The day my mother came home with her first new car (she’s only had two in 15 years and she’s been driving for nearly 30) was something I’ll never forget. The happiness, the moment of pride, the elation that she no longer had to share a car with her favorite oldest son. A beige 2000 Nissan Maxima, base model mind you. My mom didn’t care. It could’ve had shutter windows and only AM radio spilling out of a single speaker, no AC and have 10 horsepower. It was hers. She could go to church 10 times a day if she wanted to. She could drive across Canada. She could drive across the street. It was hers and boy, did she ever love that car.
She parked it in the furthest corner of parking lots to ensure nobody scratched or dented the car. Not a soul was allowed to drive the car for the first few years. She washed it all the time and it looked like new for at least five years.
Selfishly, my elation by association came when I realized that I could have the family 1987 Volvo station wagon all to myself, two speakers, tape deck and all. The Maxima was since handed down to my youngest brother, Josh, for a few years while my mom upgraded to a 2011 Infiniti G37. But that 2000 Maxima was a fixture on our driveway until spring of 2015 when Josh picked up a sporty Subaru BRZ.
What’s happened in 16 years to the Maxima brand? Well, there have been some ups and downs. There have been some not so attractive generations, specifically generation six (2003-2008) where the design team must’ve lost a bet to every other manufacturer. Generation seven saw a sleeker design but generation eight, well, that’s where Nissan shines.
Branded by Nissan as a “four-door sports car”, the 2016 Maxima is sculpted so well it puts 1980’s Arnold Schwarzenegger to shame. The front end is a textbook lesson in an aggressive, futuristic design coupled with a modernistic appearance and attention to detail. The LED daytime running lights are beautiful, the halogen headlights and overall shape of the front end is splendid.
The body design is a lesson in how to paint fluid lines from front to back and have combine an elegant, luxurious look with some muscle and flex appeal. The rear of the car, well, let’s use this picture to illustrate how it’s consistent with the rest of the car.
My mother was leaning towards getting another Maxima to replace the 2000 model and she happened to spot a G37 sedan next door to the Infiniti dealership next door to Nissan’s, realized the price was only marginally more than the Maxima and the rest is history.
The Infiniti is expected to be beautiful, luxurious and elegant.
The new Maxima is expected to be really good…but its ended up being beautiful, luxurious and elegant.
The 2016 Maxima and 2015 Q50 start at $35,900 and $37,500, a measly $1,600 difference.
You get a slightly bigger engine with 28 additional horsepower, Infiniti logo’s instead of Nissan ones and a few other differences. Heck, I’d pony up the additional $1,600 for the base model Q50.
Where the difference is prominent is in the top-end models.
The Maxima Platinum starts at $43,300 and then it’s off to the races checking off the option sheet.
The Q50 3.7 rear wheel drive Sport checks in a $48,950, before you add anything.
The cost difference? $5,650.
The drive quality is very similar with smooth power coming from both engines, great handling, cornering, and quiet cabin noise levels.
Nissan recommends premium fuel while Infiniti insists on it. Both engines perform incredibly and in the “I didn’t think this would happen!” file, the CVT doesn’t take the fun out of driving the Maxima. Not. One. Bit.
So perhaps, one is to wonder, “Has Nissan done too good a job on the new Maxima?” If I was offered a top end Maxima versus the top end Infiniti, I can say with certainty that I’d pick the Maxima. Nothing against Infiniti, nothing at all. It’s only that Nissan has done such a bang up job on this car that it’s hard to believe it’s not a luxury vehicle.
So yes, I feel that Nissan has in fact done too good a job on the Maxima that I think it will cut into sales of the Q50. It’s not quite all out cannibalization beneath the Nissan/Infiniti umbrella but expect there to be a very long parallel “which one should I pick?” list between the Maxima and Q50.
Back to the Maxima.
Inside, the centre console is anchored around an 8” touch screen module that gives you control over the audio, climate, navigation, Bluetooth, etc. The start button is an inch or so in front of the gear shifter and just behind the shifter is a joystick-esque rotary control knob (similar to BMW’s) that allows you to navigate the screen if you want to keep it fingerprint free. The Katy Perry climate controlled seats (Hot and Cold) are operated by knobs behind the cup holders. The premium “zero gravity” Ascot leather front seats on the Platinum model are oh so comfortable and the entire cabin is an exercise in attention to detail, just like the new Murano and the 11-speaker Bose entertainment system should come with a conductor’s baton as you enjoy a stellar balance of loud, clear, crisp and strong sound.
For the driver’s eyes, there’s a seven-inch Advanced Drive-Assist display giving you plenty of information and the flat bottomed steering wheel is a beautiful and sporty touch.
Oh, and the around view camera is pretty cool, as is all the technology jammed in the car, which includes available blind spot monitors, forward collision warning, driver attention alert, forward emergency braking along with many others.
As mentioned, the Maxima isn’t hampered by the CVT and performs quickly and responsively in drive and sport modes. Must be all that power and torque, 300 and 261 lb-ft respectively. Handling also receives near full marks as there’s a touch of lightness to the steering in drive. To combat that, throw it into sport mode to tighten things up and let the car show you what it can really do performance-wise.
Nissan has clearly outdone themselves and will be giving the Germans, Japanese, American’s and even the Kia K900 a reason to look in their rear view mirror with what they’ve sculpted in the 2016 Maxima. The “Four Door Sports Car” can easily be classified as a luxury car minus the luxury name.
Their marketing team claims “This is the new standard” tech-wise, they drew upon inspiration from US Navy’s Blue Angels for their design. But most importantly, the car is simply fun, fast, functional, futuristic, full of advanced technology and fantastic.
Congrats, Nissan, on creating a sedan/sports car that’s enveloped in luxury and making it too good for its own good.
Styling, value for money, an enjoyable CVT, available technology and driving pleasure
The bold redesign may cut into sales of the Infiniti Q50