- Well-made and attractive interior rivals those of luxury-branded sedans
- Easy-to-use tech controls
- Abundant features for the money
- Sharp driving dynamics
- Top crash scores
- Backseat and trunk aren't very spacious given the car's cost
- Price is high given the car's size and Nissan badge
- SR model's firm ride
- All-wheel drive is not available
The Maxima has always been Nissan's luxury leader, but conservative styling and a too-similar résumé to Nissan's Altima have made it a tough sell for many consumers in recent years. That could change for 2016, as Nissan has redesigned the Maxima to help the car stand out more between mainstream family sedans and entry-level luxury cars.
Certainly, the 2016 Nissan Maxima is one of the more dramatic-looking sedans to come out this year. The new model is 2.2 inches longer and sits 1.3 inches lower than its predecessor, enabling sleeker styling and better aerodynamics. Overall curb weight is down slightly, while structural rigidity has increased, changes that Nissan says contribute to improved efficiency and handling. There are incremental gains under the hood, too, as Nissan has revised the Maxima's 3.5-liter V6 to produce 10 extra horsepower while using less fuel.
Lower and sleeker, the 2016 Nissan Maxima has been redesigned with a bolder look than before.
Changes can be found on the inside of the 2016 Maxima as well. The interior design looks more luxurious than before, and most materials are high quality. In particular, the upper trims' leather and simulated suede upholstery give the Maxima a premium and sporty feel. A new touchscreen technology interface with a separate rotary controller, allowing the driver to choose his or her favorite way to operate the system, is another welcome change this year.
Really, the 2016 Maxima exists in a curious no man's land among segments. It has a similar badge, and it's priced similar to full-size sedans like the Buick LaCrosse, Dodge Charger, Hyundai Azera (and its Kia Cadenza cousin) and Toyota Avalon, but has a much smaller backseat and trunk. At the same time, it has a much more luxurious cabin and better performance than well-equipped midsize sedans like the Honda Accord and Mazda 6, which are cheaper and actually also a bit more spacious as well. Finally, there are entry-level luxury sedans like the Acura TLX that share many of the Maxima's traits (not to mention the Audi A4s and BMW 3 Series of the world), but they obviously offer a luxury badge, unlike the Maxima.
As such, saying how the Maxima compares to others in its class is impossible; it really doesn't have a class. Instead, should you be interested in any of the above cars, the Edmunds "B"-rated 2016 Nissan Maxima is certainly worth close consideration.
WHAT'S NEW FOR 2016
After a one-year hiatus, the Nissan Maxima returns for the 2016 model year. It's been fully redesigned.
The 2016 Nissan Maxima is a five-passenger midsize sedan available in five trim levels: S, SV, SL, the sporty SR and the top-line Platinum.
Standard features of the base S model include 18-inch alloy wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, keyless ignition and entry, dual-zone automatic climate control, power front seats (eight-way driver and four-way passenger), a 60/40-split folding rear seat, an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. Electronics features include a large gauge cluster display, an 8-inch touchscreen display, a navigation system, a rearview camera, Bluetooth phone and audio, two USB ports and an eight-speaker sound system with satellite radio, HD radio and a six-disc CD changer.
The SV model adds heated outside mirrors, front and rear parking sensors, leather upholstery, heated front seats and extendable thigh support and power lumbar for the driver seat.
The SL model gets a panoramic sunroof, a heated steering wheel, ambient interior lighting, active noise cancellation, active sound enhancement, a premium 11-speaker Bose audio system and adaptive cruise control. It also adds several safety features (see Safety section below).
With upscale materials and a standard 8-inch touchscreen, the 2016 Nissan Maxima is a step above more common family sedans.
The sporty SR adds 19-inch wheels (with available summer performance tires), a sport-tuned suspension, Active Ride Control (uses the brakes to quell body motions over bumps), Active Trace Control (uses targeted braking to keep the vehicle on its intended path) and active engine braking that helps slow the car when heading aggressively into corners or approaching a stop. The SR also has LED headlights, premium leather upholstery, simulated suede interior trim and heated and ventilated front seats. The SR lacks the panoramic sunroof, however.
The SR is available with the Midnight Edition appearance package, which includes a different wheel design and black trunk and under-body spoilers.
To the SL's equipment roster, the Platinum adds the LED headlights, a power-adjustable steering wheel, driver memory settings, premium leather upholstery, automatic wipers, a power rear sunshade, a 360-degree parking camera system (with a moving object detection system) and a driver attention alert system. The Platinum also features Nissan Connect.
INTERIOR & SAFETY
The Maxima may not have the brand name of a luxury car, but it has the interior of one. Passengers are surrounded by quality materials, including soft-touch surfaces on most of the major touch points. Nissan's "Zero Gravity" seats are present as well. They're supportive, though we haven't found these to be as superbly comfortable as the ones in the Altima. One particularly thoughtful feature is the bin mounted forward of the shifter that contains two USB ports, space for the largest phones on the market and a slot to mount a phone vertically so you can see messages as they pop up.
The 2016 Maxima's intimate, well-trimmed interior is one of its strongest suits.
The Maxima's 8-inch touchscreen interface is paired with a redundant control dial (called "Display Commander") that's located on the center console, giving drivers multiple ways to control the various functions. When paired with a smartphone, the system can read incoming text messages aloud through the speakers and even conduct Google searches. A navigation system is also included. In general, the system is intuitive and responsive to inputs, but as of this writing, Nissan Connect's collection of apps for smartphone integration is quite limited.
Room front and rear is acceptable, but the Maxima can't match the rear seat space of similarly priced sedans like the Chevrolet Impala or Toyota Avalon. Similarly, the Maxima's 14.3-cubic-foot trunk capacity is smaller than those of midsize sedans, let alone full-size ones.
Standard safety features on the 2016 Nissan Maxima include antilock brakes, traction and stability control, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and a rearview camera. Standard on the SL and above are a blind-spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert and a forward collision warning and mitigation system with automatic braking. The Platinum model also adds a 360-degree parking camera system with a moving object detection system that sounds a beep and gives video alerts on the center screen when even small objects are moving anywhere around the vehicle. The Platinum also includes a driver drowsiness monitor and Nissan Connect, which includes automatic collision notification, remote starting, emergency calling and stolen vehicle locating.
In government crash tests, the 2016 Maxima earned an overall score of five stars (out of a possible five), with five stars for total front-impact safety and five stars for total side-impact safety. The Maxima also earned top scores from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, receiving a "Good" rating in the moderate- and small-overlap frontal-offset impact tests as well as a "Good" rating in the side-impact, roof-strength and seat/head restraint tests. The IIHS also tested the Maxima's forward collision mitigation system and awarded it a score of "Superior."
In Edmunds brake testing, a Maxima Platinum with all-season tires stopped from 60 mph in 122 feet, an adequate showing by class standards.
PERFORMANCE & HANDLING
Under the hood, the 2016 Nissan Maxima features a familiar 3.5-liter V6, but it is updated this year to produce 300 horsepower (up 10 from last year). Torque stays the same at 261 pound-feet. The lone transmission is a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that drives the front wheels.
In Edmunds.com testing, a Maxima Platinum sprinted from zero to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds, which is average for a sedan in this segment with a V6.
EPA-estimated fuel economy ratings check in at 25 mpg combined (22 city/30 highway), which is a bit better than most of its rivals.
The 2016 Maxima isn't really the "four-door sports car" that its marketers would have you believe, although it does feel rather sporty until you start to explore its modest limits. The steering is precise, body motions are fairly disciplined when going through turns, and the car is generally fun to drive. Notably, the SR model has 19-inch wheels instead of 18s, plus a sport-tuned suspension. Those features slightly improve overall agility, but the ordinarily supple ride becomes firm -- perhaps too firm for some buyers. No matter which trim level you pick, the Maxima is quiet at highway speeds.
If you're looking for a sporty family sedan, the 2016 Nissan Maxima should be an excellent choice.
The 3.5-liter V6 provides ready and willing power across the rev range, and it works well with the CVT, although torque steer is noticeable during hard acceleration (The addition of all-wheel drive would correct this and improve traction to boot, but it's unavailable). As with other CVTs, the Maxima's transmission has no fixed gear ratios. However, Nissan has added seven simulated gear ratios that are used in certain instances to provide the feeling of a regular automatic transmission, minimizing the prolonged high-rpm droning that has given CVTs a bad reputation. We generally like the result, as the CVT does a pretty fair impression of a conventional automatic without giving up its edge in fuel economy.
The redesigned 2016 Nissan Maxima is worth a look if you're searching for a car that's more exciting and refined than a typical family sedan, but not so expensive as to be in true luxury-car territory. Read more to see what you might think of the new Maxima.