Recently I had the opportunity to drive two of the five all-new Nissan Maxima models near the manufacturing facility in Smyrna, Tenn. Maxima for 2016 looks like no other vehicle on the road and drives like no other in the segment.
In fact, the all-new Nissan flagship sets new standards in the large sedan segment – for technology, performance and style.
The eighth-generation Maxima offers five well-equipped grade levels, including three new models – SL, SR, and Platinum – with prices from $32,410 to $39,860. No options are available, as each model builds on the previous.
Six factory accessories are available, however, including splash guards, illuminated kick plates, premium spoiler, sport spoiler (SR only), 19-inch summer tires with full-size aluminum-alloy wheel spare (SR only) and unique 18-inch alloy wheels.
A new lighter, more-rigid chassis brings sports car-like acceleration and handling to Nissan’s flagship Maxima, powered by a 300-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6, mated to a new performance-oriented Xtronic transmission. Xtronic – a continuously variable transmission -- lacks fixed ratios, giving it the advantage of being in the right gear at the right time.
The chassis is lighter by 82 pounds, thanks to a redesigned platform using more high-strength steels. The engine uses more than 60 percent new parts.
All this re-engineering results in a 15 percent increase in highway fuel economy, to 30 mpg, with city mpg at 22. We drove nearly 100 miles around middle Tennessee and each checked our own mpg.
I rode with Wayne Gerdes of “hypermiling” fame (CleanMPG.com). He achieved nearly 40 mpg combined using his hypermiling techniques, while I achieved approximately 20 (embarrassing) mpg combined. I got us where we were going a lot more quickly, however.
Nissan says the Maxima is a “4-Door Sports Car,” “built by enthusiasts for enthusiasts,” with “bold new design, authentic performance hardware and a bespoke interior that rivals luxury nameplates.”
The futuristic design language includes a V-motion front end, signature boomerang lights, kick-up C-pillars and unique floating roof appearance.
My favorite exterior feature was that distinctive floating roof, with blacked-out pillars creating a wraparound canopy appearance. Nissan designers visited the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels for inspiration and adapted their cockpit design in the wraparound design of the Maxima.
Lower by 1.3 inches, longer by 2.2 inches, and sculpted using a special metal stamping technique developed by Nissan, Maxima presents a sweeping aerodynamic profile much like a jet fighter.
The V-motion grille – a wide strip of chrome dipping down from sharp character lines on the hood, past the headlights to the top of the bumper and echoed by a thinner line of chrome from the lower edge of the headlights, through the bumper to the bottom edge – is distinctive and impressive.
Boomerang-style headlights with standard LED signature daytime running lights and two-piece taillights with integrated LED signature finish the distinctive lighting theme.
A panoramic dual-panel moon roof on the SL and Platinum models accents the canopy look and gives passengers a wide-open view of the sky.
Large dual chrome tailpipe finishers and 18-inch machined-aluminum-alloy wheels with painted inserts add to the futuristic appearance.
The SR model adds 19-inch wheels with a unique diamond-cut machined finish – very attractive. I also noticed the “4DSC” logo embossed within the taillight reflectors and headlights, recalling Maxima’s 4-Door Sports Car heritage.
Nine beautiful colors dress the exterior of the new Maxima: Bordeaux Black, Storm Blue, Super Black, Brilliant Silver, Gun Metallic, Pearl White ($395 extra), Deep Blue Pearl and two Maxima-exclusive exterior colors – Forged Bronze and Coulis Red. Our host had one in every color, a stunning display.
Interior colors were chosen to fit Maxima’s exclusive sports-premium personality. Varying from the usual black and beige, the SR model offers an additional deep, rich Camel interior. The standard Charcoal interior features blue contrast stitching – another favorite of mine – and Cashmere is now lighter for a higher contrast with black surface areas.
The totally redesigned interior features a “command central” cockpit and custom-made craftsmanship. The center stack is angled seven degrees toward the driver – finally – and a floating center consol sits higher making it easy to reach key controls, such as the new Display Commander, located there. The console is padded on the sides, with contrast stitching. The instrument panel and doors also have genuine stitching.
Available ambient lighting, available premium Ascot leather seating surfaces with diamond-quilted inserts, unique faceted finishers and a sporty D-shaped (flat-bottom) steering wheel up the luxury feel.
The quilted inserts and faceted finishers invited us to touch. Alcantara, a high-tech, easy-to-maintain material found on high-end exotics, is used in seating inserts and steering wheel inserts for high-grip at key touch points on certain models.
Zero Gravity front seats with sport bolstering are standard, and now have a new three-layer foam design for more softness and comfort. Seats are premium cloth, leather-appointed or premium Ascot leather-appointed, with eight-way power adjustment for the driver and four-way power adjustment for the front passenger.
The rear seat now folds 60/40 on all models. Heated and cooled front seats and steering wheel are available on certain models.
Maxima’s next-generation technology includes NissanConnect with standard navigation, an 8.0-inch color display with multi-touch using smartphone-like gestures such as swipe/pinch/zoom, hands-free text messaging assistant (Android only), and voice recognition for navigation and audio.
SiriusXM satellite radio and Travel Link applications, Online Search with Google and lots of other connectivity features along with the NissanConnect system also use a standard seven-inch Advanced Drive-Assist Display in the center of the instrument cluster.
The home screen displays navigation, speed and audio information at once, without scrolling through separate screens. A sport screen displays a unique “power” meter showing engine output, with gauges for oil pressure and transmission oil temperature. A special hidden feature allows the driver to set a route on the larger navigation screen and swipe toward the ADAD to move the directions from screen-to-screen. This is another of my favorite features.
The audio development team set a goal of delivering the same gold standard audio fidelity experience as found in luxury sedans several classes above Maxima, and succeeded with the available 11-speaker Bose audio system. Improvements include more speakers, new sound processing technologies and better placement of the tweeters to enhance staging.
New technologies include Bose Center Point Surround Stage technology and driver’s seat optimization mode for a driver-centered experience. There are two USB ports in the media bin on the console, which can also accommodate an iPhone 6 Plus.
The cabin is extra quiet thanks to laminated glass on the windshield and the front door windows. Laminated front door glass is usually reserved for upscale luxury vehicles. Active Noise Cancellation, available only with the Bose audio system, works like noise canceling headphones to help reduce low-frequency sounds.
Nissan did allow the stirring engine noise produced during spirited driving to penetrate into the cabin via Active Sound Enhancement. “Sport” mode takes the experience a step further, allowing even higher engine note amplitude in the cabin.
Maxima includes convenience features suitable for luxury vehicles, including many standard features not even offered on some luxury nameplates, including a power tilt/telescoping steering wheel with “Easy Entry” system, heated steering wheel, Around View Monitor, remote start and power rear sunshade.
The Platinum model also features Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection – for a 360-degree bird’s eye view of the area around the vehicle – and Driver Attention Alert to alert the driver with audible and visual warnings when drowsy or inattentive driving is detected.
Lots of safety, security and driving aids are available, many standard – depending on the model chosen.
Advanced air bag system for driver and front passenger with seatbelt sensors and occupant classification sensors, front seat-mounted side-impact air bags, roof-mounted curtain side-impact air bags with rollover sensors for both rows; three-point seatbelts for all seating positions, front seatbelts with pre-tensioners, load limiters and adjustable upper anchors; inside trunk release; front and rear crumple zones; LATCH; tire pressure monitoring with easy-fill tire alert; vehicle dynamic control and traction control are standard for all models.
Predictive forward collision warning, intelligent cruise control, forward emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot warning are standard on the SL, SR, and Platinum models.
Standard equipment on the Maxima S includes NissanConnect navigation with 8.0-inch display with the 7.0-inch Advanced Drive Assist Display in the instrument cluster, Remote Engine Start, Dual USB ports, SiriusXM Satellite Radio and SiriusXM Travel Link, Online Search with Google, LED Signature Daytime Running Lights, 18-inch machined finished aluminum-alloy wheels, eight-way Power Driver Seat and four-way Power Passenger Seat, Dual-Zone Automatic Temperature Control with front and rear vents, HomeLink Universal Transceiver and more.
Maxima SV adds leather seating, heated front seats, driver’s seat power lumbar support and manual thigh support extension, front and rear parking sensors and heated outside rearview mirrors with turn signals.
The SL adds a Dual Panel Panoramic Moonroof, Bose audio system with 11 speakers, heated steering wheel and ambient lighting.
With the SR comes a sport-tuned suspension, along with Integrated Dynamics-control Module expand, a front chassis performance damper, premium Ascot leather seats with diamond-quilted Alcantara inserts, climate-controlled front seats, Ascot leather-appointed steering wheel with Alcantara insert, paddle shifters, aluminum sport pedals, Liquid Chrome faceted finishers, LED low beam headlights, 19-inch diamond-cut machined aluminum-alloy wheels, and 245/40R19 all-season tires developed uniquely for Maxima.
The new Platinum grade includes an extensive array of premium equipment, including Dual Panel Panoramic Moon Roof, power tilt and telescoping steering column with easy-access feature, premium Ascot leather-appointed seats with diamond-quilted leather inserts, Ascot leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear window power sunshade, driver-side memory seat, outside mirrors and steering wheel, rain-detecting windshield wipers, mahogany wood-tone faceted finishers, auto-dimming driver-side outside mirror, and outside mirrors with reverse tilt-down feature.
I drove both the SV and SL models. I found both to be very comfortable, the ride smooth and the drive easy – the curvy roads were no problem with lots of confidence in the turns.
The thigh extensions suited my co-driver with longer legs. We both enjoyed the open panoramic moon roof after the rain stopped.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams have appeared regularly in the Star-Telegram since 2007. Contact her at email@example.com.