Nissan to unveil next-gen Maxima in sport sedan concept form at 2014 Detroit Auto Show

Nissan isn’t saying much about the concept car it plans to unveil at the 2014 Detroit Auto Show, and it may not need to.

The Japanese carmaker will show a “Sport Sedan Concept” in Detroit, and that’s about all car enthusiasts need to hear.

Nissan’s teaser image depicts a car with a swooping hood line, low roof, and the company’s latest v-shaped grille. Many of these details will probably be toned down if the car ever makes it to production, but they should make quite an impression on the show stand.

A true sport sedan would be a return to form for Nissan.

The maker of the GT-R and 370Z was once known for building some of the sportiest sedans this side of Bavaria. The Maxima was known as the “four-door sports car” until it switched from rear-wheel drive to front-wheel drive in the early 1990s; Nissan still cheekily applies “4DSC” decals to the current Maxima.

Nissan struck again in 2002, when it placed a 3.5-liter V6 derived from the motor used in the 350Z sports car in the mid-size Altima, making it the muscle car of the family sedan segment. A year later, it launched the Infiniti G35, the first Japanese sport sedan that could truly compete with the vaunted BMW 3 Series.

Sadly, all of these cars have become shadows of their former selves. The current Altima and Maxima are powerful, but they’re both more Buick than BMW. The Infiniti G has mutated into the Q50, an overweight car with spooky robotic steering that only an IT professional could love.

Nissan has become somewhat bipolar, producing a line of competent but uninspired mainstream offerings (Sentra, Altima, Pathfinder) on the one hand, and exciting or downright zany models on the other (GT-R, 370Z, Juke). However, there’s precious little cross-pollination between the two sides.

Will Nissan turn things around with its Detroit sport sedan concept? We’ll find out January 13, when it’s unveiled in Cobo Hall.

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