A step up


2016 Nissan Maxima

Maxima lineup returns with bolder, upscale feel

Because the Nissan Maxima’s stable mate, the Altima, has grown in size and evolved into a popular family sedan, the lines between the two models had become blurred. The Maxima, back after a one-year hiatus, faces the challenging task of needing to be a noticeable step up from the Altima without stepping on the toes of Infiniti’s Q50 entry-level luxury sedan.

The 2016 Nissan Maxima features redesigned exterior and interior styling, a stronger and lighter chassis, a revised engine that produces more power and greater fuel efficiency, an improved CVT transmission and additional infotainment and safety technologies.

The eighth-generation Maxima is very attractive and looks much sportier and more upscale than the Altima. Maxima features a bolder grille and more aggressively sculpted lines than its predecessor. Maxima now sits lower to the ground, is more aerodynamic and offers a cabin with a wrap-around design theme.

There is a high level of craftsmanship and a premium feel to the cabin, even in lower trim levels. Maxima offers comfortable seating with plenty of leg room for six-footers up front.

The cockpit-inspired instrument panel and center stack angled towards the driver make for a pleasing environment with easy access to switches and controls.

2016 Nissan Maxima

2016 Nissan Maxima

The 2016 Nissan Maxima is offered in five trim levels (S, SV, SL, SR and Platinum). The base S model ($32,510) includes 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, fog lights, front and rear LED parking lights, keyless entry, push-button starting, full power accessories, eight-way power driver’s seat, four-way power front passenger seat, dual-zone automatic climate control, 8-inch touch screen, navigation system, eight-speaker audio system with HD radio and six-disc CD changer, rear-view camera, Bluetooth phone and audio, two USB ports and voice recognition for navigation, audio and Bluetooth.

The SV ($34,490), SL ($36,990) and tested Platinum ($39,960) trims include additional features and equipment. The sporty SR ($37,770) features 19-inch wheels, LED headlights, a sport-tuned suspension, active ride control, distinctive leather-wrapped steering wheel, premium Ascot leather upholstery and aluminum sport pedals.

All models are powered by a revised 3.5-liter V-6 engine rated at 300 horsepower (10 more than before) and 261 pound-feet of torque. The only transmission available is a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that has been programmed to feel more like a conventional automatic.

This powertrain combination delivers impressive performance while offering 22/30 mpg city/highway. All Maxima models power the front wheels. Those looking for all-wheel drive will have to step up to the Infiniti line or look elsewhere.

On the road, the new Maxima feels solid, and its suspension does well at softening bumps without feeling too mushy. Those who prefer a stiffer suspension would likely prefer the SR.

I noticed a hint of torque steer when accelerating hard from a stop with my Maxima Platinum tester, but it is not enough to be a deal-breaker. Maxima is a great touring car. On the highway, the cabin remains peacefully quiet. The new Maxima offers a nice step up from the Altima without being too pricey.

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