By now, we’ve all seen Nissan’s marketing campaign championing its redesigned Maxima as the brand’s four-door sports car. But how substantial is the claim? Does the 2016 Maxima defy its four-door stereotype as Nissan suggests? Or is it just another poser in the sport sedan segment? The honest truth is it’s somewhere in between.
But if you only saw the commercials, Nissan would surely have you believing otherwise. Instead of revealing its true identity, the Maxima masquerades as a premium luxury sedan with the exhilarating performance of a sports car.
From the looks of it, the new Maxima is hoping to serve as a status symbol for the upper middle class and the perfect remedy to a stressful day of work in the office. A crackling V6 burble comes to life at the touch of the car’s push button start. Sport mode is engaged and signature LED running lights and HID headlights let your coworkers know this is no ordinary Nissan. As the Maxima races through the tunnel, its V6 snarl transforms into a Formula One symphony as its exhaust note reverberates between the surrounding concrete walls. “The new Nissan Maxima. The four-door sports car that’s raw, refined and all-you.”
While Nissan’s efforts are admirable, you can’t fault the Japanese automaker for going a little overboard with its advertising claims. After all, the outgoing seventh generation Nissan Maxima was getting long in the tooth after its seven-year production run and never quite lived up to its lofty expectations.
Though it proudly boasted the title of Nissan’s flagship sedan, it was neither sporty nor luxurious. With zero character lines and a tacky chrome grille that even Nelly wouldn’t wear, the Maxima’s styling certainly wasn’t its strong suit either. Even the mainstream Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, and Chevrolet Malibu look exotic in comparison.
Prior to the release of the redesigned eighth generation model, it was arguable whether the Maxima was worth saving at all. The Nissan Altima was arguably more stylish even without lofty luxury aspirations. With the Maxima’s 3.5-liter VQ V6 also available in the Altima, the performance difference between the two models was negligible at best.
However, it appears Nissan certainly aimed to re-establish its flagship model with the changes made to the new Maxima. Boasting an aggressive front fascia and blacked-out grille that extends into the lower bumper, the Maxima features styling cues similar to sport sedan offerings from both Lexus and Audi.
Though copycat accusations might come up, we’re not about to criticize Nissan for sharing an excellent eye for design. Besides, the Maxima’s satin silver boomerang is a unique touch all to its own that tastefully breaks up the front end. Arrowhead shaped headlights and an edgy front splitter add to the Maxima’s aggressive persona. The end result is a car that looks downright angry in your rear-view mirror.
The Maxima’s performance and handling have also been substantially reworked to give the car more of a sport sedan feel than the previous generation. Sodium-filled exhaust valves, reshaped intake valves, and a more efficient intake manifold enabled engineers to squeeze an extra 10 horsepower from the 3.5-liter V6 for an even 300 at 6400 RPM.
An upgraded rear suspension featuring new monotube ZF Sachs rear dampers improves handling and keeps the car planted in the twisties. Like the commercial eloquently reminds you, it’s even more fun in sport mode with sharper throttle response, heavier steering, and quicker shifts.
So while the Maxima may not be the four-door reincarnation of the GT-R, its striking looks and satisfactory blend of luxury, styling, and performance is sure to make it a legitimate competitor in the sport sedan segment.