Since 1980, we’ve been sharing the road with the Maxima. Starting out as a boxy, softly sprung quasi luxury car, the Maxima at the time represented the most expensive and prestigious Japanese automakers offered at the time. Remember, no Acura, Infiniti or Lexus back then! Then at the turn of the decade, Nissan rewrote the playbook on the Maxima, and delivered what is still famously known as the ‘Four Door Sports Car.’ It was proper sport sedan, and enthusiasts came out in droves. Here we had a car that could stand up to a BMW performance wise but without the price tag and high running costs. Following that special era of Maxima history, Nissan didn’t seem to know exactly what the Maxima should be. The Garage sampled a previous generation Maxima. While a fine car, the overall impression was that of driving a slightly larger, more posh Altima. Hardly words to get the blood flowing, and a pretty half hearted endorsement for Nissan’s flagship sedan.
That was 2015, 2016 brings us the all new, eigth generation Maxima. And the revival of the ‘Four Door Sports Car’ description. Visually, this is the most interesting Maxima yet. The aggressive face is offset with soft, flowing lines on the side profile. It’s a successful combination of sportiness and elegance. Since there are no styling cues that tie the Maxima from one generation to the next, Nissan designers have a level of freedom unimaginable to a Ford Mustang designer. While the Maxima’s looks are completely up to the minute, it may be almost too contemporary. Time will tell just how gracefully this Maxima will age as the years pass.
Inside, the Maxima is also quite contemporary, but be it 2016 or 2026, a handsome, comfortable cabin never goes out of style. Here, Nissan has without question gone above and beyond and taken the Maxima into uncharted luxury territory. The attention to detail is outstanding. Matte wood trim, convincing stitching, and quilted leather seats set the Maxima apart. A luxurious interior should make you feel like you’re sitting in something special. And here, Nissan has done just that. Also, the well bolstered seats, a center stack angled toward the driver and a fat, flat bottomed steering wheel are subtle reminders of the sporty message the Maxima wishes to impart. While there is plenty of room, its true there is competition out there that offers roomier cabins, but you’re going to lose that cozy, cockpit like feel imparted by the Maxima. In sum, this has to be one of the best executed interiors of any Nissan.
Regardless of trim, all Maximas share the same drivetrain: a 3.5L V-6 rated at 300hp paired to a Continuously Variable Transmission. The days of a manual transmission Maxima faded around the time grunge music stopped ruling the airwaves. Now, on its own, there’s nothing wrong with this, but front wheel drive and a CVT does nothing to suggest what one would expect to find on a ‘four door sports car.’ The Maxima is plenty quick off the line and rules the third lane with authority. The Maxima is comfortable and controlled in the handling department, but I’m reluctant to categorize this as a true sports sedans. Nissan does offer a sporty SR trim, but reports suggest all you get is a harsh ride without any added sportier handling. The Maxima is happier and far more relaxed as a long distance cruise missile, not a back road burner.
The Maxima is available in five trim levels. Our test car was the top-spec Platinum. Standard features include 18″ alloys, Driver Attention Alert, Predictive Forward Collision Warning, Forward Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning, LED headlights, panoramic moonroof, power rear sunshade, heated/ventilated front seats, intelligent cruise control, navigation, 8″ color touchscreen, dual zone auto climate control and Bose audio. Including destination, our Maxima retails for $40,905USD. Not everyone might love the thought of a $40,000 Nissan sedan, but if you want these features on a premium branded car, prepare to spend at least another $10,000. But offering a car with the same features as the big boys at a discount price has long been a calling card of the Maxima.
So, after wandering in the woods for the past twenty years, is the Maxima back? In a word, no. Earlier, I remarked that Maxima stylists are free to go in any direction they want. But the Maxima itself? Absolutely not. Nissan has literally taken the Maxima as far as they possibly could. Nissan DOES build a four door sports car; it’s called the Infiniti Q50. And Nissan is not going to allow the Maxima to steal the Q’s thunder. If BMW hunting is your hobby, the Q is your car, not the Maxima. But not everyone wants rear wheel drive, and 99% of everyone could care less a manual transmission is not available. So, who is this car for then? If a full size sedan is what you’re seeking, but a Toyota Avalon is a little too ‘grandma and grandpa’ for you, the Maxima is your car. It may not be a four door sports car, but with this new Maxima, Nissan has delivered the most sharply focused flagship we have seen in years.