For nearly four decades, the Maxima has been Nissan’s flagship offering in the U.S. Over the years, it’s built a solid reputation for offering a dynamic driving experience in a roomy sedan package.
The Nissan Maxima is a car with which I’m high familiar. As an automotive journalist, I spend most of my time in cars behind the wheel of everything from Audi and McLaren’s red hot supercars to the latest electric cars from Tesla.
But my personal car is decidedly less advanced — a 2000 Nissan Maxima in a sporty “SE” trim. The 2000 Maxima was one of the finest Japanese sports sedans of its day. Armed with a powerful V6 engine and well-balanced handling dynamics, the Maxima was a real performer.
But what makes my Maxima interesting is not what’s on its option list. Rather, it’s what is missing from the list that intrigues. There’s no traction control (although it was available as an option), no surround-view cameras, and definitely no infotainment system to speak of.
And while I only spend 15 to 20 miles a week behind the wheel of my tech-free Maxima, I find it to be a great palate cleanser from the buffet of technology-laden test cars that flow through Business Insider’s suburban New Jersey auto test center.
Recently, I had the chance to spend a few days behind the wheel of a 2016 Maxima on the streets of Atlanta. The striking blue Maxima test car Nissan let me borrow is decked out in their performance “SR” spec. It’s a true descendant of my Maxima SE.
This gave me the perfect opportunity to examine first hand just how far cars have come over the last decade and a half.
16 years later, Nissan rolled out an all-new 8th generation variant of its flagship sedan. While the exterior styling have certainly changed quite a bit, it's the in-car technology that's really moved forward.
Inside, my Maxima is truly a relic of a time before Facebook, YouTube, and the connected car. In one respect, it's virtually devoid of any technology. And yet, one could argue that there's beauty in it's simple and uncluttered presentation.
Apart from a few cruise control buttons, the steering wheel is just that. An apparatus used to steer the car and not a remote multi-media controller.
On the other hand, the 2016 Maxima is loaded with technology. The steering wheel is equipped with controls for everything ranging from hands-free calling to toggles for it's on-board computer.
In my Maxima, the audio system was just an audio system. It's a got a radio, CD player, and a cassette deck (if you don't know what that is ask your parents.). And that's it.
The 2016 Maxima's center stack is built around an 8-inch touchscreen display featuring Nissan's latest infotainment system. For cars equipped with a Bose stereo system, Nissan even offers active noise cancellation through its speakers -- making its interior a much more refined place to be.
The HVAC controls on the 2000 Maxima consists of a simple set of buttons and dials. Although a basic electronic climate control system was available as a high-end option.
In addition the new Maxima is equipped with a slew of cameras and sensors that give drivers a complete view of its surroundings.
On the other hand, I perform maneuvers such as reversing and parallel parking the old school way -- with mirrors.
Speaking of safety technology, the new Maxima is loaded with Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW), Intelligent Cruise Control (ICC), Forward Emergency Braking (FEB), Rear Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Blind Spot Warning (BSW), and Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC). My car has ABS and that's about it. Nissan has improved the overall crash worthiness of the Maxima as well. While the 2000 Maxima earned the IIHS's second highest crash test rating, the 2016 car earned the institute's highest rating.
But what hasn't changed that much is the driving experience. Although the new Maxima is much larger and a bit heavier, its remains engaging to drive. It's not quite up to Nissan's 4DSC or 4-Door Sports Car marketing slogan, but it's far from dull. Both my SE and the new SR come from the factory with stiffer 'performance' tuned suspension. Remembering back to when my Maxima was new, the new car definitely rides a bit better.
Under the hood of the 2000 Maxima is a 222 horsepower, 3.0 litre, VQ V6 engine. That year it was named one of the 10 best engines in the world by Ward's Automotive with its editors calling the VQ 'the best V6 engine ever.'
For 2016, the Maxima is powered by the latest version of the VQ engine -- now with 300 horsepower and 3.5 litres of displacement. And Ward's Automotive is still impressed by the engine. It's made the publication's 10 best engines list 15 times over the past 21 years.
Power flowed to the front wheels of the 2000 Maxima through either a 4-speed automatic or a 5-speed manual transmission.
For the latest Maxima, Nissan has installed a continuously variable transmission. While many of its rivals have turned to hybrid drive systems to improve fuel economy, Nissan is banking on the CVT to keep the big V6's thirst for premium gas in check. Nissan has spent years perfecting the CVT and have even built in simulated shift points that mimic a traditional automatic.
As much as things have changed, they have also stayed the same. Both the 2000 and the 2016 Maxima are standout sports sedans of their respective eras. As modern as my car was in its day, the bar for automotive excellence has been raised so much over the past decade and a half that it is simply archaic compared to its current counterpart.
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