It’s always a surprise to me that the Nissan Maxima makes ears perk up and people get nostalgic. But the nameplate brings up memories so strong they’d be the envy of numerous premium brands.
It’s very clear that with the 2016 Nissan Maxima, its maker wants it to be desirable again. They know loyal Maxima buyers want their friends to go, “Wow, what is that?” Why else would they mold “4DSC” into the front and rear lights? Nissan is reaching deep into its past to find its soul.
I don’t know how much 4-door sports car the 2016 Maxima can really pull out despite the 4DSC branding throwback from the 1989-94 models, that’s what a first drive will help decide. Sure, it’s putting out 300 horsepower from what’s long been a good V6, but this is front-wheel drive and routing power through a CVT. Cars like this with that much power, the Chevy Impala and Toyota Avalon come to mind, fare better when they major on comfort rather than sport.
And if your definition of comfort is acres of space and an airy cabin, then the Maxima will disappoint. A Maxima – which starts at $32,410 when it goes on sale later this year and will certainly top out around $40,000 – feels broadly similar in size on the outside as the volume-selling Altima. But inside, it’s The Maxima suffers from the “big car with the little interior” problem, or Ford Taurus Syndrome. It’s fine if you’re up front, though, because it does that cockpit-ish thing and the interior fits you well. I hope that’s not the sports car thing they’re talking about.
So what exactly is the point of the Maxima, and a lot of these top-rung sedans from mainstream brands? It’s a segment that’s shrinking pretty rapidly in the great shift away from cars to crossovers. While there may not be the sales there used to be, there’s at least creativity and value in the class.
In traditional ’80s Japanese luxury fashion, the Maxima is loaded with stuff. There’s the usual nave and infotainment stuff, along with plush quilted leather on some models, an adjustable driving mode knob and giant wheels. For $40,000, you’re lucky if your BMW 328i has leather seats. Better still, you won’t feel special driving a poorly optioned 328i.
And while a properly specced 3-series is a great driver’s car, it looks about as distinct as any 2015 Car. The new Maxima doesn’t look like a lot else on the road, apart from the 2015 Nissan Murano. But its squashed Murano looks are no bad thing in my book, although darker colors seem to work best on it. Most importantly, I appreciate Nissan had the guts to make it look ambitious. It’s upsetting how many $40,000 cars don’t do this. And it’s these $40,000 sedans wearing mainstream badges that seem to have the daring looks these days. We need more of that.
At a time when so many buyers skip over great cars because they’d rather have a mediocre car sporting a premium label, the Maxima – as well as Impala and Avalon – offer so much more quality and style and equipment without sacrificing luxury. I prefer the Maxima’s interior over a similarly priced Infiniti. And because they’re not commodities like 3s or CLAs or A3s, someone will go up to your Maxima and go, “That’s a Maxima?”
That should be important to those who like to impress people with their four-door sedans.