“What have they done?” we’ve asked. The radically redesigned 2016 Nissan Maxima still lays claim to the 4DSC (four-door sports car) moniker, but albeit in a much larger shape. Returning after a year under the knife for some plastic surgery and a bit of a diet, the largest of Nissan’s sedans returns ready for a new day.
But is this Maxima still worthy of the shorthand 4DSC nomenclature? That depends on what kind of an answer you are looking for. Read on for more.
Now into its eighth generation dating back to the 1981 Datsun Maxima sedan, it wasn’t until the third-generation (1988-1994) when the Nissan received the 4DSC sticker in the side windows that the enthusiasts began to take notice. During that same time, the Maxima began its gradual climb into maximum territory, growing from the compact size of the original model to what the EPA now considers mid-size and the J.D. Power research firm terms a large car offering. Regardless of the differing opinions, it appears to our eyes as a large unibody sedan capable of transporting five passengers in entry-luxury splendor.
A look back to look ahead.
The 2016 Maxima gets its power from a new version of the brand’s 3.5-liter (VQ35DE) V6 engine. Producing 300 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 261 lb-ft of torque at 4,400 rpm, it still relies on a sequential multi-port electronic fuel injection system to feed its fire. Power is delivered to the front-wheel-drive system via Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT
) with manual shift mode.
We are generally not fans of CVTs, but if we must, the Nissan model is the one we’d choose. In this application, it is tuned for the enthusiast driver, using D-Step shift logic that helps offer quicker starts and simulated “gear shifts” throughout its range. Curiously, there were no steering wheel-mounted paddle shift levers aboard to help bolster the 4DSC credentials.
Driving dynamics are enhanced by an already lighter (80-pounds) and stiffer (25-percent) platform that rides on a subframe with struts and coils in front while the rear utilizes a multilink suspension kit with ZF Sachs monotube shocks. Front and rear stabilizer bars finish, and in the process, stiffen the ride in all Maximas except the SR, which receives a unique, more performance-oriented specification.
Being of the Platinum persuasion finds the Maxima loaded to the gills with creature comforts that probably counteract all the weight savings seen in this latest model. Our sampler included a dual-panel Panoramic moonroof, a rear window power sunshade, premium leather-appointed eight-way adjustable Zero-gravity power seats with diamond quilting, an eight-inch color display with multi-mode controls, Nissan’s around-view monitor for a bird’s eye view of obstacles around the vehicle, mahogany wood-toned finishers, a Bose 11-speaker sound system with active noise cancellation and active noise enhancements to bring that cancelled sound (i.e.: engine noise) back into the cabin.
Electronically, all the gadgets and gizmos are there as well, including Sirius XM Satellite Radio, Sirius XM Traffic, Bluetooth hands-free and streaming audio functionality, a seven-inch advanced drive assist display, dual zone climate control, and finally, Nissan Intelligent Key with push button starter. From a safety standpoint, look for Blind Spot Warning with Rear Cross Traffic Alerts, Driver Attention Alert (Time for coffee?), and Vehicle Dynamic Control with Traction Control System. Rounding out this list of heavy hitters, our Maxima Platinum was equipped with Nissan’s Predictive Forward Collision Warning, and Forward Emergency Braking, which reacts to braking two vehicles ahead of it.
Competition? Of course. Even though the 2016 Maxima returns after a year of hibernation, it knows that the competition hasn’t been sleeping. It only takes a minute to find the parking lot of a restaurant that offers “early bird” specials filled with such segment stalwarts like the Toyota Avalon, the Chrysler 300, Hyundai’s Azera, the Kia Cadenza, Lexus ES 350 and the Buick LaCrosse. Of this group, we think the Maxima will skew to a younger buying set, thanks to its more radical looks, rather than the somewhat more conservative offerings from the other brands.
About those looks… Sharply creased, angular, expressive, the 2016 Nissan Maxima is all of that. Based on the brand’s Sport Sedan Concept car of 2014, it’s a look that you will absolutely either love or not. Based on a groundbreaking design that first appeared on the Nissan Murano SUV
, the up-front V-motion grille leads off with a fighter jet-inspired maw that is pretty unique to the segment. The truth is you won’t see many other apertures or boomerang-style lighting looks as seen in the Nissan family of vehicles.
This new Nissan is available in several trim levels starting with well-equipped S, SV, SL, SR and Platinum versions. Each trim level offers distinct equipment thus yielding no options, just different trim levels and dealer-installed options.
Our Platinum edition featured many touches both inside and out that set it off from other versions that are available in the lineup.
This flagship sedan features the unique floating roofline first seen on Murano, but, this time finds its diminishing blacked out pillars sloping toward the rear fascia.
It’s what’s inside that counts. The interior of the 2016 Nissan Maxima has also received a thorough seeing to and is now more luxurious than many of its rivals. In the process of designing the new interior, Nissan has jettisoned some of the more quirky features that we have become used to seeing in various Nissan products.
Though there are plenty of redundancies on the D-shaped, flat-bottomed steering wheel, the center console is where the driver will reach for most controls. Almost as an afterthought, two small push buttons labeled “normal” and “sport” are located under the driver’s wrist. These are the Nissan Drive Mode Selector controls, which allow the driver, in sport mode, to enhance the Maxima’s throttle and braking response, holding the gears longer, firming up the weight of the electronic power assisted steering and increasing the active sound enhancements into the cabin. It’s all show business here, folks.
With a new design comes a new neighborhood. In the case of the Display Commander Control, it has moved from its “deck” at the top of the center stack and is now located on the main console within easy reach of the driver’s right hand. From here, controls for most of the functions also found in the eight-inch color touchscreen display, including NissanConnect, navigation, satellite radio and climate features, are operated. If you are not in a touchy-feely mood, there are always voice commands to perform certain tasks for you. A seven-inch Advanced Drive-Assist Display resides in the instrument cluster to display vehicle dynamics and other functions.
Leather-covered Zero Gravity chairs enhanced our drive comfort for long stretches behind the wheel and were made better through the ventilated seating function which we consider a must-have option in South Florida. The better to prevent the flop-sweats we say.
The rear seats feature a slight elevation with good legroom clearance for most passengers, although some taller passengers may find their coifs compromised due to the downward slope of the rear fastback. The rear seats can also be folded forward in a 60:40 split to enhance the Maxima’s cargo hauling capacity, which finds 14.3-cubic feet of cargo space in the trunk.
Power from the new 300-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 is plentiful in this new Maxima and is among the quickest vehicles in the segment when compared to the Avalon, Azera, and others. Zero to 60 mph comes on in a sprite 5.9-seconds, which is none-too-shabby for a vehicle that tips the scales at a stout 3,593 pounds.
Handling from the hydro-electric power steering system was decent in a normal drive mode sense but about what would be expected for someone used to driving a larger, more cushier ride.
Noise intrusion from all types of road surfaces was well modulated and muted at the same time, leaving us with a nice, quiet cabin for hours of highway cruising.
That was until we pushed the “Sport” button. While not exactly subjecting the Maxima to a Jekyll vs. Hyde transformation, it does manage to change up the parameters of this four-door into something that we could live with. The steering wheel requires more effort through the added heft that makes driver inputs more deliberate.
The throttle seems to hold onto the “gearing” for a longer stretch of time, enabling drivers to get the most out of the V6’s powerband, and finally, the brakes have the tendency to be slightly more “urgent” in fulfilling their obligations to bring the vehicle under control or alternatively to a complete stop.
It manages to do all of this while maintaining what the EPA says are mileage expectations of 22 city / 30 highway, with 25 combined mpg. We saw an average of 26 mpg, with an equal bias of city and sometimes aggressive highway driving.
But despite all of this, there is no mistaking the Maxima for a four-door version of the 370Z Nismo. Finding the Normal mode a bit soft for our liking, we opted to keep the drive mode selector in Sport all the time. Through the years, it seems the Maxima has outgrown its 4DSC nomenclature. But in the end, the 2016 Nissan Maxima is no less of a competent cruiser for it.