2016 Nissan Maxima Platinum
Beautifully finished luxury sedan with a focus on sport
With the plethora of large luxury sedans from mainstream volume brands you’d think they were popular, but the majority merely boost their respective automaker’s rep than reap profits. Really though, after reviewing some of the numbers from last year’s sales chart I’m starting to wonder if only a few are doing anything to enhance brand image.
It seems that Chevy fans are enjoying a large car renaissance with the big Impala topping the list with 116,825 sales during 2015, the Dodge Charger coming in second with 94,725, Toyota Avalon third with 60,063, Chrysler 300 fourth with 53,109, Ford Taurus fifth with 48,816, Buick LaCrosse sixth with 42,035 and the Nissan Maxima I’m reviewing here placing seventh with 40,359 sales. To its credit the totally redesigned Maxima beat out the Hyundai Genesis at 31,374 deliveries, although that car is priced a bit higher due to more premium-like credentials and available all-wheel drive, plus later this year it will get a name change to G80 and only be available through Hyundai’s new Lexus-fighting Genesis luxury brand, which means the only two remaining stragglers are hardly competition because they sell in such embarrassingly low numbers, but I’ll include them anyway in order to complete the competitive analysis with the Kia Cadenza finding 7,343 buyers and Hyundai Azera just 5,539 new owners during 2015.
I’m purposely not including the larger, more luxurious Kia K900 and Hyundai Equus models due to their much higher pricing, but really their numbers hardly make a blip on overall stats with sales of just 2,524 and 2,332 respectively last year (no doubt mostly to Hyundai and Kia dealer principals forced to buy from within). Those big rear-drive Korean luxury sleds aside, expect to see a number of these full-size four-doors made available in rental fleets the next time you’re lining up to pay for your Cruze or Corolla loaner.
Nissan will not be happy that Maxima sales actually dropped by almost 20 percent last year despite being the introduction year for this all-new model. It’s hard to believe that the 2002 model had more than double the sales way back in 2002, even brushing up against six figures, but the entire auto market has changed significantly since then. While current Maxima sales don’t likely achieve the level of critical mass needed to influence buyers at the street level, the car will nevertheless wow Altima and Sentra buyers who’ll feel better about their chosen brand after seeing it in the showroom, and it’ll build morale amongst Nissan dealership employees and the automaker’s in-house workforce who’ll feel prouder about the brand that pays their bills, if the 370Z and GT-R didn’t already do this in spades. Those who actually take time to sit inside will be even more impressed, although the fewer still who take it for a spin might leave with mixed emotions, depending on the roads chosen for the test drive.
Note to Nissan sales people: choose very smooth surfaced roads. When driven on such the Maxima will leave you breathless, especially if there’s a tight curve or three in between the usual long sweepers and straights. Few front-drivers will match the new Maxima for all-out grip through corners, as long as no unforeseen bumps or dips get in the way of the good time. Hit some broken pavement or worse mid-apex at speed and things immediately get more exciting, albeit not in a positive way. It’s as if Nissan set the Maxima’s suspension up solely for freshly paved racetracks, with mere ripples in the tarmac immediately felt through the rigid undercarriage, this lack of wheel travel unraveling the car’s composure during such aforementioned moments of lost adhesion, my tester’s 245/45R18 Yokohama winters not the stickiest rubber available as it is.
This Platinum model is certainly more compliant than the Maxima SR I tested and reviewed earlier this year, that car’s ride quality near punishing. It’s a shame too, because the rest of the car is so very good. Well, most of it is. There’s a CVT in place of a regular automatic that might put you off as it seemingly hunts for pseudo gears while, in my case, fingers feverishly fumbled to find paddles for manual control in desperate hope of positive shifts forward, but none could be found in this luxury-trimmed variant, therefore this continuously variable transmission wasn’t as engaging as the SR’s albeit neither are as enjoyable at the limit as the Infiniti brand’s torque-converted seven-speed autobox with rev-matched downshifts, but few are. Its shortcomings aren’t as noticeable during downshifts where it quickly finds a suitable range for the engine to rev, but during full-throttle upshifts where the next gear interval is so infinitesimally small that it’s hardly worth the effort I was left wishing for something more conventional. On the positive the CVT provides enough slip at takeoff to almost completely eliminate torque steer, often a problem with high-power front-drive cars, while if you drive the Maxima moderately you probably won’t notice there’s anything different about it at all.
The shining light in the Maxima’s madness is its fabulous award-winning 3.5-liter V6, tuned to produce 300 horsepower and 261 lb-ft of torque for spirited acceleration from standstill and even more stimulating passing prowess. This is a great engine that ideally suits the Maxima’s flashy bodywork, not only delivering strong performance along with a stimulating engine note, but also providing smooth, quiet operation, at least when foot isn’t planted on the go-pedal. That’s actually how I like the Maxima Platinum best, with Sport mode turned off and comfort tuned in. Tool around town at posted speeds and this much more relaxed Maxima Platinum is a truly enjoyable companion, while it’s a dream on a smooth highway, delivering miles and miles of competent open road enjoyment.
Depending on your take of its exterior design, mine being on the positive, the Maxima’s strongest card is its superb interior. Put it up against the majority of premium mid-size contenders and you’ll happily drive away in Nissan’s flagship sedan, the brand’s wonderfully light and compact oval-shaped proximity-sensing key fob in your pocket, unless the firm ride and CVT put you off or your ego needs the stroke of a luxury brand. I’m pretty sure yours doesn’t or you wouldn’t be so far into this review, cars like this Maxima and the others mentioned for those who appreciate the finer things in life but don’t see the need to pay mega bucks for four rings, a blue and white roundel or three-pointed star. This is Infiniti’s premise after all, it being a Tier 2 luxury brand that delivers much more for the money than the just noted Germans, and oftentimes much more all together, while this Maxima goes even further than Infiniti’s mid-size entry when it comes to a sporting ride and styling extremes.
The big Max’s interior is a superb combination of new edge design, resplendent luxury and quality craftsmanship, with more soft touch surfaces than offered by Audi’s A6, much of it highlighted with light-beige contrast stitching. That prestigious model doesn’t even cover the sides of its lower console with high-grade composites, and like the Maxima it leaves much of its lower dash and glove box lid finished in cheaper feeling hard plastics. A nod to the A6 for soft surfaced door panels from top to bottom, the Max only finishing the door uppers, inserts and armrests in the premium stuff, but hey, with the average A6 costing near twice the price of this Maxima and not even offering as many top-tier features we can cut Nissan some slack.
This luxuriant Platinum is different than the more sporting SR model I tested earlier, the latter model’s metal trim substituted for a diamond patterned imitation woodgrain that, unfortunately, really does feel hollow and fake. Its linearly angled mahogany grain is gorgeous, however, as is the Cashmere beige and black interior motif that goes even further to provide luxury leanings than the all-black and metal SR, that model using Alcantara psuede to enhance its performance credentials. The Platinum model’s driver’s seat is mostly the same comfortable and supportive eight-way powered perch found in base SV trim, albeit with powered lumbar support, a manual thigh support extension, memory functions and forced ventilation joining standard heat.
The latter controls are found on the glossy piano black lacquered plastic lower console that melds right into the center stack, also covered in the same inky surfacing. Set atop that is a large, clear and colorful infotainment touchscreen surrounded by buttons for accessing its menu, navigation mapping, audio functions, etcetera, while the screen itself houses digital quick-access buttons across its lower edge for delving more in-depth with features such as hands-free text messaging, NissanConnect with Mobile Apps, SiriusXM Traffic and more, whereas a rotating dial and three go-to buttons provide easy control of the comprehensive system from back down on the lower console. Although not yet upgraded with Android Auto or Apple CarPlay, my smartphone connected easily and the system’s Bluetooth worked without incident throughout my weeklong test, while the integrated rearview camera with active guidelines provided a clear view behind when required.
Now that we’re talking features, the Maxima Platinum won’t disappoint. It all starts out with that base model’s standard list which includes 18-inch alloys on 245/45R18 V-rated all-seasons, auto on/off halogen projector headlamps, LED DRLs, fog lights, signature LED taillights, dual chromed tailpipes, remote start, proximity-sensing keyless access with pushbutton start, powered side mirrors, an auto- dimming rearview mirror, overhead sunglasses storage, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, a leather-wrapped tilt and telescopic multifunction sport steering wheel, a leather-wrapped shift knob, a seven-inch primary gauge display, cruise control, the large eight-inch infotainment display just noted, navigation, a rearview camera, dual-zone auto HVAC, an excellent sounding eight-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/WMA audio system with an aux plug, two USB ports, satellite radio, HD radio, Bluetooth streaming audio, and RDS, while the list continues with the eight-way powered front seat noted a moment ago as well as a four-way powered front passenger’s seat, and finally all the class average active and passive safety equipment, the final tally coming in at $32,510 plus freight and dealer fees.
The second-rung SV adds heatable side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, heatable front seats, leather upholstery, powered lumbar support plus a manual thigh support extension for the driver’s seat, plus front and rear parking sonar for $34,490, whereas the SL adds adjustable ambient LED interior lighting, a heatable steering wheel, an upgraded eleven-speaker Bose audio system, adaptive cruise control, active noise cancellation, active sound enhancement, blind spot warning with rear cross traffic alert, predictive forward collision warning and autonomous forward emergency braking, plus more for $36,990, while Lastly, while my previous SR tester upped the ante with aluminum sport pedals along with the already noted 19-inch alloys on 245/40R19 W-rated all-seasons, sport suspension, climate-controlled front seats, gorgeous diamond-patterned Liquid Chrome inlays, Ascot leather-wrapped steering wheel with Alcantara-suede insert and paddle-shifters, and Ascot leather-trimmed seats with diamond-quilted Alcantara inserts for $37,770.
Alternatively my Maxima Platinum tester starts and finishes at $39,960 plus freight and gets many of the items offered in the SR, less the sportiest bits including the paddle shifters, suspension upgrade, 19-inch rims, etcetera, while adding the already noted mahogany wood-tone faceted trim and non-suede treatment to the steering wheel and perforated diamond-quilted Ascot leather seats, as well as auto-dimming and reverse tilting side mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, a powered tilt and telescopic steering column with memory, an Around View monitor with Moving Object Detection (MOD), NissanConnect Services powered by SiriusXM, Driver Attention Alert that monitors various parameters in order to figure out if you’re getting tired and may need a break, a dual-pane powered panoramic glass sunroof, a powered sunshade for the rear window, and more. The Maxima Platinum certainly delivers on luxury.
The Platinum’s rich looking seats deliver good support all over, but the lumbar support could only be powered in and out, not up and down. It fit my backside well just the same, while the rear seat was also comfortable and much more accommodating than the car’s four-door coupe profile suggests. The trunk surprises as well, with 14.3 cubic feet of cargo space plus the inclusion of standard 60/40 split-folding rear seatbacks for hauling longer items like skis.
Now that we’re talking practically, the Maxima gets an impressive EPA fuel economy rating of 22 mpg city, 35 highway and 25 combined, while it also achieves a five-star NHTSA crash test rating as well as the best possible IIHS Top Safety Pick + ranking, plus good expected reliability.
Finally, even in this classiest of Platinum trims the new Maxima exudes a sporting demeanor that attracts a lot of positive attention. Its V-shaped front fascia portrays a wholly unique personal statement, and that’s not the only unique angle. From profile my tester’s rich Coulis Red paintwork shows off the car’s floating C-pillar design better than darker colors like my Maxima SR tester’s Gun Metallic or its various deep blues and blacks, that C-pillar covering comprised of a thin strip of glossy black and chrome separating the roof from the upper portion of the fenders. Sharply angled LED taillights add fast moving visual dynamics to the rear design, while a diffuser style rear bumper cap finishes off the back end. The look should either turn you on or off, with little room for waffling in between.
As the numbers show, Maxima targets an exclusive group of discerning owners, and I can appreciate what caused them to lay down the $32-$40k. It’s a strong performer with fast-while-standing-still styling, while it’s endowed with a fabulous interior filled with impressive features. While Nissan is way too invested in CVTs to listen to my input with respect to their transmission choice they may want to consider giving this most luxurious Platinum version a more compliant suspension than currently offered, but other than these criticisms it’s a very strong entry in this highly competitive luxury sedan segment. If your taste leans more towards performance than comfort you should give the new Maxima a try.
Story credits: Trevor Hofmann, American Auto Press; Photo credits: Karen Tuggay, American Auto Press; Copyright: American Auto Press.