Nissan markets its Maxima sedan as a “four-door sports car.” Yet, it has no turbocharger and forgoes the manual or dual clutch transmission many people expect in a sporty car. How does its V6 and CVT stack up?
It doesn’t just stack up, it leads the industry in our opinion. We’ve driven Nissan/Infiniti’s V6 engine in the QX50 sports wagon, the new Murano, and now in the Maxima and our opinion of the engine goes up each time we have a chance to try it. We love its smooth power delivery, excellent torque curve, and its efficiency. We also like it because it busts the myth that to be a viable powerplant in 2016 an engine must use a turbocharger. The “VQ-Series” V6 engines from Nissan don’t use turbos.
This story had an odd timeline twist. After testing the 2016 Maxima this week, we were so impressed with the car’s 300 hp V6 engine and drivetrain that we thought it deserved a focus story. While we were preparing the story, WardsAuto announced that the Maxima’s 3.5-liter V6 “VQ-series” engine had been named to “Wards 10-Best Engines List 2016.” The Wards recognition only strengthened our already high opinion of the engine.
Tom Murphy, senior editor, WardsAuto.com, said about the Maxima’s engine, “The VQ, in displacements ranging from 3.0L to 3.7L, won 14 straight trophies between 1995 and 2008. This year, it returns with a significant overhaul. Like the 3.0L that dazzled us in the Maxima in 1995, the improved VQ makes for light, lively and refined power delivery, and the sterling midrange torque is still there. And we can’t recall ever getting 30 mpg from this engine long ago.” The 30 mpg the folks at Wards mentioned was true of our tester as well. In mixed city, highway and suburban driving in the Maxima over a week we saw 30 mpg. The EPA says you will get 25 combined and 30 mpg highway, which is still impressive for a car the Maxima’s size and power. However, it was the smooth and abundant power delivery that struck us as special. The V6 revs immediately, and the constantly variable transmission seems a perfect partner. Instant acceleration delivered without fuss is the general theme.
More and more automakers are moving to the 2.0-liter, four-cylinder turbocharged engine in their sporty cars. The myth is that small turbocharged four-cylinder engines can match the performance of a V6, while getting better fuel economy. Vehicles like the Nissan Maxima and Murano bust that myth. The Murano also uses the VQ series engine in a slightly different state of tune. The Murano’s fuel economy beats the 2.0-liter turbos in many of its slightly smaller competitors including the new Land Rover Discovery Sport. While delivering more power. Using regular unleaded.
Powerful, cost-effective, fuel-efficient and economical. Oh, and made in Tennessee. We are trying to think of a 2.0-liter turbo that tops this VQ and coming up with zilch.