Skip navigation
Fighter Jets Inspired ’16 Nissan Maxima

Fighter Jets Inspired ’16 Nissan Maxima

As part of creating the eighth-generation sedan, a Nissan crew spent quality time with the Blue Angels jet-fighter air-show team.

NASHVILLE – Nissan isn’t the first automaker, and probably won’t be the last, to draw styling inspiration from aircraft. Legendary General Motors designer Harley Earl says he got the idea for car tailfins of the 1950s from World War II fighter planes.

Today, the driver’s spot in a car now is called “the cockpit.” Automotive engineers and stylists often fixate on aerodynamics. It makes one wonder if Boeing might ever try automaking. If it does, my advice is to lose the retractable wheels.

As part of creating the eighth-generation ’16 Maxima sedan, a Nissan crew went to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, FL, to hang with the Blue Angels fighter jet air-show folks. 

The Maxima development team says the quality time there helped inspire them to create a flagship sedan with a jet-fighter theme. Wisely, they didn’t outfit the car with air-to-surface missiles.

But they did make it sleek with the likes of a “V” grille, boomerang lights, wraparound windshield and a “floating roof” that creates that look due to the A-pillar’s acute slant and the C-pillar’s inconspicuousness. 

Nissan developed a special metal stamping technique to highlight the new car’s distinctive bodyline and scalloped doors. The goal was to create a standout entry amid a crowd of competitors.

The ’16 Maxima is longer (2.2 ins. [5.3 cm]) and lower (1.3 ins. [3.3 cm]) than its predecessor. It’s also lighter (82 lbs. [37 km]) and tighter (25% more torsional rigidity on a redesigned platform) to enhance sport-oriented driving dynamics.

Nissan dubs the Maxima a 4DSC, which stands for 4-Door Sports Car. Demographically, typical Maxima buyers huddle in the 45 to 65 age range, and many of them like zestful driving.

The Maxima won’t take flight, but at ground level it offers a high-grade ride, crisp handling and plenty of agility (and comfort) during a media preview drive near Smyrna, TN. That’s where Nissan makes the Maxima and sister vehicles. Expected to produce more than 650,000 units this year, Smyrna is North America’s largest-volume auto plant.

Cleared For Takeoff

During the drive along highways and byways, we didn’t go airborne once (fortunately) and always felt confident in the car’s cockpit, which Nissan, taking it up a notch, calls the “command center.”

The fighter-jet theme carries into the vehicle’s interior, but designers knew when to stop. A plane cockpit is stuffed with all sorts of switches and dials. That’s fine for pilots, but potentially overwhelming for motorists.

Accordingly, Nissan reduced the number of switches and buttons from 25 on the outgoing Maxima to 10 on the new one. That was done previously on the Murano CUV, a 2015 Ward’s 10 Best Interiors winner.

Fewer controls don’t mean less connectivity and infotainment capability. The Maxima piles that on, as evidenced by the assorted readouts on both an 8-in. (20 cm) screen above the console and a 7-in. (18 cm) screen that’s front and center on the instrument panel. A swipe function allows information, such as route guidance, to appear on both the bigger screen as well as the IP screen, which arguably is the more important of the two. At least it is for the driver.

In the pursuit of friendlier human-machine interaction, the new Maxima comes with a console-mounted controller knob that allows users to access various functions, from changing radio stations to adjusting climate controls, without reaching. 

Such controllers first appeared more than a decade ago on the BMW 7-Series, and many people disliked them. Now, various versions of i-Drive show up on more and more vehicles. BMW must feel vindicated.       

Nissan touts the Maxima’s Driver Attention Alert system as a segment first, although it is on other vehicles. The system uses sensors to monitor steering input patterns. It continuously compares driving patterns with a baseline, and does a statistical analysis of steering- correction driving behavior.

If that sounds complicated, the end result is pretty simple. When the system detects possible driver drowsiness or inattention, the IP display screen flashes the image of an amber coffee cup, accompanied by “Take a Break?” Hint, hint. Good reason for that. AAA attributes 20% of fatal crashes to drowsy driving.

Other Maxima safety features include the usual list of advanced technology in upmarket vehicles: forward-emergency braking, predictive-collision warning, rear-cross traffic alerting and blind-spot detecting.

The Maxima goes on sale in June. Buyers needn’t spend a lot of time mulling over options. That’s because there are none, really. “It’s that simple,” says Eric Ledieu, the vehicle’s chief marketing manager in North America.

Sure, you can pop for accessories. But otherwise, customers will pick from five trim levels ranging from the base S model at $32,410 to the Platinum grade at $39,860. An $825 destination charge is tacked on to all choices.

Nor is there shopper head-scratching on what powertrain to pick. To paraphrase Henry Ford, you can have any engine you want as long as it’s a V-6. That said, Nissan is particularly proud of the one powering the Maxima.

It’s a revision of the VQ-Series 3.5L engine. It contains 61% new parts, including cylinder heads, piston surfaces and sodium-filled exhaust valves that conduct heat from the combustion chamber. Redesigned intake valves are wider and shorter for improved combustion.

The updated engine cranks out 300 hp, or 10 more than its predecessor. Output is 85.7 hp/L.

Back in the cockpit, the touch of a button puts the car in sports mode. With some sports-mode options, you wonder if pushing that button actually does anything because nothing perceptibly changes. But you sure can tell when the Maxima kicks into sports mode. You’re cleared for takeoff.

The steering tightens, the accelerator becomes touchier and the Xtronic CVT gets more aggressive.

Oh, about the CVT. Some people generally don’t like a transmission without fixed gears. That’s because early CVTs seemed to noticeably wander all over the place, disconcerting drivers in the process.

But certain automakers, notably Honda and Nissan, have since offered more refined CVT versions. In the Maxima, there’s no lag time in which the transmission is catching up with the engine. 

People who disdain CVTs because of unpleasant experiences with earlier systems should check out some of the new ones. Like the Maxima’s. It’s great.

[email protected]

'16 Nissan Maxima Specifications 

Vehicle type 4-door, 5-seat sport sedan
Engine 3.5L DOHC port injection V-6, all aluminum
Power (SAE net) 300 hp at 6,400 rpm
Torque 261 lb.-ft. (352 Nm) at 4,400 rpm
Bore x stroke (mm) 95.5 x 81.4
Compression ratio 10.6:1
Transmission CVT
Wheelbase 109.3 ins. (2,769 mm)
Overall length 192.9 ins. (4,927 mm)
Overall width 73.2 ins. (1,854 mm)
Overall height 56.5 ins. (1,435 mm)
Curb weight 3,471 lbs. (1,510 kg)
Base price $32,410
Fuel economy 22/30 mpg (10.7-7.8 L/100 km) city/highway
Competition Chevrolet Impala, Acura TLX, Toyota Avalon, Buick LaCrosse, Ford Taurus, Chrysler 300
Pros Cons
Strong driving dynamics Only one engine option
Interior craftsmanship CVT great but faces public perception issues
Superior infotaiment system and display Lots of competitors


Hide comments


  • Allowed HTML tags: <em> <strong> <blockquote> <br> <p>

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.