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Nissan Maxima
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Nissan
Overall: Nissan states that its eighth-generation Maxima sedan is every inch a “four-door sports car.” We’ve heard that before, but are they right this time?

Drivetrain: A solid-performing V6 makes 300 horsepower; the continuously variable transmission is easy to live with.

The latest “Max” covers a broad spectrum, from well-equipped luxury mount, to agile sport sedan capable of snaking around curves and tackling straight-aways at a reasonably rapid pace. Visually, the car displays a level of aggressiveness that makes most other automakers’ luxury sedans appear staid by comparison. The flashy chrome grille, curvaceous body panels and sweeping rear end signal that this Nissan loves flaunting its stuff. Underpinning the attractive body is the next-generation Altima-based architecture that’s lighter as well as 25 percent more rigid. The new sheetmetal adds just over two inches to the car’s length, but a slightly lowered and elongated roofline makes the Maxima appear much longer. Inside, the controls are straightforward, the “Zero Gravity” front chairs are supportive and the pushbutton starter has migrated to the console right next to the shifter. The Maximna’s 3.5-liter V6 sends 300 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels via a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with seven built-in steps and “Sport” and “Normal” operating modes. For 2016, Maximas are available in five distinct trim levels with virtually no options in any of them. The base S is stuffed with dual-zone climate control and a navigation system with eight-inch touch-screen display. There’s also an eight-way power driver’s seat and a four-way power passenger’s seat as well as a number of crash-avoidance monitors, alerts and interventions. The SV adds leather seat covers (heated in front) and parking sensors, while the dual-panel panoramic moonroof and high-end Bose stereo are SL goodies. The top-end Platinum comes with a drowsy-driver alert that warns if you’re nodding off behind the wheel. There’s also a system that detects people or objects approaching in the vehicle’s path. For enthusiasts, the sporty SR includes most Platinum content, but deletes the moonroof to help lower the car’s center of gravity and maximize structural integrity. The SR comes with paddle shifters, 19-inch wheels (18-inchers are standard) and electronically controlled dampers that firm up the ride.

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