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CRITICS' CORNER

Nissan Maxima: Lighter, more powerful with French flair

The eighth-generation of Nissan's flagship sedan has just gone on sale. This time, the big four-door wears swoopy, expressive styling and receives more technology than ever. The price is up over the old model, but the buying process should be easier: There are no options, just five differently equipped models from which to choose. Here are a few samples of recent reviews.

"Most of the parts comprising Nissan's venerable VQ35 3.5-liter V-6 are new, upping power a touch (to 300 horsepower at 6400 rpm, a 10-hp gain), without changing the torque peak of 261 lb-ft at 4400 rpm. Revisions include sodium-filled exhaust valves, reshaped intake valves, a more efficient intake manifold, and a stiffer oil pan. One notable omission is a move to direct fuel injection; Nissan is saving that worthwhile technology for its presumably more needy turbocharged engines. Engineers hoped EPA highway mileage would climb by 4 mpg to the enviable 30-mpg level, and the EPA has indeed certified the Maxima for 22 mpg city and 30 highway." -- Car and Driver

"The Maxima's lighter weight (it's now the lightest sedan in its segment) and improved power delivery manifests in rapid acceleration, confident braking and responsive handling. Performance-oriented drivers can opt for the sedan's Sport mode, which further adjusts throttle response, transmission programming, steering feel and exhaust tone to enhance the Maxima's driving characteristics." -- Forbes

"You'll want the SR trim if you really care about steering feel, as it offers the best of the bunch. In SL trim, the Maxima's steering is disappointingly short on feedback; the wheel turns easily but you don't get a sense of what the tires are experiencing at the road. There's a Drive Mode Selector with Normal and Sport modes that modifies gas pedal and transmission response and steering assist, as well as -- in certain trims -- engine sound prevalence in the cabin, but the slightly weightier steering feel in Sport doesn't do anything to address the lack of feedback. Press the Sport button in an SR, however, and the steering wheel gains a nice, firm heft to it and some feedback through the wheel. It feels right in this performance-focused trim." -- Cars.com

"One sits quite low, which might comport with Nissan's intent to create a sporty driving feel, but the low seating and coupe-like styling mean that climbing in and out takes some exertion, and the view out straight back and to the rear corners is a bit constricted, as well.

"Backseat space is quite good, but head room is somewhat skimpy there. It isn't so generous up front, either. The center rear seat is a narrow high perch with barely enough head room for a half-grown child. Rear ingress and egress are a little tough, too, because the door opening is narrow and the floor sills are high and wide." -- Consumer Reports

You can reach at autonews@crain.com. -- Follow on Twitter

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