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Nissan’s Sport Sedan Concept: the Maxima we’ve been praying for (minus rear-wheel drive)

Nissan is in the middle of an identity crisis.

The Japanese automaker builds great performance cars, in the form of the GT-R and 370Z . Then it confirms its technological leadership with the all-electric LEAF. And builds some cars, like the Juke and Murano CrossCabriolet, that are just plain weird.

Yet Nissan’s mainstream offerings aren’t exciting, groundbreaking, or weird. They’re boring.

Nissan hopes to change that, beginning with the Sport Sedan Concept it unveiled at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show.

This concept will eventually morph into the next Maxima, and its styling will set the tone for the rest of Nissan’s sedan lineup.

The Sport Sedan Concept features the same floating roof, “boomerang” headlights and taillights, and “V-Motion” front fascia as the Resonance and Friend-ME concepts unveiled at the 2013 Detroit and Shanghai shows, respectively. They’ve never looked better than they do on this sleek four-door.

With its mechanistic trim bits and giant wheels, the Sport Sedan Concept looks like a futuristic Hot Wheels car for a family of four.

The copious curves seen on the current Altima have become more taught, and the lower roof gives the car a sportier look. The way the side glass bleeds into the rear via a black trim piece is a refreshing change from the imitation-BMW Hofmeister kinks that seem to adorn every midsize sedan.

The headlights and taillights have also creased into more aggressive shapes, while the grille looks like an attempt to copy Audi’s signature shield, albeit with the V-shaped treatment from the current Rogue.

On the inside, the Sport Sedan concept features a sporty flat-bottomed steering wheel, and the seemingly-obligatory center-stack control center that contrasts the somewhat retro white diamond-quilted seats and trim, meant to echo the cabin’s geometric surfacing.

Most of the Sport Sedan Concept’s styling details will probably be eliminated as the car makes its way to production; expect it to have a cleaner, less shout-y look when it reaches showrooms.

One thing that probably won’t change is the powertrain. The Sport Sedan Concept has a “300-plus horsepower” 3.5-liter V6 under its svelte hood, which drives the front wheels through a continuously-variable transmission (CVT).

That’s a slightly more powerful version of the powertrain in the current Maxima, dashing the hopes of Nissan junkies praying for a return of the old rear-wheel drive first-generation car.

Future Nissans may not be canyon-carvers, but at least they’ll look good on the morning commute.

Looking for more Detroit news? Check out the rest of our coverage from the 2014 North American International Auto Show.

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