2016 Nissan Maxima Platinum Long-Term Update: Powertrain
Nissan touts that the redesigned 2016 Maxima has returned to its "4-door sports car" roots with edgy design and crisp handling. But the unsung hero in this exercise is the V6 powerplant, which is strong enough to overcome what could be the formula's Achilles heel, the continuously variable transmission to which it is mated.
The Japanese automaker has a long history of building muscular V6 engines and the new VQ35DE powerplant is no exception. Based on experience with the V6 engine from the GTR-including the use of that car's lightweight sodium-filled valves-the Maxima's new V6 features 60-percent new parts over the engine it replaces. Displacing 3.5-liters, the VQ is rated at 300 horsepower at 6,400 rpm and 261 lb ft of torque at 4,400 rpm. Hitting that output requires the use of premium fuel. While more powerful, the VQ-powered 2016 Maxima also boasts a 15 percent boost in fuel economy, promising 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway.
Xtronic CVT matches up well
With all that power on tap, Nissan has done an admirable job matching the engine up with its Xtronic continuously variable transmission. While previous CVTs have had an elastic feel or caused the engine to drone at high rpms, Nissan's Xtronic uses virtual stepped gear ranges that give this unit the more traditional feel we've come to expect from cogged transmissions. These ratios are widely spaced to take advantage of the engine's flexibility and the company says it allows for strong acceleration. It also incorporates what it calls a D-Step shift logic that allows rapid shifts (either automatically or using the cockpit paddles) at high throttle openings. Also, the Xtronic setup will keep the revs up when high G-force cornering is detected, providing smoother acceleration out of the turn.
The 2016 Nissan Maxima is also equipped with a Drive Mode Selector (Sport and Normal) to adjust throttle response, transmission tuning, steering feel and Active Sound Enhancement. In Sport mode, the throttle is more responsive and matched by more aggressive ratio changes from the Xtronic CVT. Sport mode also increases the steering weight and the Active Sound Enhancement system amplifies the engine note in the cabin. Whether in Sport or Normal, the VQ V6 pulls strongly across the rev range allowing the Maxima to step lively off the line. It's difficult to find an instance where the Xtronic is caught out thanks to its programming. While some of old school types may pine for a 6-speed manual, the 2016 Nissan Maxima with its strong powertrain lives up to its "4-door sports car" image.
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