For a week, we had the 2016 Nissan Maxima as a daily-use vehicle. Nissan calls this new Maxima a track-tested, fighter jet-inspired sedan whose sportiness is only eclipsed by its fuel efficiency and practicality. So is it?
For starters, the 2016 Maxima proves that Nissan did go all-out in the redesign of this previously staid, forgettable sedan. As a full-sized offering, the previous generation Maxima gave little to notice in a crowded field of excellent offerings. With the 2016 model year, though, the car has been completely revamped with only the engine carrying forward. And even that got a few tweaks.
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The 2016 Nissan Maxima is a five-seat, four-door, full-sized sedan that competes against well-established sedans like the Chrysler 300, Chevrolet Impala, Ford Taurus, and Toyota Avalon. Relative newcomers like the Hyundai Genesis and Kia Cadenza have proven that the full-sized segment can do with some shakeup, and most have responded with fresh new designs and higher-class interiors.
Premium sedans, like the Buick LaCrosse, have struggled to find their place in this suddenly upscale environment. Through this, though, the Nissan Maxima remained relatively unchanged, so it was quickly passed by as the market suddenly surged ahead. With the 2016 Maxima, however, all of that has changed.
The Maxima has a very distinct style that is a combination of edgy sport credibility and concept car wow factor. Strong lines forming an aggressive fascia and powerful front end blend rearward into a more classic, contemporary flow towards a narrowed rear quarter. The floating roof design and upward-rising beltline complete the Maxima's demanding presence.
On the interior, things continue on that trend. A very upscale design backed by quality materials and driver-centric ergonomics is immediately apparent. For the driver and front passenger, comfort and well-placed details take top billing. Zero Gravity seating delivers the same premium comfort we've seen in the Altima and Rogue.
It's in the rear of the 2016 Maxima that we see the price paid for the forward-looking design. The rear seating is comfortable, but not as roomy as will be found in most rivals. Headroom is good enough for most, but taller passengers might find themselves brushing against the ceiling due to its sloping design. Legroom is the most obvious cramp factor, being less than accommodating to those over six feet.
Relatively heavy door designs and a slightly tapered interior wall due to the somewhat aggressive tumblehome (greenhouse taper) in the Maxima's design means that seating three abreast is not recommended for long drives. Finally, trunk space is more on par with a midsize sedan than a full-size, being only about 14.3 cubic feet (405 liters) in sum.
If sales of the equally-sized Toyota Avalon are any indication, then for many buyers in this segment the price paid for the 2016 Nissan Maxima's otherwise stellar appeal is probably not too steep. Outside of its eye-appeal, the Maxima offers a lot of other attractions. One of those might be the recent release of crash test results from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Both gave the Maxima top marks across the board.
Highest on the list of attractions for the Maxima, though, is its driving engagement. Although using the term "sport sedan" is both cliche and not entirely accurate here, it is at least partially descriptive. The 2016 Maxima is a car that's fun to drive with a great dynamic on the road.
This is especially true in the sport-tuned SR package, which we drove briefly at a press club event in the fall of 2015. Yet even in the mid-tier SL package we drove as a press loan, the Maxima retains a lot of driving fun. Only two things hold the Maxima back from being a true sport sedan, in fact, and both of them are concessions to efficiency; a large determinate for buyers in the sedan segment.
Those two things are the engine and transmission. The 3.5-liter V6 that has powered the Maxima for several years is retained in the 2016 model, but sees some tuning to boost it to 300 horsepower (224 kW) and 261 pound-feet (354 Nm) of torque. This offers enough power to move the Maxima well, but it's not an engine that will propel this big car through a finish line at the front of the pack.
The well-done and nicely-tuned continuously variable transmission (CVT) doesn't make up for the lack of speed, but it is engineered very well to provide both a sporty feel and great economy for the big front-wheel drive car.
The EPA rates the 2016 Nissan Maxima with a 25 mpg (9.4 l/100km) combined fuel efficiency estimate, with 22 mpg (10.7 l/100km) in the city and 30 mpg (7.8 l/100km) on the highway. After 184 miles (296 km) of mixed driving, we achieved 26 mpg (9.05 l/100km) all told, so the EPA numbers are readily achievable in the real world without feather footing.In our final assessment, the 2016 Nissan Maxima was found to be a great new offering with a lot of high points for the full-sized sedan segment. Although others on the market may best it in some regards, few can offer the kind of premium appeal and the memorable drive experience that the Maxima has on offer.
Product Page: Nissan MaximaView gallery - 13 images