Regardless of how you prefer your ice cream or burger, sometimes you just have to go overboard and get all the toppings. You may recall the supercharged Jaguar XF we reviewed in Sedona last winter, and although we thought its powertrain and opulent interior rocked, its amenities alone were what made us fall head over heels for it.
So if money isn’t an issue and you want all the fixings, upgrading your new car can be an incredibly rewarding experience. Automakers are offering more for less than ever before, and in Nissan’s case, the margins between anything that isn’t truck oriented or an Infiniti is thinner than ever.
Take the new Maxima’s Platinum trim for instance. I was flabbergasted when I saw that its sticker price topped $40,000, and stayed skeptical until I climbed inside and went for a drive. To say it’s exceptional would be doing it an injustice, as the Platinum exceeded all my expectations. It’s a luxury sedan that likes to throw elbows, kicks ass, and is full of pleasant surprises. Here’s why this car should make luxury automakers watch their backs.
The Maxima has evolved into a large, stately looking sedan, with bulging lines, aero overlaps, polished exhaust tips, and a floating rear roofline. It’s got an unmistakable Nissan look to it, and while some may dislike the Maxima’s beak of a nose or hooked “can-opener” eyelids, it makes the car pretty damn hard to ignore. With its signature LED daytime running lights (DRL) and two-tone touches, I quickly fell for its styling, especially when that sensational “Coulis Red” paint lit up in direct sunlight.
Exterior pros and cons
+ Snazzy LED lighting, heated tilting mirrors, and black two-tone touches are all fantastic.
+ That slightly over-sized, slanted dual port exhaust doesn’t just sound nice, it looks fantastic too.
+ Outside of the grille, this car isn’t overloaded with chrome, which provides a refined, stealthy appearance.
– The 18-inch alloy wheels were one of my least favorite things on this car, especially since there are far more attractive options in Nissan’s portfolio.
– Those hooked headlights, the bulging bonnet, swollen grille, and large size might not be for everyone; I found opinions on the car’s aesthetics were pretty mixed.
– As sporty and refined looking as the Platinum version is, this top-end model still looks incomplete without a decklid spoiler and a lip kit.
At first I was a bit light footed with the Maxima, going easy as the clever Xtronic transmission seamlessly flipped through all seven gears. It’s a 30 mile per gallon highway kind of cruiser, and it does it effortlessly thanks to clever computer management and intelligent cruise control.
But that 3.5-liter V6 isn’t just there for commuting, and once I engaged Sport mode, there was no turning back. This car offers a solid powerband, and even though it weighs over 3,500 pounds, it doesn’t feel like the engine struggles very much to get the car up to speed. Overall it’s a fun powertrain to play with, even if it may not be mind-blowing.
Powertrain pros and cons
+ This is a very vigorous engine. 300 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque is plenty for the average Maxima driver.
+ Slapping the auto gear shifter into manual mode delivers instant results, as the Xtronic transmission is always ready for action. Pressing the “Sport” button delivers even more performance as well.
+ The seven-speed transmission is smoother than silk sheets, and helps get 22/30 miles per gallon, with a 25 average efficiency rating.
– Not having paddle shifters and being bound to popping the shifter back and forth takes some enjoyability out of the drivetrain experience.
– There is no “Eco Mode,” so don’t expect anything other than Normal or Sport driving modes. So while it may out power something like the Honda Accord Touring by 22 ponies and even more torque, this V6 is less efficient on the highway.
– If you really want a Platinum it might be best to wait and see if Nissan adopts the new twin-turbo VR motor from Infiniti for installment.
This is probably the Platinum’s strongest suit, as it offers a lot of the refinement you’d expect from a sedan that costs twice as much. It’s a serene, supple, and well thought out cabin, and I found myself spending long periods of time cruising around just for the hell of it. This isn’t the refinement most people would typically expect to find in a Maxima, and while there is a danger of Nissan cannibalizing Infiniti sales with a sedan like this, it’s hard not to love the interior in this car.
Interior pros and cons
+ Dual-zone climate control, leather galore, a refined gauge cluster and a lovely stitched dash that feeds into a polished center stack are all worthy of praise.
+ Power steering adjustments, a USB/AUX cubby that actually fits a Samsung Note3, LED interior lights with mood lighting, and a well-sized glovebox and trunk are greatly appreciated.
+ Extremely comfy vented and heated diamond quilted leather seats, a large panoramic sunroof, overstuffed padding and soft touches aplenty, plus ample space in the back seat.
– Rear creature comforts are limited, so don’t expect auto windows, a heated bench seat, charging ports, extra cubbies, or controls for climate control.
– A few cheap feeling materials are noticeable here, including a creaky center armrest, a retractable rear sunshade that rattled incessantly when lowered, and faux wood trim up front that looked and felt pretty inexpensive.
– No electronic e-brake, a dimly lit, LED-less trunk, cramped door pockets, and imbalanced vanilla cabin colors were minor, but surprising, disappointments.
Tech and safety
Designed with practicality, safety, and comfort in mind, the Maxima’s tech side is a pretty outstanding selling point if you opt for the Platinum package. It’s loaded but not complicated, tech savvy and intuitive. Overall, it offers more than you’d expect, and for the most part everything works well.
Tech pros and cons
+ The touchscreen’s maps and radar weather info are outstanding, and it’s a system that’s as easy to navigate as it is responsive. If bad weather is headed your way, a visual warning pops up and a voice tells you how far the threat is from your current location.
+ Having a manual control knob to navigate with is great for those of us who don’t love touchscreens, plus not being overloaded with buttons is a definite plus.
+ All the collision warnings, lane departure alarms, loaded MID, and cruise control settings are great, but the forward facing and surround cameras with warning signals were what really got my attention. They’re extremely useful.
– The rain sensing intermittent wipers don’t work well at all. After multiple attempts I gave up on them, and just flipped them on and off instead of trying to rely on the unreliable setting.
– No lane change camera like what we found in the Accord Touring, and no double-DIN screen for multi info displays.
– No power folding mirrors, and the 3D mapping is pretty simplistic compared to what can be found in some of the competition.
Out on the open road, the Platinum edition is a smooth and confident Accord competitor, and rivals luxury sedans with its confident and classy driving characteristics. This car’s a ball to cruise in, and with a cabin like this, it’s hard not to enjoy the commute or some quick errands.
Sport mode offers extra go, as does manually shifting the Xtronic gearbox, and while paddle shifters were dearly missed, the balanced torque-to-horsepower curve largely trumped this oversight, with aggression making up for the rest of it. The brakes weren’t bad, though they could’ve been a bit beefier and more attractive, like we found on the Q50 S last summer, and steering inputs were solid considering how big this car is.
Altogether, the driving experience is a nice blend of controlled steering and handling, capable power, and a posh cabin that makes even the sharpest turn or bump feel effortless in those “Zero Gravity” Nissan seats. Having an Ascot stitched steering wheel that’s D-cut also helps boost driving enjoyability, and with that panoramic roof open and all 11 Bose speakers blaring, warm weather drives are an utter joy in every way.
Wrap up and review
From the outstanding soft leather and over-stuffed padding to the LED mood lighting and plethora of technological and safety features, a ride in the Maxima Platinum is an extremely enjoyable experience. Sure, there were some poorly fitted components, a few missing amenities, and a stark back seat, but overall this car offers so much that you’ll be double checking to make sure it’s not an Infiniti.
This is a fantastic road trip car, and with its trigger-happy powerband, solid handling/braking characteristics, and level-headed practicality and performance, there’s very little to complain about. The bold exterior may not be for everyone, and the 3.5-liter V6 is a bit thirsty, but if you get a chance to drive a Platinum, these concerns will likely disappear quickly.
The only issue is this: At $40,000, how many people are going to look toward the far more fuel efficient and affordable Mazda6, or go the opposite direction and plop down $48,000 for the new twin-turbo V6 Infiniti Q50 Red Sport? On second thought, maybe that’s what Nissan was gunning for all along. This car splits the difference between the two and doesn’t miss a heartbeat.