It’s been over two decades since the Nissan Maxima could truly be described as a “four-door sports car,” but Nissan insists on continuing to use that flattering descriptor.
Unveiled at the 2016 New York Auto Show, the 2016 Maxima is a big, front-wheel drive sedan, which is far from sports car territory, regardless of Nissan’s PR rhetoric.
What the Maxima is is a stylish, aspirational model that can set the tone for the rest of Nissan’s somewhat uninspired mainstream models. Right now, that mission is much more important than keeping up the old four-door sports car myth anyway.
The overall look appears a little busy in photos, but pulls together nicely in real life. The Maxima also rides remarkably low for a modern big sedan, adding to its visual appeal.
While the styling is radically different, the powertrain formula isn’t. Nissan is sticking to a setup similar to the previous car’s, with a 3.5-liter V6 driving the front wheels through a CVT automatic transmission.
The V6 produces 300 horsepower, 10 more than the outgoing model, and Nissan says it will get 30 mpg highway, an improvement of 15 percent.
While a fairly large, front-wheel drive chassis doesn’t seem like the ideal platform for a sporty car, Nissan claims the new Maxima lapped California’s Buttonwillow Raceway faster than the sports-sedan benchmark BMW 328i.
For 2016, Nissan is also adding an SR model with some extra performance tech, including a “Performance Chassis Damper” meant to quell vibrations generated by the model’s stiffer suspension, and an Integrated Dynamic-control Module for adjusting different vehicle parameters.
All Maxima models come with a Drive Mode Selector with Normal and Sport modes, the latter with a system that pipes engine noise into the cabin.
On the inside, the Maxima features plenty of tech, including standard navigation with an 8.0-inch central display. There’s also a 7.0-inch display wedged between analog gauges in the instrument cluster.
Voice recognition, hands-free text messaging (Android only), and an 11-speaker Bose audio system are also available.
There are also several notable safety features, headlined by a Driver Attention Alert system that analyzes steering inputs to determine if the driver is zoned out, and uses audio and visual warnings to rouse him or her.
In addition, the Maxima is available with adaptive cruise control, automatic braking, forward-collision warning, and blind-spot monitoring systems.
The 2016 Nissan Maxima goes on sale in June, with pricing starting at $32,410.
At that price, the Maxima looks like a very nice car, but not a four-door sports car.
So Nissan, if you don’t say anything, neither will we.