Saturday, May 7, 2016

Geek's Paradise: My First Week with a 2016 Nissan Maxima

I'm the new owner of a 2016 Nissan Maxima Platinum. I've had the car for one week, so I thought I would share my first impressions.

Why a Maxima?
First off, why did I select this car? My wife has the minivan, and I like to drive a sedan -- when possible, a luxury sedan. A few years back when I worked for Microsoft, I drove a stylish Infiniti I30 which I loved. More recently, it's been a Camry Hybrid--a big downgrade on luxury, but the hybrid technology had geek appeal. Anyway, my oldest daughter is off to college and we've given her the Camry, which means it's time for new wheels for Dad. :)

I did take a look at the near-luxury models within reach including Acura, Lexus, Infiniti, BMW, and Mercedes. I can't really get excited about Lexus these days ever since Toyota/Lexus adopted that hideously ugly spindle grille. Although I can afford an entry-level BMW or Mercedes, I get the feeling I'd be in for a more expensive cost of ownership. Options cost more, and even simple maintenance like an oil change costs more. Before long, I was focusing on Acura and Infiniti as realistic possibilities.

For quite some time, I was seriously considering an Acura TLX: it has a great collection of features for the price, and we've loved the quality of our Honda Odyssey minivan. But then my wife and I went for a test drive, and found the interior disappointing. There's just enough room in front (though I could easily hit the roof just by stretching a bit), but the back seat space is woefully inadequate. My teenagers would never fit back there. I also found the interior bland and very much lacking in quality materials for a near-luxury brand. Disappointed, we realized we'd better keep looking. I widened my circle of car brands a bit and kept reading reviews. Before long I found some mentions of how well the new 2016 Nissan Maxima compares to luxury brands, so I decided to take a closer look, and was immediately impressed.

The 2016 Nissan Maxima has a bold new exterior styling that gets a lot of attention. The interior, modeled after a fighter jet cockpit, is stunning and rivals luxury brands. There are tech features galore. The car has plenty of power with a 300HP V6 engine, but gets 30 MPG on the freeway. We took a test drive and were won over. Soon afterward we made our purchase.

The Maxima comes in 5 trim levels, all with the same engine. Even the lowest trim includes a navigation system and rear-view camera. I went for the top-of-the-line Platinum trim, which includes some nice goodies like a 360-degree camera view, heated/cooled seats, blind spot warning, adaptive cruise control, and dual sunroof.

Tech Features

I'm a geek, so tech features matter a lot. The Maxima has lots of them which I'm going to describe in the remainder of this post. I'll cover other topics such as power and comfort features in future posts.

Center Console

The Maxima has a center console touch-screen which displays Audio, Map, Navigation, Traffic, Weather, nearby Fuel Stations (with gas prices), Movies (with nearby theatres and showtimes), and even Google Search results. Some of these features are dependent on a SiriusXM subscription or a connection to your smartphone.

Center Console showing Map

Nearby Fuel Stations with Prices

The console touch-screen can be touched and pinched wider/smaller similar to a smart phone. Alternative ways to interact with the console screen include voice commands and a Command Dial.

Command Dial

Driver Assist Display (Dashboard Screen)

In addition to the center console there's also a good-size display right in the dashboard between the tachometer and speedometer. You can cycle through a number of useful views using steering wheel controls including Speedometer/Compass, Audio, Tire Pressure, Navigation, and Driver Warnings.

Compass/Speedometer view

Navigation view

Audio View

Tire Pressure View

It's nice having all this information right there in the dashboard, pleasantly presented.

Blind Spot Warning

Ever have a close call where you were about to change lanes only to find there was a car present you hadn't noticed? Blind Spot Warning comes to the rescue. If a car is on your left or right in your blind spot, you get a light in the left or right door near your side-mirror; a message will also appear on your dashboard if you have the Driving Aids view displayed. If your turn signal is on and there's a car in your blind spot, you get a beep as well. This is a really useful safety feature and I feel much more secure on the freeway with it looking out for me.

Blind Spot Warning

Collision Detection

Predictive Forward Collision Warning (PFCW) warns you of an impending collision. It actually looks two cars ahead (by bouncing sonar under the car in front of you). The advance warning gives you time to react. If a collision is unavoidable, Forward Emergency Breaking (FEB) will apply the brakes automatically.

I know this is a valuable safety feature that really works because I've already seen it in action--it went off during our test drive! My wife was getting on the freeway, and the car ahead of her suddenly slowed to a halt without warning on the entry ramp. Alarms went off alerting us to take action.

Intelligent Cruise Control

What Nissan calls Intelligent Cruise Control is more commonly known as Adaptive Cruise Control. The innovation over traditional cruise control is that the distance to the car in front is maintained, with your car automatically slowing or speeding up on its own. I tried this on a California Freeway that was open road at times and stop-and-go at other times: the car drove itself, even coming to a complete stop when necessary and resuming when traffic started moving again. All I had to do was steer. This feature is really well implemented and has already won my trust. Clearly we're not far from the time when self-driving cars are going to be a reality.

Steering Wheel Controls

All-Around Camera and Moving Object Detection

Rear-view cameras are becoming very common in newer vehicles, but Nissan and Infiniti are known for their Around View that shows you the front, sides, and rear of the car. This is done very well and presented like a birds-eye view on the center viewing screen. It's an invaluable help when parking. There's also Moving Object detection, which alerts you if something is moving toward the vehicle (such as another car or a pedestrian). Frankly, I never realized how poorly I center myself in road lanes and parking spots until I had this Around View feature.

Rear-View and Around-View Split Screen

Rain-sensing Windshield Wipers

Sensors behind the windshield detect rain automatically and turn on/off the windshield wipers as well as adjusting their speed. I haven't personally seen these in action yet (rain is rare in Southern California), but my wife came back from a drive yesterday and reported that sure enough, it started to rain and the windshield wipers came on all by themselves.

Phone Integration

I have an Android phone and my wife and children have iPhones. The phone features vary slightly by phone platform, and we're still learning our way around them. The car will read me text messages from my Android phone and let me send replies (from a list), but it doesn't do that for an iPhone. My wife and daughter can access music from their iPhones through the car's audio system, but I can't seem to get to my Android phone's music.

Heated and Cooled Seats, Heated Steering Wheel
I've had heated seats in previous cars, but cooled seats is new to me--and it works quite well. The steering wheel can also be heated, though I haven't had the need for that feature (and probably won't, given where I live).

What's Not to Like?

One feature that is missing that would be nice to have is Lane Departure Warning; I otherwise have all of the other tech features I want.

The Nissan Connect integration with smart phones is something I'm still working on figuring out, so I won't weigh in on that yet other than to say setup is rather confusing.

I'm also just getting started with voice recognition, so I'll also report on that another time.

The sun visors should be a bit larger. It's the only complaint I have about an otherwise stunning interior.


So far, I love my new Maxima. It's a blast to drive.


Unknown said...

Nice! I can't wait to take it for a spin this summer :) John

Paul said...

I love the car! It is very pristine in how it looks and the small details that are seen on the front, especially the headlights, as they make the car look a little more aggressive. The center console looks amazing as well. Congratulations on your new car that you can enjoy with the family.