The Nissan Maxima made a name for itself in the 1980s and 1990s with a “Four-Door Sports Car” tagline that somehow worked back in the day, for a not-too-heavy V6-powered front-wheel-drive sedan. Of course, the game changed over the years as the Maxima stagnated for several years and then simply became a higher-trim version of the Altima, while shamelessly still coming with “4DSC” badges as standard. But the new one for 2016 already captured a lot of attention when it first popped up in photos several months ago. Is it finally more Maxima and less Maximbady?
The launch event was inexplicably a chaperoned 20-minute jaunt on Dubai’s highways, so here’s what we can tell you.
First off, the car is indeed a bit of a head-turner, at least while it’s still fresh, although it looks a bit more conservative in real life than it did in photoshopped press photos. It has a nice shape, but you need to get the 19-inch alloys, as seen on these top-spec cars, to look proportionally alright.
Mind you, it’s not really a full-sizer even though it looks like one. Still based on the old platform that’s shared with the Altima, it gets its length more from large overhangs rather than in the wheelbase area. As such, the cabin space is about that of an Altima, which is to say it’s pretty decent. And the boot is very big.
Where the Maxima truly shines is in the choice of cabin materials, with stitched leatherette everywhere on the dash and doors to match the seats. There’s also a new infotainment touchscreen with large clear icons and the around-view parking camera system, although we didn’t fiddle with that too much.
As for the drive, it’s a pretty decent cruiser. The car now makes 300 hp from its 3.5-litre V6, and you can feel all of it, even with the CVT automatic. What they’ve done is retune the CVT to be more aggressive on initial throttle tip-in, rather than behaving like a rubber-band as the old version did, so the car feels faster and more responsive on overtaking and such, even though it’s probably no quicker than the old 290 hp model overall. So even if you hate CVTs, it’s not bad to drive this one daily. They even give you paddle-shifters to shift imaginary gears and impress your friends.
The ride seems to be a bit stiffer now, so it’s not silky-smooth on the highway, but is generally compliant. In terms of quietness, it’s above average for the class. We suspect the lower-spec models with smaller 18-inch wheels will ride more comfortably.
We didn’t really push it around corners, but on the long curves at least, it felt stable and grippy at somewhat-high speeds. The steering is ridiculously light in “normal” mode, but firms up enough in “sport” mode. The brakes are fine too, in regular driving at least.
So is the “Four-Door Sports Car” back? With front-wheel-drive and CVT, there’s only so far you can go towards building a track-attack tool, but clearly that is not what Nissan was going for, despite promo videos of it taking down 4-cylinder BMWs on the racetrack. It’s a premium sporty sedan with all the luxury bells and whistles of an Infiniti.
For UAE prices and GCC specs, visit the Nissan Maxima buyer guide.
Photos by Mashfique Hussain Chowdhury and Nissan.