Making a comeback isn’t easy. Even if you are a legend, whose ferocious nail-marks are still gleaming on these desert highways…

Only an all-encompassing change can mend the gap of a dull decade and move the minds that have witnessed the emergence of an entire category that melds power and luxury. The kind of change that would sweep over 60% of the engine components; contribute to 40% less friction, and a drastically reduced co-efficient of drag from .34 to a mere .29. A change that results in being 37 kilograms lighter, 5.6 cm longer and yet 3.3 cm closer to the ground… The eighth generation Maxima of 2016 is more than a mere echo of the legend it once was.

At the launch, Nissan showed us a comparison video featuring a BMW, Audi and Acura battling corners and slicing straights only to fall behind the all-new Maxima by a full second or more. OK, the Bimmer and the Audi had 2.0 L turbo engines but hey, the message is clear. There is only one 4door sports sedan. Nissan has even etched 4DSC on to the rear lamps of the Maxima. Now, that’s conviction. They got a BMW chasing the Maxima – that is ambition. They raid a naval base and hang around fighter jets – from whose cockpits rises the inspiration. They got in driver assistance features reserved for an Infiniti driver so far – that is determination.

Welcome to fight club.

The first drive

As I settle into the ‘zero-gravity’ seat inside the all-new cabin of the Maxima, its cockpit makes a remarkable first impression before I actually get my teeth into the torque that lurks beneath the stylish and bold façade. The ‘floating roof’, as Nissan calls it, could still be an integral element of style even if one flies past the fuel efficiency function. The D-shaped flat-bottom steering and the display commander control on the console prepare me for my first drive.

It’s interesting how the new Maxima uses smartphone-like gestures for cabin control. While my test car didn’t have it, you can simply pinch to zoom or swipe the navigation display from the 8.0 inch colour screen to the 7.0 inch driver assistance screen. The two are paired with each other.

The sweet engine music channeled into the Maxima cabin reassures you of the fighting spirit in every drop of gasoline. The acoustic laminated glass and active noise cancellation make sure it’s a quieter cabin otherwise. Talking about vaporized benzene, the new Maxima is 15% more fuel efficient as per Nissan, with a combined EPA estimate of 25 miles per gallon! That’s something I can’t wait to test myself, on a longer drive – sounds ridiculously impressive!

Prowess of the legend

The all-new Maxima has a 3.5 L V6 engine and you suspect the likeness of a high-end Altima drive, which isn’t exactly a compliment to a car that is spoilt by brownie badges that spell 4DSC. Okay, let’s be clear that what we have here is not a sports car baptized by fire. But the engine is no lame duck with its 61% all-new parts and it finds a soul mate in the new Xtronic gearbox with a wider ratio range that is the best Nissan has done with CVT so far in emulating a manual shift. From a powerful launch to rapid shifts at high throttle, the new transmission wrings 300 hp off the six-pack in good time. 0-100 is set at 6 seconds for the records.

As I guided the new Nissan Maxima from the highway to a slip road, I could feel the aerodynamic vessel lose speed quickly, even as it showed its steadfast commitment to balance. At 1435 mm, the Maxima stays closest to the ground among sporty sedans you can think of – even those sleek German ones. The response is quick to the throttle as well as the steering – you learn to expect it when the recent weight loss dawns on you – yet 37 kg isn’t much and you are thankful for it coz the car has a sure and solid feel to the drive – something it used to lack in its crazy pre-millennial form. Except once when the torque got the better of the steering, the new Maxima displayed surer handling all along supported by its Active Trace Control that controls the inner wheels, Ride control using sensors and Active engine braking in corners.

Agreed, the steel-lipped pout or the sharply folded rear of the new Maxima is not what you would term subtle but then bringing the GT-R even remotely to mind can look like trying too hard but hey, it guarantees a presence.

Sandwiching the segments

When Samir Cherfan, the Managing Director of Nissan Middle East tells you that the 2016 Maxima is expected to command 12 per cent of the E-segment in the GCC – that is 7,000 vehicles – you are forgiven to think it is the customary launch spiel, considering it amounts to a 70 per cent increase compared with 2014.

When you learn that the new Maxima has a segment-first Driver Attention Alert (the car tells you to take a break if you are driving all droopy-eyed), predictive forward collision warning and an Around View® Monitor, you see the point Nissan is trying to make. And with the price of AED 110,000 to 150,500 in the GCC for the new S, SV and SR grades respectively, you realize that Toyota Avalon and Chevrolet Impala better look out for a mighty menace – one that has its fighting spirit picked from a naval base hangar in Florida.

All new Nissan Maxima 2016: First Drive was last modified: December 27th, 2016 by Sudeep Koshy

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