The 2016 Nissan Maxima has faced sibling rivalry issues with its little brother, the Altima. It was almost an identity crisis for the Maxima, which struggled to prove it was something more and therefore worth the extra price. The 2016 Maxima makes the difference clear in a well-designed package that puts it firmly ahead of the Altima and sets its sights on luxury brands.
The way a car look matters, especially in trying to differentiate one sedan from another in the same brand. The Altima, which is all-new for 2016, kept getting bigger and fancier and started looking a lot like the Maxima. It made it tough for people to rationalize spending the extra dough on the Maxima. This year, Nissan made sure the difference between the two cars is clear, starting with styling.
It gets a large grille with lots of angles and sculpting that make it aggressive. The trend is to make sedans look like sports cars because who doesn’t want to drive a sports car? The key is in making it look sporty without being intimidating because it is still a sedan. The Maxima pulls it off, looking one part comfortable, easy sedan and one part flirty sports car.
The great styling continues inside where it’s hard not to be impressed. The 2016 Nissan Maxima SL has an 8-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support and manual thigh support while the passenger has a 4-way power seat. Seating and the steering wheel are leather as well as heated and to say they’re comfortable is an understatement.
They call them Zero Gravity front seats and they’re designed to have a little extra bolstering to hold you in place during high-G cornering. Unlike true sports seats with heavy bolstering that can make a driver feel squished, the Maxima’s seats are supportive and comfortable. They make it feel like a luxury car even though you won’t be paying that kind of price.
The interior of the car frankly screams luxury at every angle thanks to those fantastic seats and the quality of materials. Chrome, leather, and gloss black finishes never look brash and create an appealing and tasteful interior. It’s a nice place to be for a morning commute or a road trip.
Power comes from a 3.5-liter V6 engine with a wonderfully quiet CVT. Those aren’t words often used to describe CVTs which can be whiny and annoying, especially under heavy acceleration. This one is neither and it made the Maxima a pleasant drive. The 300-horsepower engine is powerful and responsive, and while it’s definitely not a sports car, it’s not boring either. There is a sport mode button that provides a slightly sportier drive, but don’t get your hopes up. The difference is very subtle and did little to change the overall driving dynamics.
The ride is quiet and smooth, just as it should be in a large sedan, with minimal road and wind noise. This is where the luxury car vibe comes in once again by coddling passengers and keeping the outside on the other side of the glass rather than letting it intrude into the relaxing interior.
Infotainment includes NissanConnect with navigation and an 8″ color touchscreen. Sound comes from an 11-speaker Bose audio system with AM/FM/CD/MP3 and SiriusXM satellite radio. There is Bluetooth streaming capability, two USB ports, and steering wheel mounted audio controls. Voice recognition for audio and navigation is also standard along with hands-free text messaging assistant to help keep the driver’s attention focused on the road.
There are also a number of standard safety features including traction control, blind spot warning, rear cross traffic alert, predictive forward collision warning, and forward emergency braking. These are all standard on the mid-range SL trim but aren’t available on lower trim levels.
The only additional available safety features not on the SL are moving object detection and driver attention alert, which only come on the top of the line Platinum. One thing you can’t get on any Maxima is all-wheel drive. This is a front-wheel drive car only, which may be a turnoff to those who live where winter hits hard.
Pricing on the Maxima SL starts at $36,890 with the Platinum coming in at $39,860. This gives the very luxury car Maxima a much more affordable price than you might expect. The base S starts at $32,410 so you’re solidly in the $30K range no matter which trim level you choose to drive.
The 2016 Nissan Maxima might not be a true luxury car, but that’s what it’s aiming for and it comes darn close. The interior ride and quality is incredible and the styling is appealing and modern. It also has enough power to make it an exciting ride rather than just another big sedan. All those things for under $40K make the 2016 Nissan Maxima a slice of luxury for the rest of us.
2016 Nissan Maxima SL
Base Price: $36,890
Price As Tested: $37,090 (not including destination charge)
- Quiet CVT
- Gorgeous Interior
- No All-Wheel Drive
- Limited Safety Options in Lower Trims