Nissan Maxima
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Overall

Since Nissan has been focused on its smaller and mid-sized cars, the full-size Maxima is due for an update that it will receive for the 2015 model year; still a great-looking set of wheels.

Drivetrain

A 290-horsepower V6 feels a bit underwhelming, but provides enough thrust; the continuously variable transmission cuts into the sedan’s otherwise sporty persona.

When luxury manufacturers such as Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW started calling their four-door sedans “coupes” it was considered ground-breaking. However Nissan beat all if them to the punch by a couple decades… the Maxima has always been the company’s four-door sports car after previous attempts kept getting cushier and cushier. It looks like a premium automobile instead of a plumped-up Altima, even though both share the same front-wheel-drive platform. The only piece missing is a six-speed manual transmission that would provide irrefutable proof as to the Maxima’s sporting chops. Premium- or Sport-package-equipped models receive a support brace running width-wise behind the passenger compartment that promotes more predictable cornering, but the cargo-extending fold-flat back seat disappears in the process. Inside, there’s plenty of space and comfort for five people, but the semi-bucket rear-seat design on the Sport package is an acknowledgement that there are rarely more than two people back there. Under the hood is a 290-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 connected to a continuously variable transmission with built-in “steps” that can be orchestrated using the optional steering-column-mounted paddle shifters. Drivers can also engage the transmission’s “Ds” (for Drive sport) mode that allows for higher engine revs between steps, maintains engine speed while cornering and generates automatic engine braking when decelerating. The drivetrain and revised suspension components have been thoroughly tested on Germany’s famed NŸrburgring racetrack, which is a favorite of many manufacturers, to ensure the car would pass muster as a sports tourer. The standard-content highlights include dual-zone climate control, moonroof, power-adjustable front seats, keyless remote entry with push-button start, Bluetooth wireless networking and an eight-speaker audio package. From that point, the sky’s the limit with heated and cooled leather sport seats, dual-panel moonroof, navigation system, rearview monitor, 19-inch wheels (18s are standard) and a premium sound package available. A new-for-2014 S Value package adds a smoked headlight lenses for the HID headlights, 18-inch dark gray wheels, a rear spoiler, fog lights and more all in one fell swoop.

Base price (incl. destination): $31,800
Type: Four-door sedan
Base engine (hp): 3.5-liter DOHC V6 (290)
Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Transmission: Continuously variable
MPG (city/hwy): 19/26
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; stability control; traction control
Weight (lb.): 3,540