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2016 Nissan Maxima First Drive

The Nissan Maxima is one of the elder statesmen of the midsize sedan class. First introduced in the early ‘80s as the Datsun 810, the Maxima morphed into the vehicle of choice if you want a bit of sport along with bit of space for you, your passengers and your cargo. Nissan has played up the sporty aspect with the Maxima for a while now using the 4DSC (4-door sports car) nomenclature.

Outgoing Maxima has been with us since 2009, and a number of competitors such as the Chevrolet Impala, Chrysler 300, and Toyota Avalon have been redesigned or updated since its introduction. Nissan knew that with fresh blood from competitors, the Maxima would be in trouble. So earlier this year at the New York Auto Show, Nissan introduced the 2016 Maxima.

Has the old nameplate learned some new tricks? Here are our first impressions.

What’s Outside?

2016 Nissan Maxima SR 2The 2016 Maxima shares a lot of design ideas found on the new Nissan Murano crossover, as well as the Sport Sedan concept shown at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show. The front has a unique grille layout with a V shape, along with headlights that slightly resemble boomerangs. The side profile reveals a beltline that is kicked up toward the back and blacked-out pillars that give the illusion of a floating roof. Dependent on which trim you decide to go for, you either end up with 18- or 19-inch wheels.

What’s Inside?

2016 Nissan Maxima SR 7Nissan pulled a lot of inspiration from fighter jets and their GT-R supercar in terms of how the Maxima’s interior is laid out. Slip behind the wheel and everything is clearly organized and situated within easy reach.

The Maxima has a range of upholstery choices, including cloth, leather, leather and Alcantara, and quilted leather. No matter which type of upholstery you get, the seats provide excellent comfort and support. Nissan has also added a bit of bolstering to the front seats to support the model’s sporting intentions. The back seat is much roomier than the previous Maxima as Nissan increased the car’s overall length by 2.2 inches.

On the technology front, all Maximas get an 8-inch touch screen with navigation as standard equipment. The updated NissanConnect infotainment system is much easier to use thanks to improved interface. The system also allows a user to swipe and pinch-to-zoom much like a tablet. The swipe function worked with no problem as the system responded quickly and smoothly. However, the pinch-to-zoom function didn’t work at all in any of the Maximas I drove.

What’s Under the Hood?

2016 Nissan Maxima SR 5The Maxima retains the 3.5-liter V6 engine that was used in the previous model. However, Nissan made a number of changes to this engine such as a new cylinder head, intake manifold and sodium filled exhaust valves to pull heat away from the combustion chamber. In all, Nissan says 61 percent of the engine is made with new parts. All of those parts add up to 300 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque. Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) is the sole transmission offered, and receives a number of improvements such as a wider range of ratios to improve fuel economy and overall drivability. The 2016 Maxima is rated by the EPA to get 22/30 mpg city/highway, or 25 mpg combined on premium gas.

What’s It Like to Drive?

2016 Nissan Maxima SR 4With 300 horsepower going to the front wheels, there was a big concern for torque-steer, the phenomenon where a vehicle pulls to one side during hard acceleration. Thankfully Nissan has worked on this issue and the new Maxima doesn’t show any sign of it, even when you floor the pedal. The engine is smooth and quiet during normal acceleration. But when you need to make a pass or merge onto a freeway, the V6 is ready with instantaneous power delivery. The CVT is one of best yet with no sign of the whine that many CVTs have. Under hard acceleration, the CVT will mimic shifts like an automatic and it can fool anyone.

With a set of monotube dampers, the Maxima feels very confident in corners. The body has no hint of motion. The steering has good weight, but more enthusiastic drivers will want a heavier feel. For the daily grind, the Maxima provides a comfortable and quiet ride.

If you want a Maxima with a bit more sport, then you’ll want to check out the SR trim. The SR gets retuned dampers, springs and a different set of tires. These changes give SR a bit more agility in the corners.

Should I Buy One?

The Nissan Maxima is quite the value in the midsize sedan marketplace. The base model S kicks off at $33,235 (including an $825 destination charge) and climbs to $40,865 for the top-of-the line Platinum. Nissan has gotten rid of packages and options, and has instead given each trim their own unique feature set. For example, the SV trim gets leather and the SL receives a panoramic roof.

But what about going for a used Maxima? You’ll save substantially if you don’t require the 2016 model’s larger back seat, improved fuel economy and updated infotainment system. A quick search on our used car listings shows you can get into a 2014 Maxima for as little as $18,000. Go for a 2013 Maxima and you’ll find them starting at around $15,000.

The 2016 Nissan Maxima has given new life to the nameplate with impressive driving dynamics, unique styling and excellent value. If you’re considering a midsize sedan, the Maxima is worth a look.

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