We had a pet name for the Maxima SR during its awesome week in the speed fleet. But like some nicknames are, it is hauntingly accurate and also slightly insulting...
Resisting it in this review created major writer's block. How to clear the logjam?
Tell you our nickname for the 2016 Maxima SR, and then explain why it is actually a loving salute to the car's awesome, Dodge Charger-rivalling handling and machismo on the road.
So what is it?
We referred to the Maxima SR as...
The Bonneville GT-R.
Now, that might not sound too bad. But among car enthusiasts, any mention of the lardy, plastic-cladding-laden Bonneville is typically a big thumbs-down.
Or it could be a reference to the Bonneville Salt Flats -- where land speed records are made every day across the giant evaporated lake's glassy-smooth and endless surface. But that doesn't work. Despite being very fast... the Maxima SR also loves bends for 2016.
The GT-R part is self-explanatory -- the new Maxima has been on a mission to re-establish its 4DSC (four door sports car) roots since its first teaser concepts two years ago.
We'll touch more on the nickname as it applies in the standard review headings below: Exterior, Interior, Performance, Pricing and Summary. Along the way, there are two HD drive videos and 80 photos of the deeply sexy new Maxima's low, long and wide stance.
HD Road Test Review - 2016 Nissan Maxima SR
Drive Video - Part 1
The new Maxima is a clean-sheet redesign with not a bulb carrying over from the previous generation. And all the better for it! This car is wearing intriguing design elements from all sides -- nowhere more so than the nose.
A single-frame grille with gloss black details for the intake mesh and central bumper piece is set off by numerous, deep changes in the surface. What looks like a solid black grille with chrome accents is actually a 3D marvel of flowing, deep and intricate design. Examples? The slim ring of chrome around the lower edges of the bumper like a chinstrap. Or the V-motion signature double bar of chrome - -which is actually completely curled around in almost a tubular shape. Very different from the deliberately flat/beveled edges on this grille on Nissan trucks. The V-motion shield stands proud of the inner intake meshwork, as does the huge Nissan badge, and appear almost floating in space.
The protruding lower bumper forms two modest splitters. Sports-car-like stuff, for sure, as is the longer-looking new hood design with its wind-swept creases.
Lots of descriptors, then. Bottom line? The Maxima SR's nose is memorable, sexy and unmistakeable for anything else -- Nissans and Infinitis included.
And with the standard LED DRLs lit up? Forget-about-it!
This Max has a mean street stare all its own.
The LED look is slightly odd at first sight: the light lines the inner portions of the headlamp units versus the typical outer-most position preference for LEDs. This does spike the nose downward visually when you see the car on the road. Along with a nicely-hidden FWD overhang and floating roof.. .the Maxima does a very convincing 'next-gen GT-R?' doubletake on other drivers.
The arc of creased metal shooting over the front wheels and into the doorline is also fresh and well-done. And very likely on the R36 GT-R of ~2018.
The profile of the Maxima definitely wins the 'most improved' trophy over the previous few generations of the 4DSC.
The floating roof look is created by blacking out the A, B and C-pillars. This looks HOT on cars with aftermarket tinted glass like Texans love -- it makes just one elegant, black line of glasshouse. Like a concept car, or, in fact, the GT-R R35.
The roof caps off this design coolness with actual lowness: it is a good few inches closer to the ground than most full-size sedans. Think Chevy Impala, Lincoln MKS etc to realize how Charger-like the Maxima's low roof is. Not a copy of the Charger at all. Just sharing the knowledge that low roofs look cool. And the cabins are so big that a low roof and more-reclined seats are what set these cars apart in the marketplace of Camrys.
A minimal chrome line on just the lower edge of the windowline sets off the look nicely, upkicking around the rear three-quarter-window and grounding the wide rear fenders. The whole effect pushes the look of the Maxima toward a cab-backward, RWD proportion as much as possible.
The tail of the Maxima is less memorable than the nose and profile, perhaps, but it is no less well-executed. Pinched boomerrangs of red LED mark out the Maxima from the back this year, along with a very large sense of width and lowness again. From the pure tail amgle, the Maxima looks very serious and very expensive.
And also fairly HOT! In terms of powerrrrr, that is.
CHeck out the dual 4.5-inch exhaust cans down below! Those are 370Z NISMO stuff right there... but fitted as standard to the Maxima SR sport model in a six-trim range.
The cabin of the Maxima is where the car really sold me.
The minute I opened the door and saw this sea of dark, quilted leathers and giant sports bucket seats... I knew this would be a fun week.
And the good times kept rolling inside. On first sitting, the Maxima has one of the best driving positions of any 2016 car at any price. Heavenly. Low, leaned-back and with elbow room for days. This is full-size American fun!
What it really feels like inside is a lot like a musclecar. Black (or tan) Alcantara and Ascot leather all around, interesting pearl-diamond inlays for the doors, dark and sinister black headliner up above.
And for the center console? A wide swath of silvery finish for the shifter and cupholder pods, then all piano black for the center stack. Giant touchscreen within easy reach, and dedicated control buttons for the auto climate and main stereo functions like tuning and volume.
It all just works.
Roomy, premium and smooth on the roads. The Maxima SR's ace in the hole for drivers, though? The incredibly comfortable seat-base-extender slides out manually below your thighs. Along with the suede and leather finish, the Maxima sits you low and right in the middle of the action. Great body support for hard corners, and even decent legroom in back. The perma-reclined rear seat is comfortable if slightly dark on the moon-roof-free test car, but is genuinely wide enough for three and plenty big to fit four huge dudes comfortably.
As ever, the Maxima is a star among really tall people for all these reasons. Bonus points for the extra roomy footwells, flat floor all around and perfect dead-pedal to brace with your left foot when showing off the car's moves.
The final delight -- and the part of the Maxima we instantly missed upon swapping it for the rear-drive Infiniti QX50 directly afterward?
On this SR trim Maxima -- but perhaps all of them -- the chunky rim diameter, all-new four-spoke wheel design and firm feel are all A-plus work that would fit in any supercar.
Even a GT-Rrrr? Perhaps in the future...
The SR ups its sport cred with a flat bottom and leather wrap with extra grips, plus two giant elephant-ears of fixed paddle shifters behind. These stay vertical on their steering-colum mount as the wheel moves left or right, but they are always a finger-flick away. Check out the below video for a solid launch demo.
HD Drive Video - Part 2
The Maxima's standard V6 and available five-speed made its original mark on the world as a 4DSC, and one of those continues today. No stickshift, but the Maxima delivers a thumping 300HP for 2016 as standard. Not half bad!
In fact, it is all awesome. The Maxima is FAST.
That is always a good way to make friends, right? 6.0-seconds is the ballpark estimate, but some have reported 0-60-mpg runs for the new SR Maxima in the 5.7-second count. That makes it much quicker than any Charger V6, and only slightly behind the Charger R/T V8. Excluding all Camry/Sonata/Accord from this competitive set.
There is no comparison.
The Maxima drives like a macho man's sports car. Those don't.
Through masterful chassis tuning, GT-R-infused Intelligent Dynamics-control Module (IDM) brain, the Maxima SR is holding three aces at the poker table of sport sedans.
IDM's Three Aces
Active Trace Control.
This turns the Maxima SR into the real handler of the family. New sport suspension, extra rigidity through chassis braces and wider rubber helps the SR always feel superbly planted around corners.
But with ATC, you now keep the engine in a direct drive-type of programming for the new Xtronic 3, throttle and steering. The end result is a Maxima SR that is so smooth and chill on highways. And at the flick of the wheel, ready to power into, around and out of corners on full throttle. Laughing all the way. With near-zero torque steer in most cases, too.
Active Ride Control.
This is the second major benefit of the SR over its Platinum, SL, SV and S trim cousins.
The ride control selectively firms up the dampers in Sport mode. The result is a zero-slop experience. Even around corners with big elevation changes! The Maxima hangs on gamely and feels like one solid piece. Great interplay and working-together sense about the suspension all around -- one totally absent on most front-drive cars like the Volvo S60, for example.
Active Engine Braking.
This one sounds like a no-brainer. The Charger in S drive mode does this flawlessly, bruummming a smooth downshift as you approach a turn. Then holding that gear til either you let off the throttle or redline approaches. Like a sports-car, then.
The Maxima has to work harder delivering this same trick. The SR-exclusive IDM system and these three aces really make a HUGE difference in driving pleasure. It feels meaty and purposeful. Yet light and tossable.
Heaven has four doors!?
The Active Engine Braking for the Maxima is automatic in Sport mode (vs normal) and also works with a left-paddle pull. The paddle-shift or automatic engine braking makes this very-different new CVT design come to life. You finally have DCT-like accuracy and gear control of the Maxima SR's seven predefined ratio's.
As mentioned, the Maxima is very rapid. It pulls strongly and only sticks on its horsepower peak during full-throttle launch starts. Otherwise, it is upshifting a bit in most scenarios of hard driving, like a normal automatic would.
The difference is that the Maxima SR in Normal mode also gets seriously efficient. Infinite gear ratios help deliver 22mpg-city, 30-mpg highway numbers that are deeply impressive.
Another hurrah for the Maxima's performance chops?
The SR fires up with a deep, gargling exhaust note! From the nearly-all-new 3.5-liter VQ engine, the sound is very fresh and much more like the GT-R than it resembles the trademark Infiniti G37 sound.
Six trims of the Maxima are detailed at the footer of this page, but our SR is the third-highest and best-equipped. The new SR Midnight package is the one we'd pick!
With just floormats over the $37k base price, the delivery-charge and final bottom line is just under $38k.
Ode to the 4DSC:
If that gurgle-burble of exhaust sets the mood...
then the Maxima's design buys your dinner.
The cabin takes you up to the club's VIP loft,
and the all-new tech is the goodnight kiss on your doorstep.
The fact that the Maxima is so, so much more involving, modern and luxurious than the 2016 QX50 tested after it? That surprised even us.
We loved our Maxima date. This one's a keeper!
What would really add some fireworks to the new 4DSC date? AWD, a V6TT and a maybe even a stick-shift....=]
The 2016 Maxima SR is a must-drive car.
Racy like a GT-R... but roomy, fast and smooth as a Bonneville special.
2016 MAXIMA - COMPARE VERSIONS AND SPECS
2016 Maxima®S - Starting MSRP *$32,510
2016 Maxima®SV - Starting MSRP *$34,490
2016 Maxima®SL - Starting MSRP *$36,990
Starting MSRP *$37,770
- SR features include:
- Sport-tuned suspension
- Integrated Dynamics-control Module
- 19" Aluminum-alloy wheels
- Premium Ascot Leather-appointed seats with Alcantara® inserts
2016 Maxima®SR Midnight
Starting MSRP *$38,965
- Includes SR features plus:
- 19" Black Aluminum-alloy Wheels
- Black Sport Spoiler
- Black Rear Bumper Diffuser
Starting MSRP *$39,960