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“The 2013 Nissan Maxima is a very special car, but it's time for this 'four-door sports car' to take its final curtain call and have a new model ready in the wings.”

 

That was how I ended my review on the last-generation Nissan Maxima. It was a good full-size sedan, but it was getting up there in age and new models were one-upping it. No one knew at the time that this could have been the final Maxima. But thanks to a few people at Nissan’s, the full-size sedan was given a reprieve. Last year, I had the chance to drive the new 2016 Maxima and came away really impressed. But I knew this short drive only told part of the story. How would the Maxima fare when I would drive it for a week? I spent a week in the sportiest Maxima, the SR and have some thoughts on it.

 

As I wrote in my first drive, I thought the Maxima’s design was able to make it stand out not only in the full-size class, but also in Nissan’s very crowded lineup. I still believe this. The Maxima features a lot of items that we have seen on the Murano crossover, such as the V-Motion grille, boomerang headlights and taillights; dual exhaust tips, and blacked-out pillars that give the illusion of a floating roof. The SR adds a sporty flair with a set of nineteen-inch wheels.

 


2016 Nissan Maxima SR 6


The Maxima’s interior has undergone a massive change. There are quality materials in abundance with soft-touch plastics, contrasting stitching, and faux aluminum. SR models get a combination of Alcantara and leather wrapping around the seats. Nissan’s Zero Gravity seats feature additional bolstering to hold you in if you decide to test the validity of the ‘4-Door Sports Car’ slogan. I found the seats to provide a nice balance of comfort when driving long distances or making a quick trip, and holding you in when you feel like taking the back roads. The back seat is slightly smaller than what you might expect in a big sedan with headroom coming up short for taller passengers. Legroom is average by full-size sedan standards.

 


2016 Nissan Maxima SR 11


 

Nissan’s designers slightly angled the center stack towards the driver to make the area a bit more intimate. It works as it makes you feel that you are a key part of the vehicle. Controls are large and have a solid feel to them. The Maxima is one Nissan’s vehicles equipped with an eight-inch screen and the latest version of Nissan Connect. The system is pleasant to look at thanks to a new interface. You have the choice of controlling the system by either the touchscreen, buttons on either side screen, or Nissan’s ‘Display Commander’ knob in the center console. No matter which control method you choose, navigating the system is quite easy. Like the Murano I reviewed a couple of months ago, the Maxima experienced the problem of saying it lost XM signal, despite there being a signal and playing a station. I found that switching to another source and then going back to XM, the problem would be gone. A software update could fix this problem.

 

Power for the Maxima comes from a 3.5L V6 producing 300 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque (@ 4,400 rpm). Nissan retains the Xtronic CVT and front-wheel drive for the Maxima. All-wheel drive was considered, but Nissan ultimately passed due to a projected low take rate. The V6 is really impressive as it moves the 3,564 pound Maxima SR with no problem. Accelerating at a normal rate, the V6 delivers power on a smooth and steady rate. Pin the accelerator to the floor and the V6 roars into life with a mean growl and moves the Maxima at an alarming pace.

 

2016 Nissan Maxima SR 9

Where the Maxima’s powertrain falters slightly is with the Xtronic CVT. For a sedan that’s billed as a ‘four-door sports car,’ having a CVT kinds of sours this mission statement. You expect to feel and hear the changing of a transmission for a ‘sports car’ and you don’t get that with a CVT. That isn’t to say the Xtronic CVT is bad. Nissan has done a lot of work to make the CVT bearable such as a mode that mimics the gear changes of an automatic and somehow reducing the amount of droning when the engine is spinning at high rpm. But if you are trying to promote the Maxima as the ‘four-door sports car,’ maybe putting an automatic transmission wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

 

As for fuel economy, the Maxima SR is rated at 22 City/30 Highway/25 Combined. My average for the week landed around 23.5 MPG is mostly city driving.

 

Nissan is positioning the Maxima SR as the sportiest of all the Maxima trims. Under the skin, Nissan made some changes to the SR’s suspension with new dampers, springs, and stabilizer bar. A set of Goodyear Eagle F1 tires improves overall grip. Out on a curvy road, the Maxima SR is quite surprising. For a large sedan, the Maxima SR is surprisingly very agile with barely any hint of body roll. Steering is nicely weighted and provides decent feel. The downside to the changes in the suspension is a somewhat stiff ride. Certain bumps and imperfections will jostle you and your passengers. At least the Maxima does quite well when it comes to road and wind noise isolation.

 

After spending a week in the Maxima, my level of enthusiasm died down somewhat. Nissan did address a number of issues that plagued the previous Maxima and has made it a real winner in the full-size sedan class. But the fact Nissan is still calling the Maxima a ‘four-door sports car’ and saddles it with a CVT kind of nixes that image they are trying to put out there. If you want something that stands out in a full-size sedan, then the Maxima is worth a look. Just be somewhat realistic on the sporty image that Nissan is trying to convey.

 

Cheers: Sharp Styling, V6 Performance, Sporty Handling
Jeers: CVT kind of ruins the 'four-door sports car' image, tight headroom in the back

 

 

Disclaimer: Nissan Provided the Maxima SR, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

 

Year: 2016
Make: Nissan
Model: Maxima
Trim: SR
Engine: 3.5L DOHC 24-Valve V6
Driveline: CVT, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 300 @ 6,400
Torque @ RPM: 261 @ 4,400
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/30/25
Curb Weight: 3,564 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Smyrna, TN
Base Price: $37,670
As-Tested Price: $38,750 (Includes $825.00 Destination Charge)

 

Options:
Sport Floor Mats, Trunk Mat, and Trunk Net - $255.00


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