Nissan gives its eighth-generation Maxima, redesigned for 2016, racier exterior styling, with a floating roof, a beefier beltline, an enlarged front grill and a fastback rear design. The car receives an upgraded interior that features a cockpit angled 7 degrees toward the driver, and a list of options that includes premium seat stitching, leather trim, a heated steering wheel and a dual-panel moonroof. Positioned to intercept younger premium-segment consumers, the new Maxima will re-emphasize the “4-door sports car” marketing tagline of years past. Nissan has redesigned the model’s standard V-6, kicked up the power to 300 hp at 6,400 RPM, and reduced the friction of its Xtronic continuously variable transmission. The car is now 79 pounds lighter, sits on a more rigid chassis and boasts a 14 percent improvement in fuel economy.
Nissan banks on racier Maxima to draw younger buyers
|2016 Nissan Maxima||2015 Toyota Avalon|
|Wheelbase||109.3 in.||110 in,|
|Width||73.2 in.||72.2 in.|
|Height||56.5 in.||57.5 in.|
|Curb weight||3,471 lbs.||3505 lbs.|
|Base engine||3.5-L DOHC V-6||3.5-L DOHC V-6|
|Horsepower||300 @ 6,400 rpm||268 @ 6,200|
|Torque, lbs.-ft.||261 @ 4,400||248 @ 4.700|
|EPA mpg||22 City/30 Highway||21 City/31 Highway|
Powertrain: 3.5-liter dual overhead cam V-6 with Xtronic CVT transmission
Features to notice: 8-inch display screen with Google online search functions, paired with a 7-inch instrument cluster display, with the ability to “finger-swipe” navigation directions from one screen to the other. Higher trim levels include: remote engine start; leather-appointed seats and heated steering wheel; paddle shifters, chrome interior finishes and aluminum sport pedals; rear window power sunshade, driver-side memory seat and mirrors and rain detecting windshield wipers
Safety: Predictive forward collision warning, intelligent cruise control, forward emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert and blind-spot warning
Target: The Maxima has historically delivered 50,000 to 85,000 U.S. sales a year. If Nissan stays in that range, it will be a coup, since the large car segment has been declining.
Competitors: Toyota Avalon, Hyundai Genesis, Chevrolet Impala, Acura TLX
Strengths: The sporty design, with its Navy fighter jet inspired cockpit, is more slanted toward younger performance-leaning buyers than to customers that typically come to the large sedan segment. Nissan is counting on this as a plus. “This is where we will be different,” says Nissan North America product planning chief Pierre Loing. “The large segment has been an aging demographic, and sales are falling for the segment as a whole. We see the look and performance of the Maxima as a way to appeal to younger customers who want a larger sedan.”
Weaknesses: Nissan can expect at least some blow-back from sophisticated consumers over the new Maxima’s “zero-option” marketing plan. Dealers will offer five clearly differentiated trim levels, but each level will offer no options beyond the factory package. As a business plan, that will allow Nissan to corral factory orders into fewer variations and improve customers’ ability to find their precise car faster. But it will disappoint those customers who expect to mix-and-match features.
Bottom line: The key for the Maxima will be its performance, and the car has been re-engineered with more power and a more efficient Xtronic transmission that allows the car to accelerate to top speeds smoothly -- but with a performance-grade stepped shifts at higher RPMs. The redesigned Maxima is a racy offering in a field that tends to be composed and stately.
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