar?

That design feature distinguishes every 2016 Maxima, but only the sporty SR trim will add 19-inch wheels with 245/40R19 all-season tires (summer tires are available on the SR), an upgraded suspension, and technology that aims to make the suspension more compliant than you'd expect for the Maxima's sportiest trim. The SR also eschews the dual panel moonroof on the SL and Platinum trims to lower the center of gravity and increase torsional rigidity. On the highway, associate online editor Stefan Ogbac and I each found that although the Maxima SR does have more tire noise, it's not so bad that you'd want to take a different car on a road trip.

2016-Nissan-Maxima-SR-wheel© Provided by MotorTrend 2016-Nissan-Maxima-SR-wheel On the track, the Maxima SR's more sporting credentials helped it turn in a figure-eight performance of 26.0 seconds at 0.72g average, better than the 2014 Chevrolet Impala (27.1 seconds at 0.68g average), the 2013 Toyota Avalon (27.2 seconds at 0.66g average), and 2013 Altima 3.5 SL (27.1 seconds at 0.66g average). The 2016 Maxima SR proved an even match for the lighter but less powerful 2015 BMW 328i we recently tested that completed the figure-eight course in 26.0 seconds at 0.73g average. The more luxury-focused 2016 Maxima Platinum model, which is still fun to drive, was good for a respectable time of 27.0 seconds at 0.69g average. We Real MPG tested the 2016 Maxima SR at 22.4/30.2 R-MPG city/highway, just about even with its 22/30 mpg EPA ratings.

2016 Nissan Maxima First Test Review

Although testing director Kim Reynolds wasn't a fan of the Maxima SR's long steering-column-mounted paddle shifters, overall, he appreciated its track performance.

"The car has nice grip, a good turn-in when the transmission is behaving, and solid power," Reynolds said. "[This is] a well-developed platform that ought to be attractive to buyers who'd prefer German sedan driving attributes."
So the 2016 Maxima is entertaining, but it's not as capacious inside as you might think. The car is definitely comfortable if you consider it as a midsize sedan, but similarly priced but less sporty cars such as the Impala and Avalon have it beat in terms of rear-seat space and trunk capacity.

2016-Nissan-Maxima-SR-cabin© Provided by MotorTrend 2016-Nissan-Maxima-SR-cabin Then there's the potential issue of insurance costs. IntelliChoice says the last-generation Maxima had higher-than-average insurance costs, and although the new 2016 Maxima could eliminate this problem, it's too early to tell one way or the other.

Still, the 2016 Maxima offers a great mix of style and driving fun not found on too many four-doors less than $40,000, other than the comparison-test-winning Mazda6. Unless you're absolutely set on the sportier SR trim, consider the mid-level $37,715 SL. The 2016 Maxima SL lacks the quilted seat inserts of the SR and Platinum (finished in Alcantara on the SR) and the Platinum's power-operated steering column and Around View Monitor multi-camera parking system, but you still get plenty of content. The Maxima SL features include navigation on an 8-inch touchscreen, hands-free keyless access, leather seats, an 11-speaker Bose sound system, front and rear sonar sensors, the dual-panel moonroof, and Nissan's suite of active safety tech. It includes an adaptive cruise control system that works well but deactivates when you come to a stop.

2016-Nissan-Maxima-SR-engine-02© Provided by MotorTrend 2016-Nissan-Maxima-SR-engine-02 Buyers who want more than the average midsize sedan can offer but know how quickly the MSRP adds up on German luxury sport sedans should definitely add the 2016 Nissan Maxima to their shopping list. As long as expectations are kept in check in terms of interior and cargo space, the Maxima is one of the better semi-premium midsize sedans around.

2016 Nissan Maxima SR 2016 Nissan Maxima Platinum
BASE PRICE $38,495$40,685
PRICE AS TESTED $38,495$41,585
VEHICLE LAYOUT Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedanFront-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door sedan
ENGINE 3.5L/300-hp/261-lb-ft DOHC V-63.5L/300-hp/261-lb-ft DOHC V-6
TRANSMISSION Cont. variable autoCont. variable auto
CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST) 3,539 lb (61/39%)3,712 lb (62/38%)
WHEELBASE 109.3 in109.3 in
LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT 192.8 x 73.2 x 56.5 in192.8 x 73.2 x 56.5 in
0-60 MPH 5.8 sec5.8 sec
QUARTER MILE 14.3 sec @ 99.5 mph14.3 sec @ 99.5 mph
BRAKING, 0-60 MPH 115 ft122 ft
LATERAL ACCELERATION 0.89 g (avg)0.84 g (avg)
MT FIGURE EIGHT 26.0 sec @ 0.72 g (avg)27.0 sec @ 0.69 g (avg)
EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON 22/30/25 mpg22/30/25 mpg
ENERGY CONS., CITY/HWY 153/112 kW-hrs/100 miles153/112 kW-hrs/100 miles
C02 EMISSIONS, COMB 0.78 lb/mile0.78 lb/mile

2016-Nissan-Maxima-SR-front-three-quarter-in-motion-0231© Provided by MotorTrend 2016-Nissan-Maxima-SR-front-three-quarter-in-motion-0231
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