2016 Wards 10 Best Engines Test Drive: Nissan Maxima

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We had an opportunity in early October to get behind the wheel of the ’16 Nissan Maxima for our Ward’s 10 Best Engines evaluations, and I had every bit as much fun driving it as I’d been anticipating.

This Maxima is newly endowed with a new version of the 3.5L VQ V-6 that won 14 consecutive 10 Best Engines awards under the hood of various Nissan and Infiniti cars. What I got was 300 horsepower, albeit at a relatively high 6,400 rpms, and 261 pound-feet of torque. Robust numbers for what’s rightly called a sport sedan.

An all-new continuously variable transmission offers what Nissan calls more distinctive shift points, but I found the CVT silky-smooth. The powertrain is so responsive in every gear that the Maxima feels turbocharged, not naturally aspirated. More so in Sport mode, which bumped already-good driveability up a notch.

I got roughly 25 miles per gallon in combined city and highway driving, another pretty good number and an improvement over the previous VQ engine.  Port injection is a longstanding feature in the VQ, and that may be one factor behind the combination of power and fuel efficiency. The CVT is another.

Noise, vibration and harshness is minimal, unless you opt for Active Sound Enhancement to remind you of the power lurking under the hood of an erstwhile family-hauler. 

The top-end SL model I tested takes premium fuel and bases at nearly $37,000. But if you’re looking for something that can hold its own against pricier V-6-powered rivals, the Maxima delivers.

Jim Irwin 

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