2016 Nissan Maxima at Denver Auto Show

2016 Nissan Maxima in Detail, Bumper to Bumper

The new Maxima is more than a showcase of Nissan's design language going forward, it's also a showing of what the company feels a "sports sedan" is all about. And it's a great thing.

We first laid eyes on the 2016 Maxima at the Denver Auto Show just a few days after it's debut in New York. It's an amazingly eye-catching sedan that incorporates the floating roof look of the 2015 Murano as well as its own, unique muscular appeal that promises fast handling and good performance.

Now that the 2016 Nissan Maxima is in showrooms and hitting the streets, we know far more about the car than we did before.

The overall design is called "Energetic Flow" by Nissan and it works very well. The plunging grille, gloss-black pillar finishes for the floating roof, and aggressive fender lines are all the most obvious parts of this design. Like many other Nissan designs, the new Maxima's look is "out there" compared to its more contemporary rivals and that's both a good and a bad thing. This isn't Nissan's first foray into the polarizing world of "love or hate" designs and it's paid off for them with other models, such as the Juke and the new Murano. Cars like this have significant appeal to those who are no longer interested in the "blend in" styling many vehicles in the midsize and large sedan markets utilize.

The standard powerplant in the 2016 Nissan Maxima is a 3.5-liter V6 providing 300 horsepower. The engine is smooth and well-mannered, delivering an EPA estimate of 25 mpg combined through its Xtronic continuously variable transmission. That's one of the best in the segment for MPG.

On the road, the Maxima isn't as soft as some competitors like the Chrysler 300 or Toyota Avalon, returning a lot of satisfying road feel to the driver without being harsh. This is another polarizing point with some buyers perhaps being put off by the lack of cush and roll in the ride. It is on target with the Maxima's sport sedan focus, however, and is likely to match the desires of those who like the exterior's aggressive style.

Nissan doesn't skimp on the interior in the new Maxima either and has put a lot of effort into making it a luxurious experience without the luxury price tag. Where it skimps is in rear seat roominess and comfort, but not so much so that it becomes less usable as a full-sized sedan. That said, tall drivers and passengers should forego the panoramic moonroof option as it greatly impedes on headroom. The trunk is very well done, though, with plenty of room and enclosed lid arms so there's no danger of things getting crumpled.

The real eye-catcher in the 2016 Maxima's interior are the three screens. Yes, three. There are two in the instrument cluster, both at 7 inches, and an 8-inch screen at the console. A new Display Commander knob controls all three screens with many common controls being accessible on the steering wheel as well.

Although the 2016 Nissan Maxima is not for everyone, it is a beautiful car that speaks to a specific cadre of buyers. As the Maxima always has, with its "4-Door Sports Car" tagline having been its focus for years now. The new updates also make it credible as an entry-level luxury sedan competitor, so top-trim Maximas should be cross-shopped with Buick and similar brands.

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