Nissan releases eighth-generation Maxima; Mustang enters EcoBoost arena
We recently tested the 2016 Nissan Maxima at a press introduction and found it to be exactly what Nissan calls it: “A four-door sports car.” The Maxima is Nissan’s flagship model, and this eighth-generation version is assembled at the company’s Smyrna, Tenn., plant.
What’s to like on the all-new Maxima? Almost everything, in our view, from its bold new design features (inside and out) to its 3.5-L engine that produces 300 HP to its new lighter and more rigid chassis that adds that “sporty” feel. We like the V-Motion front en; the new boomerang-shaped LED front lamps; the new Drive Mode Selector (sport and normal) that adjusts throttle response, transmission tuning, steering feel; and the Active Sound Enhancement tuning.
While the Maxima’s inside comfort and utility are excellent, its handling characteristics are a huge selling point. Several features contribute to the excellent handling and ride, including a redesigned platform that uses more high-strength steel for the first time in a Nissan sedan; an independent subframe-mounted strut and coil spring front suspension; and a rear double wishbone performance-oriented design with ZF Sachs dampers. Larger stabilizer bars, Active Ride Control, and 18-inch wheels/tires add to the great handling and ride. (The SR model, one of five Maxima trim levels, has an exclusive Performance Chassis Damper package and 19-inch tires.)
Nissan design teams visited the U.S. Navy Blue Angels to capture design elements found on the Blue Angels’ airplane exterior and interior cockpit. As a result, Maxima has a more aerodynamic and sculptured exterior design, plus a very usable interior console and instruments. They include an eight-inch color display with multi-touch control, rear-view camera, the NissanConnect system with navigation, and the Advanced Drive-Assist Display (ADAD) that provides fascinating features, such as navigation routing and a power meter indicating actual engine output. The 11-speaker Bose audio system (standard on three trim levels) adds to the creature comforts along with Zero Gravity front seats available with premium Ascot leather trim.
Safety is not overlooked on the Maxima, with the Nissan Advanced Air Bag System, Vehicle Dynamic Control with Traction Control System, and (depending on model packages) Nissan’s Around View Monitor with Moving Object Detection, Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Blind Spot Warning system, and more.
The DOHC V-6 engine on the FWD Maxima is mated to a very smooth-shifting Xtronic automatic transmission with manual shift mode and sport tuning. The Maxima S starts at $37,410 and the top of the line Platinum model at $39,860.
Mustang remains a throaty sports car
Who said a Ford Mustang needs a V-8 to be fun? Our test of the 2015 EcoBoost Premium Fastback Coupe, the first EcoBoost offered on a Mustang, proved that a 2.3-L I-4 engine has abundant power and acceleration (310 HP at 5,000 RPM) for our sports car needs. Our tester had a MT82 six-speed manual transmission that worked well with the EcoBoost engine (320 lb-ft. of torque) and provided us close to the EPA/DOT fuel ratings of 22 MPG/city and 31 MPG/highway (the V-8 with a manual rates at 15/25 MPG).
One of our favorite features on our tested Mustang Fastback was its Triple Yellow Tricoat exterior paint (an added $495). It just fits the Mustang persona as long as you’re not Steve McQueen driving in the movie “Bullitt,” in which case darker green is better than yellow.
Another favorite feature, one we’ve treasured over many years of test driving, is the throatiness of the Mustang’s dual exhaust system. Powered by an I-4, V-6, or V-8, that Mustang sound is synonymous with enthralling acceleration, though for purists we admit the V-8 may be a bit more exciting.
While it is listed as a four-passenger sports car, the rear seats on the Mustang are best used for grocery bags or very small humans. But there is adequate front headroom (37.6 inches) and legroom (44.5 inches), plus leather-trimmed seats that are heated/cooled, and a premium audio system.
Standard equipment on the Mustang includes LED fog lamps and tail lights, rear spoiler, power/heated outside mirrors with turn-signal indicators, 18-inch machined aluminum wheels, rear-view camera, limited-slip rear axle, SYNC with MyFord Touch, and much more.
Compared to the previous Mustang model, the refined body control and structural stiffness of the 2015 Mustang make it more enjoyable to drive. Overall, we were pleased with the handling.
Our tester had an MSRP of $29,300 but with several options, including voice-activated navigation, upgraded 19-inch tires, reverse park assist, and other Mustang packages, the price popped to $36,660. There are eight total models of the Mustang, including hardtops and convertibles. The base Fastback V-6 starts at $23,800.