LA QUINTA, Calif. -- We log time in the incredibly comfy "zero-gravity" driver's seat of the 2016 Maxima SR -- Nissan's re-invented premium sports sedan – while driving across the jagged Laguna Mountains of southern California and through low sandy deserts to the golfing oasis of La Quinta near Palm Springs.
What this road test reveals is a large and luxurious touring sedan in stunning new geometric-themed package with a muscular new powertrain aboard plus authentic performance hardware that enables the vehicle to romp up mountain grades and dance around wiggly curves as easily as it powers down a multi-lane interstate highway like the I-8 slab or maneuvers deftly through traffic in an urban sprawl like Palm Springs.
Nissan's marketeers describe the new Maxima as a 4-door sports car in this generational remake -- the eighth -- which reaches from rails to roof and produces a vehicle that's longer and lower and leaner than previous iterations. Erected on a 109.3-inch wheelbase, Maxima of 2016 stretches for 192.8 inches long by 73.2 inches wide and rises to 56.5 inches high.
Note the aggressive shape of the package: Inspiration for the design stems from the Nissan Sport Sedan Concept showcar which defined Nissan's futuristic design language with components such as that curvaceous V-Motion prow, boomerang-streaking headlamp clusters, wavy forward fender blisters and kick-up C-pillars plus a roof that seems to float over the cockpit.
Also note that the wheels spread wide on Maxima's chassis, as the wheel track width measures to 62.4 inches front and back. Pushing wheels to edges of the platform adds stability to the stance and enhances Maxima's agility when maneuvering through a curvy course.
There's a redesigned front-wheel-drive (FWD) powertrain aboard Maxima in V6 format, plus new mechanical systems to improve ride and handling traits, and more standard content in safety equipment. Maxima's suspension is independent with a subframe-mounted strut/coil-spring front suspension and a multi-link arrangement in back with monotube rear dampers.
A vented disc brake mounts to every wheel and all link to the anti-lock brake system with electronic brake force distribution. Further, every 2016 Maxima has a traction control system plus Nissan's vehicle dynamic control device which checks lateral skidding on slippery pavement.
All five trim variations of Maxima 2016 draw from a juicy aluminum VQ35DE 3.5-liter V6 engine which has twin cams on top and four valves for each cylinder. It delivers top-grade beef -- 300 hp at 6400 rpm with 261 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm. Premium fuel is recommended but EPA-estimated fuel economy figures tally to 22/30 mpg city/highway.
The engine links to an advanced continuously variable transmission (CVT) labeled Xtronic with Adaptive Shift Control, D-step shift logic and Drive Mode Selector (Sport and Normal modes).
Maxima's rigid unibody structure whittles out a spacious cabin fitted with premium materials and fine craftsmanship. The layout pitches a pair of bolstered buckets in front and a second-row bench for up to three adults with a seatback that splits 60/40 and folds to expand the cargo area of the trunk, which holds 14.3 cubic feet.
Nissan builds the 2016 Maxima in five trims -- base S, upgraded SV, well-equipped SL, sport-tuned SR and luxe-loaded Platinum.
Maxima S (MSRP: $32,510) stocks 18-inch aluminum wheels, LED daytime running lights, 2-zone climate controls, 8-way power driver seat, dual USB ports and NissanConnect navigation with 8.0-inch display. Maxima SV (MSRP: $34,490) upgrades with leather upholstery, heated front seats and parking sensors, while Maxima SL (MSRP: $36,990) adds a 2-panel panoramic moonroof, 11-speaker Bose audio kit and safety controls like predictive forward collision warning, intelligent cruise control, forward emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert and blind spot warning.
Maxima SR (MSRP: $37,770) has sport suspension tuning with front chassis performance damper, integrated dynamics-control module, 19-inch aluminum alloy wheels with 245/40R19 tires, LED low beam headlights, Ascot leather seats with quilted Alcantara leather inserts, climate-controlled front seats, paddle shifters and aluminum sport pedals.
Maxima Platinum (MSRP: $39,960) piles on all premium features of SV and SL models but also lists a power tilting/telescoping steering column, rear window power sunshade, the Around View Monitor and Driver Attention Alert, rain-detecting windshield wipers and mahogany wood-tone cabin trimwork.