“Prom Car” adventures with the 2016 Nissan Maxima

I’ve had a soft spot for the Nissan Maxima ever since it was my parents car of choice for well over a decade, an early 90’s model that just kept going and going, showing its age but still proving extremely reliable. Nissan’s come a long way since that early version of the Maxima, and the latest model, the 2016 Nissan Maxima SL, looked very BMW-esque from the outside, and definitely luxurious on the inside.

My 12yo K- pegged it the first time she saw the car when she excitedly declared that it was a “prom car”.

“A prom car? What’s that?”

“A car so fancy that you could borrow it to drive to the prom!”

With that in mind, I had a week to try out the 2016 Maxima, and really liked just about everything I experienced with the car. And more than once, people did compliment it on its lines, as you can see here:

2016 nissan maxima sl

The vehicle had excellent performance with its powerful 300-HP 3.5L V6 engine and Nissan’s all-knew continuously variable transmission that features “dynamic step shifting, wider gear ratio coverage, and an adaptive shift controller.” It’s a driver’s car, and man, when you push down on that gas pedal, it has tons of oomph!

As with most modern cars, there are a whole lotta things going on with the dashboard, hundreds of controls, switches, buttons and dials.

Here’s a sense of what I mean:

2016 nissan maxima sl dashboard

There are controls at your left hand, behind the steering wheel, on the steering wheel, and on the center console, all the way along from top of the dash to your elbow.

Look again at that steering wheel, however. It’s not circular. Nissan calls it their “D-Shape Steering Wheel”. In fact, it’s the first time I’ve experienced a steering wheel with a flattened part and I was quite surprise how much I liked it. It’s a great way to have a tactile orientation on the wheel and was a constant surprise as I drove around. Tempts me to get one for my Toyota.

But while we’re talking about controls, there was a problem with the side view mirror controls on the door, as is much more obvious in this photo:

2016 nissan maxima sl door controls

My guess is that it’s a quick fix at the dealership, pop off the cover, re-set the control and it’s fixed. But nonetheless a surprise on a manufacturer loaner vehicle and a reminder that even brand new vehicles can have glitches that need to be fixed. Oh, and the controls did work just fine.

On the other side of the driver’s seat, the driver’s console was well designed, particularly the two USB (two!) and AUX plug, hidden in a deep storage tray that probably used to be an ash tray for smokers:

2016 nissan maxima center console

The spin dial on the left foreground is an alternative control for the entertainment and navigational system, somewhat reminiscent of the BMW idrive. It was one of a number of ways you could interact with the system, so if you didn’t like the dial, no worries. That’s a benefit in a car, because not everyone likes this type of control, though it also then conflicts with the need for simplification of controls in a modern vehicle. Trade-offs.

Another feature that we appreciated in our “prom car” was the central arm rest in the back seat:

2016 nissan maxima back seat arm rest

Helpful, but just like with almost every other vehicle I’ve seen, why doesn’t it end up level with the ground rather than tilted forward by 10-15 degrees? Seems like it wouldn’t be too hard to engineer and it would be darn nice to have it level if you’re putting a snack plate or other things on it, as we did. Still, if you’re usually transporting one or two in the back seat, having the arm rest as a divider can be both helpful for storage (drinks!) and for territorial boundaries (his side / her side).

And then there was the mystery button on the dash labelled “Camera”.

A push and here’s what I saw:

"camera" button, dashboard, 2016 nissan maxima

After much research online, I figured out that it’s related to the Nissan AroundView Monitor, which, as they describe, “uses four cameras to give you a virtual composite 360º bird’s-eye view of your vehicle, with selectable split-screen close-ups of the front, rear, and curbside views.” Very cool, but here’s what’s weird: It’s only available on the Pathfinder, not the Maxima.

And finally, another exterior shot, one where you can really see the elegance of its lines:

2016 nissan maxima sl, exterior shot, boulder, co

I really liked the Maxima with its SL packaging. It’s surprisingly affordable for a luxury vehicle, priced at $37,938 with its leather interior features, heated steering wheel, blind spot warning system, rear cross traffic alert, and 3.5-Liter DOHC 24-vale V6 engine (which was darn peppy, I don’t mind saying, with its Xtronic transmission!).

Disclosure: Nissan Automotive loaned me the 2016 Nissan Maxima SL for the purposes of this review.

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