2016 Nissan Maxima
This week we test the 8th generation Nissan Maxima. And once again Nissan has promised a return of the “four door sports car” driving experience that made Maximas of the early 90s so exciting. This car certainly looks exciting. So let’s see if this Maxima’s excitement runs more than skin deep.
The 2016 Nissan Maxima is one of the most stimulating to see sedans we’ve come across in years. It’s rakish and radical. The sexy sheet metal is supposedly inspired by jets. Now, we haven’t heard that line since the 50’s; regardless it is a looker for sure.
Nissan’s V-motion design theme sets the deep grille, and is echoed along the rest of the car as well. This Maxima adopts the floating roof look of the Murano, with partially blacked C-pillars, and a fast roof that gives the side glass a chopped appearance. Standard, beefy 18 inch wheels further compress the visual height.
But if you think this means a claustrophobic interior you’re wrong. Space is plentiful, yet still engaging, and a lot more upscale. Now, that doesn’t mean Maxima has gone near-luxury. Nissan feels there is plenty of room for classy materials in mass market mid-size sedans.
The list of standard features is also impressive, including Nissan Connect with 8.0-inch touchscreen navigation, a 7.0-inch Drive-Assist display in the instrument cluster, remote start, full power seats, and dual-zone climate.
Though oddly enough, only a basic backup camera. Only top-level Platinum trim gets Nissan’s Around View Monitor. A terrific feature you’ll find on a Versa Note for less than 20-grand. SL-trim and above add Forward Emergency Braking which in our low speed barrier test mitigated stopping distances without consistency.
On the plus side the Zero Gravity front seats were as comfy and well bolstered as advertised. Rear seats equally so, and there’s almost full-size car room back here. Storage space? Yep, got plenty of that as well, at 14.3 cubic-ft.
Any sporty car regardless of how many doors needs invigorating power. Here the new Maxima complies with a familiar 3.5-liter V6. But, with the redesign comes significant updates including GT-R goodies like sodium-filled valves. Horsepower climbs to an even 300; torque remains the same at 261 lb-ft.
The big downer to still the CVT transmission. But, it’s also upgraded and tightened up for better response, and thankfully, quieter operation. Shift paddles are nice and big; and are intelligently mounted on the steering column, not on the wheel.
So, the question remains. Can this front driver live up to its 4DSC hype? That’s a hard thing to do. We found the new Maxima drives solid. At a decent clip it remains very flat through corners, and overall feels light on its feel. Indeed, 82-lbs. has been shaved from the previous car.
To get the full experience, opt for the SR model with its unique dampers and larger front stabilizer bar. As well as an Integrated Dynamic-control Module with Active Ride Control.
We navigated the cones quickly, with sharp turn-ins and a firm feel to the wheel. Braking is undramatic, 60 to 0 in 125 feet. That’s fine, if not as short as we’d like.
Still, at this point, are we starting to be believers? Yep! But acceleration runs made us back off a bit. As one test driver put it, “the engine is willin’, but the trans is illin’”
The Maxima jumped off the line quickly, hitting 60 in 6.1-seconds. 2/10ths quicker than last gen. But after simulating a shift to second, there were awkward power surges that had our car torque steering down the track. Still the full ¼-mile went by fast at 14.3-seconds at 102 miles-per-hour. Now Nissan, give us a non-rubber band tranny and we’ll buy in completely.
New to the Maxima this year are selectable driving modes; with Sport quickening throttle response and steering, as well as adjusting the tuning of the CVT and the Active Sound Enhancement system.
Out on the road, whether you believe it is a true sport sedan or not, it sure feels like one when you’re behind the wheel. You sit very low, and the thick steering wheel feels great in your hands.
Few standalone options are available with five trim levels starting at $33,235. This SR starts at $38,495.
OK, it’s time to put up or shut up.
Does the 2016 Nissan Maxima deserve the “Four Door Sports Car” label? It’s certainly exciting inside and out, and with the exception of the CVT, an impressive performer for its size, sitting far above the typical mid-size family car class. So, we give it a qualified “yes”. But without reservations, it is the best Maxima, and the best Nissan badged sedan, we’ve ever driven.
- Engine: 3.5-liter V6
- Horsepower: 300
- Torque: 261 lb-ft.
- 0-60 mph: 6.1 seconds
- 1/4 mile: 14.3 seconds @ 102 mph
2024 Subaru Outback
The Outback Continues To Deliver
In a world that’s SUV crazy, it’s easy to forget that the Subaru Outback has been delivering capable and comfortable all-weather and all-road capabilities to adventure-loving Americans for years. In fact, it’s now well into its 6th generation. So, it’s time for us to check in with the latest Outback and find out what’s new.
Almost 50-years ago, long before all-wheel-drive became an option for just about every car on the road, Subaru released the first four-wheel-drive passenger car in the U.S. Immediately, they knew they had a good thing going with that wagon, but it wasn’t until the 1990s that the marketing folks got on board and helped launch the Subaru Outback Sport Utility Wagon.
While the 2024 Outback is approaching the end of its 6th generation, its not slowing down when it comes to delivering tons of value to adventure-minded families.
The Outback is the sole remaining wagon available here in the U.S. from a mainstream brand, though even Subaru doesn’t use the “W” word anymore.
Now strictly referred to as a mid-size SUV, when it comes to selling any vehicle, attractiveness is always a bonus, and the Outback’s unique blend of rugged and refined has set the tone for many followers over the years. The exterior was recently updated, and while it looks big and more like a true SUV than ever, it’s only about 5-inches longer than the 1990’s original.
Some trims do get additional standard content for ’24, but our top Touring XT showcases everything Subaru has to offer, with an 11.6-inch Starlink infotainment screen that controls more features than ever, includes navigation, and pumps tunes out with Harmon Kardon sound. EyeSight Driver Assist Technology remains an Outback standard.
Cargo capacity is a great 32.6 cubic-ft., 75.6 with rear seatbacks folded, and despite the high ground clearance, the floor is lower than SUV typical, which makes for easier loading.
Outback seat comfort has improved greatly over the years, and despite the increased reliance on the touchscreen, everything about the cabin is simple to operate and logically placed.
The XT part of our Touring XT means there’s extra power under the hood with a 2.4-liter flat-4 turbo engine which rates 260-horsepower and 277 lb-ft. of torque. It’s a big upgrade over the standard 182-horsepower naturally aspirated 2.5-liter.
Both engines are unchanged and work with Subaru’s Lineartronic CVT; all-wheel-drive is of course another Outback standard.
At Mason-Dixon Dragway, our XT had plenty of grip off the line, hitting 60 in 6.0-seconds flat. That’s a couple of tenths quicker than our last time out with this turbo-4. We’ll chalk that up to better weather this time around.
Like many Subarus, it doesn’t feel overly fast but it’s snappy off the line, and perfectly adequate from there.
Power delivery stayed very consistent down the track; the CVT definitely keeps engine revs maxed out the whole time, but noise is far from annoying. Our best ¼-mile time was 14.6-seconds at 97 miles-per-hour.
The Outback boasts 8.7-inches of ground clearance, which is more than many mid-size SUVs; and while it felt plenty competent through our slalom course, there was noticeable body roll and understeer to deal with. Yet steering was light and predictable, plus Active Torque Vectoring and Vehicle Dynamics Control are hard at work to keep you stable and safe no matter what.
In panic braking, there were only moderate amounts of nosedive, and mild ABS pulsing. Stops averaged a fine 115-feet from 60 miles-per-hour.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings are 22-City, 29-Highway, and 25-Combined. We averaged a great 27.9 miles-per-gallon of Regular; a feat most SUVs can only dream of.
That’s an average Energy Impact Score; with use of 11.9-barrels of oil yearly, with 5.9-tons of CO2 emissions.
Base Outbacks have plenty of standard content, and remain a real bargain, starting at just $30,240, top trims, including Wilderness, take you into the low 40s.
Decades of loyal Outback owners have helped Subaru grow the 2024 Subaru Outback into what it is today; a highly capable and comfortable, thoughtfully designed, adventure-ready family truckster that’s as adept at backwoods exploring as it is soldiering through the daily grind. Your family activities may not take you far off the beaten path, but life itself is an adventure, and the Subaru Outback is outfitted for your adventure better than ever.
- Engine: 2.4-liter flat-4 turbo
- Horsepower: 260
- 0-60 mph: 6.0 seconds
- 60-0 Braking (avg): 115 feet
- MW Fuel Economy: 27.9 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: CVT
- Torque: 277 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 14.6-seconds at 97 mph
- EPA: 22 City | 29 Highway | 25 Combined
2024 Hyundai Kona
Hyundai Claims More Territory On The Big Island Of SUVs
We’ve now reached the point in time where instead of integrating electric drivetrains into existing internal combustion vehicles, carmakers are engineering new platforms for electric propulsion first and then adapting them to ICE drivelines. And that’s exactly what Hyundai has done with this new Kona. So, let’s see what this approach means for this small, already appealing, SUV.
In the music industry, an artist’s second album is always the hardest. After all, they’ve had their entire lifetime to write the first one, but only a few short months to try to recreate that magic a second time around. All that to say, after being a bit of an unexpected runaway hit, the Hyundai Kona now turns to a second generation, and Hyundai is looking to avoid the sophomore slump with a bigger and better 2024 Kona.
Everything about its new interior is great and really up to date. There’s plenty of tech on display with side-by-side screens for driver info and infotainment. The 12-inch central touchscreen is standard on all Konas; the 12-inch gauge display is optional in SEL, standard in Limited and N Line, which also get Bose premium audio and a sunroof. Here in our N Line tester, the only thing that feels remotely entry-level is perhaps the front seats that some of our drivers found hard to get comfortable in.
As we mentioned at the top, the Kona was designed to be an EV first and then adapted for gasoline powertrains, so it really does have an EV vibe to it, even sharing things from Hyundai’s IONIQ EV lineup like the shifter. It also makes for more usable space inside, especially for rear seat passengers. Plus, there’s 25.5 cubic-ft. of cargo space behind, maxing out at 63.7 cubic-ft. with rear seatbacks folded.
The looks are much improved outside; same overall shape as before, but Hyundai has gone edgier, again reflecting their clean IONIQ EVs. It’s also more than 5-inches longer, with a 2.3-inch wheelbase stretch, and it sits an inch wider too. Sporty N Line gets unique front and rear fascias, along with body-color cladding, big rear spoiler, dual exhaust tips, 19-inch alloy wheels, and unique badging.
The N Line also comes with the top internal combustion engine; Hyundai’s familiar 1.6-liter I4 turbo with 190-horsepower and 195 lb-ft. of torque, working with an 8-speed automatic. A carryover 147-horsepower naturally aspirated 2.0-liter I4 and CVT combo is the standard, and more than adequate for most folks. All-wheel drive is available with all ICE Kona’s, at any trim level. As for EVs, the also new front-drive full battery Kona Electric is already on sale in some states, with multiple power offerings and a top range of 261 miles. We’ll test it soon.
Our current ICE Kona N Line was sporting the HTRAC all-wheel-drive setup, which we put to good use at Mason Dixon Dragway.
And, there was indeed great grip off the line, which made for drama free launches; power from the tiny turbo was a little slow to arrive, but once we got rolling it really started to pour on, taking us to 60 in 7.6-seconds. Despite that small hard-working engine, overall, powertrain operation was surprisingly quiet and smooth; perhaps a little too smooth when it comes to the transmission, as shifts were sluggish with noticeable drop off in power. Our best ¼-mile time was 15.8-seconds at 90 miles-per-hour.
The wider track and longer wheelbase definitely provided more stability in our handling course; suspension and steering were both quite firm, offering lots of feedback and quick response. While N Line is more of a trim package than a full N performance version, all-wheel drive Konas do come with a multi-link rear suspension setup, an upgrade over the standard torsion beam. We did find some understeer near the car’s limits, but we were carrying quite a bit of speed by that point, and easily able to maintain momentum. Despite a soft brake pedal with very little feedback, things were working just fine at the brake’s business end with consistent and fade-free stops of 111-feet from 60 miles-per-hour.
Government Fuel Economy Ratings with the turbo engine and all-wheel drive are 24-City, 29-Highway, and 26-Combined; we averaged a great 28.5 miles-per-gallon of Regular. But, that’s still an average Energy Impact Score; 11.4-barrels of oil annually, with 5.6-tons of CO2 emissions.
Pricing starts at $25,435 for SE trim; range topping Limited begins at $32,985, with this sporty looking N Line just below at $31,985.
If you’re not loyal to one particular brand, sifting through all the available small crossovers can be a daunting task. But, if you’re looking for something that’s roomy, tech-savvy, and more fun to drive than it should be, we’d suggest looking at the 2024 Hyundai Kona. By designing an EV chassis that’s capable of powering its way through this transitional powertrain period we’re in with a gasoline engine, Hyundai has made sure that the Kona is no one-hit wonder.
- Engine: 1.6-liter turbo-4
- Horsepower: 190
- 0-60 mph: 7.6-seconds
- 60-0 Braking: 111 feet (avg)
- MW Fuel Economy: 28.5 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: 8-speed automatic
- Torque: 195 lb-ft.
- 1/4 Mile: 15.8-seconds at 90 mph
- EPA: 24 City | 29 Highway | 26 Combined