Nissan's most expensive car, the Maxima, is re-engineered and restyled for 2016 for a more luxurious and sporty experience and, thanks to a more powerful V-6, delivers 300 horsepower for the first time.
The midsize Maxima is a bit longer and lower-riding for 2016 and has a more roomy front seat, including 45 inches of legroom. Because the Maxima is lighter than its predecessor, it's the most fuel-efficient in the car's history.
More standard equipment than ever is packed into every Maxima, including navigation system, drive select modes, remote start, rearview monitor, power-adjustable front seats and a display screen that's at least 7 inches in size.
Though Consumer Reports has said the new Maxima's reliability is "good" and the car earned five out of five stars in frontal and side crash tests by the federal government, it already has been the subject of four U.S. safety recalls.
Prices reflect the premium sedan range: Starting manufacturer suggested retail price, including destination charge, starts at $33,345 for the base 2016 Maxima S, and rises to $40,795 for the Platinum trim level, which includes all factory options such as premium Ascot leather on the seats and a 360-degree camera view of the outside of the car on the dashboard display.
Every 2016 Maxima comes with the 3.5-liter, double overhead cam, 300-horsepower V-6 that is based on the previous 290-horsepower Maxima VQ engine. It's extensively re-engineered with more than 50 percent of new parts that contribute to the power increase.
Based on the test drive of a 2016 Maxima SR model — even with large, 19-inch all-season tires, engine sounds intrude a bit less inside the car than previous Maximas.
The V-6 continues to be mated to an Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) that a driver operates like an automatic, but for 2016, the CVT has a wider ratio range to improve acceleration, and the new drive-select mode adds electronics to make it behave more like a regular automatic.
For example, the test Maxima SR in Sport mode needed only a light nudge on the gas pedal to respond and get the 3,545-pound car up to speed quickly. The SR included shifters that allowed the driver to manually move up and down pre-set gears without use of a clutch pedal. And, while this isn't the most fuel-efficient application of a CVT, the transmission did a decent job of mimicking a regular automatic.
The engine torque didn't change and remains at 261 foot-pounds at 4,400 rpm.
Nissan recommends premium gasoline to maximize engine performance. The test vehicle never approached the 22 miles per gallon in city driving and 30 mpg highway rating that the federal government estimates. With aggressive driving, the test car averaged 21 mpg for a travel range of just 378 miles.
Every Maxima has front-wheel drive, and suspension updates do an impressive job of managing motions of the 16-foot-long car body; the ride in the test car was controlled and taut.
But sizable side windshield pillars and large outer mirrors can obscure side views during turns, and the 34.2 inches of rear-seat legroom are less than the 34.6 inches in the previous Maxima. Rear-seat hiproom is reduced, too, from 53.9 inches to 53.5 inches. Trunk capacity remains the same at 14 cubic feet.
The 2016 Maxima looks more expressive on the outside with modern side styling lines and a more aggressive front. But the interior is where the restyling shines, as controls and displays are well arranged and leather seats can be quilted like those in an Audi.
Since November, the 2016 Maxima has been the subject of four U.S. safety recalls ranging from frontal air bags that may not deploy to a fuel tank with an improperly installed part that could result in gasoline leaking after a crash and creating a fire hazard.