Nissan debuted their 2016 Nissan Maxima at the New York Auto Show on April 2nd, and I was among the first to get to tag along for a drive in a pre-production model later that evening. I will get to the ride along later, but first some background.
Going on sale in the summer, the new Maxima ups the ante over the outgoing model with very bold styling. No longer the conservative, big brother to the Nissan Altima, the new Maxima sports the new "V-Motion" style grille that first debuted on the 2015 Nissan Murano.
The Maxima, once nearly a legend in its segment, has been in the doldrums lately. One of the problems with the current Maxima is that it is really no larger than the Altima yet costs substantially more money. Customers comparing a base V6 Maxima and a base V6 Altima could see up to a $4,800 difference in sticker price, and a loaded V6 Altima SL with all the options checked has a sticker price virtually identical to that of the base Maxima. With a value equation like that, it is not hard to see why Maxima sales were still one of the dark spots in the Nissan lineup, despite Nissan having a record breaking year in 2014 with an 11% sales increase.
Related: Review - 2013 Nissan Maxima SV
With the 2016 Maxima, Nissan hopes to change the value proposition. As is the trend across the industry lately, the Maxima is larger while dropping weight. Horsepower has increased to an even 300, up 10hp over the outgoing model and torque remains at 261 lb-ft. The only transmission will be a new version of Nissan's front-wheel drive CVT which features a wider range of ratios to allow for quicker starts and lower RPM cruising speeds. During aggressive driving, the CVT can “down-shift” more rapidly than before and will hold engine RPM when it detects high-G cornering to improve acceleration out of a turn.
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Up Next – The Ride Along
On the final evening of the 2015 New York Auto Show, I was invited on a ride-along in a pre-production 2016 Nissan Maxima SR. This, the third highest trim the Maxima will be offered in, is also the sportiest. The SR trim will come with a sport-tuned suspension, 19” wheels, paddle shifters for CVT control, a more aggressive CVT sport mode, front chassis performance damper, and a larger front stabilizer bar.
Arguably the most important change to the Maxima is with the interior. I described the inside of the 2012 Nissan Maxima during my review as “Modern minimalist”. In 2012, I was being polite. By 2015, the interior is decidedly dated. For 2016, the conservative interior is replaced with a bold and luxurious feeling design.
While this was a pre-production car, materials and fit appeared to be excellent. There is a deep, useful center console with contrast stitched rails on either side, an attractive departure from industry norm. The controls here feel more up-market than the brand suggests. Nissan has moved away from the push button seat temperature controls to the dial type found on the Nissan pathfinder. As this was an SR, the seats come with a faux-suede seat trim stitched in a triangle pattern. The front seats are Nissan's Zero-Gravity type up front, though they didn't feel quite as comfortable as those I have sampled in the Nissan Altima.
The flat-bottom steering wheel rim is thicker than what is typical with sumptuous feeling materials including perforated leather. The steering wheel even features a homage to the V-Motion front grille.
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During our ride through Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, one of the first things that stood out to me was how much quieter the Maxima was over its predecessor; likely a product of the new chassis and active noise control which not only quiets ambient noise, but also pumps select engine sounds into the passenger cabin. Most of the ride was spent in the SR's sport-mode. In city traffic, this made the Maxima feel stiff and throttle response feel jumpy even to those of us not behind the wheel. I will need more time in the car, and behind the wheel, to get an accurate perception of the Maxima's performance characteristics.
Standard on all Maximas is Nissan's next generation NissanConnect with Navigation. It features an 8.0 inch color display with multi-touch. With the multi-touch feature, users will have familiar smart-phone like controls such a pinch-to-zoom and swiping for easier use. While I did not get to get deep into the system, I found it to be crisply responsive to commands and generally easy to find my way around. Unlike some of the Maxima's competitors, Nissan wisely decided to stick with real buttons instead of capacitive touch controls. The Platinum trim will offer a whole host of additional tech features including a drowsy driver alert.
The 2016 Maxima will have a limited option list and instead be offered in five trims. The base Maxima S starts at $33,235, putting it about $1,000 more than the base 2015 model. That also makes the 2016 Maxima about $1,000 more than a base 2015 Toyota Avalon XLE and about $1800 more than a base 2015 Chrysler 300 Limited, both of which will be recently refreshed by the time the 2016 Maxima goes on sale.
You can read about the entire list of features and options in our New York Auto Show: 2016 Nissan Maxima article.
The original Maxima was considered one of the best family sedans on the market in its day, but it then faded into the background and has been largely unchanged and ignored since 2009. Do you think this bold new styling will allow the former king to regain his crown? Sound off below.
The Live Shots Album has been updated with additional pictures since its original publication.
Disclaimer: The Pre-Production 2016 Nissan Maxima was provided by Nissan to an event I attended after the 2015 New York Auto Show Press Days