Performance Up, Price Down: The 2016 Nissan Maxima SL

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Nissan Maxima
The 2016 Nissan Maxima.

We are having a sudden burst of cars at TireKicker that we have not driven in some time.  For our Publisher and Executive Editor, it had been seven years between drives in the Honda Pilot.  Now comes the Nissan Maxima, and it's been nearly as long---five years since Michael reviewed the 2011 model.

In the intervening five years, the Maxima has gone through some major changes.

Rear 3/4 view of 2016 Nissan Maxima
2016 Nissan Maxima.
In fact, the Maxima is all-new for 2016, replacing the seventh-generation Maxima which dated back to the 2011.  Styling is more distinctive this time around, but also a matter of taste.  Some like it, some do not.  The 3.5-liter V6 has been coaxed to produce an even 300 horsepower rather than last year's 290, and the EPA fuel economy estimate of 19 city/26 highway five years ago is 22 city/30 highway today.

The car is a couple of inches longer and about an inch and a half lower than the outgoing model. More importantly, the car is 82 pounds lighter, which, combined with the extra 10 horsepower, makes it faster and more responsive. And changes to the ratios in the continuously variable transmission get the credit for the boost in fuel economy.  The CVT also has been programmed for better response when the Maxima is being driven enthusiastically, and enhanced engine sounds (like those Michael wrote about in his recent review of the Ford F-150 with Ecoboost) create the illusion that a traditional automatic transmission is changing gears at specific shift points under hard acceleration.

Always one of the better-handling full-size sedans, the new Maxima also has a firm but not punishing ride.  Just enough to convey that the mission here is sport above luxury.

Interior view of 2016 Nissan Maxima
2016 Nissan Maxima interior.
Which is not to say luxury has no part in the equation.  The Maxima---especially in SL trim, like our test vehicle---is awash in leather and features that come standard (click here for the list). And the price is reasonable, as well, with a base for the SL model of $36,890.  Most of what was optional five years ago is now standard, and our test vehicle, with an extra $220 for floor and trunk mats and a trunk net plus $825 in destination charges, actually had an as-tested price $125 below the one Michael tested in 2011, at $37,935. It is a better-performing, more fuel-efficient, more distinctive automobile for less money.  It is hard to imagine a better selling point than that.