Nissan’s Maxima 4DSC: What Happened to the 4-Door Subtle Car?

Nissan Maxima 2016

Nissan’s all-new 2016 Maxima is over-the-top, with V-Motrion front, floating top.

Dallas, TX – Twenty-five years ago the times were infinitely simpler. Admittedly, Hussein was on the radar, but 41’s restrained approach to reducing Sadam’s regional footprint was – in hindsight – absolutely brilliant, almost over before we knew it. Although the economy was in the doldrums, on automotive showrooms there were a few bright rays of hope. Porsche’s 911 would grow dynamically better for the 1990 model year, even if it were to lose its torsion bars, tightly drawn lines and air cooling. And while Porsche sustained its reputation as a manufacturer of sports cars, Nissan established its reputation – at least in part – with the introduction of its 3rd-generation Maxima, dubbed the 4-Door Sports Car.

Nissan Maxima 1989

1989 Maxima: 3-boxes, 4-doors. And sports car!

If you were there, you know the Datsun/Nissan of the enthusiast years – Pete Brock, John Morton and Bob Sharp – had long since lost its luster. The 510 had morphed into the 610; reaction to its intro was at least partly responsible – long before texting – for the OMG! descriptive. Datsun’s already-iconic 240Z was longer, lower and wider (shades of Pontiac…) and now known as the 300ZX. The only thing even remotely buzzworthy on Nissan’s contemporary showroom was its small pickup, dubbed Hardbody – and who wouldn’t want to put their hands on a Hardbody? Into this relative vacuum came a modest 3-box saloon with a 3.0 liter V6 driving the front wheels. It wasn’t enough to relieve the ennui created by a third consecutive Republican administration, but the ’89 Maxima – now in its third iteration – proved an absolute boon for those wanting to drive something fun without visiting a BMW showroom to do it.

That goodness, at least on some level, continued through the Maxima’s 4th generation, offered between 1995 and 1999; along with the 5th gen, which was the first Maxima to be penned in the U.S. Beginning in 2004, however, the 4DSC was essentially done, as the sedan’s 6th variant had become much closer to full size (despite its placement on a stretched Altima platform) and marketed as more ‘premium’.

Fast forward to the newly introduced (it went on sale June 3rd) 2016 Maxima, and you’ll note the revival of ‘4DSC’ as both a descriptive and – more notably – as a dynamic. With a lighter yet more rigid chassis, what Nissan’s PR peeps describe as breakthrough styling, and a premium, ‘class-above’ interior, Nissan is broaching Infiniti territory in both content and price. But with Infiniti targeting an older, more upscale demographic (consider – for a moment – that!), the Maxima’s V-Motion front end, boomerang lights, kick-up C-pillars and floating roof hope to snag 20-and-30-somethings before they have time to screw up their credit ratings. From our brief walkaround in front of Dallas’ Hotel ZaZa, along with a short drive in Big D’s southernmost hinterlands (where the ZaZa quickly runs out and Bar-B-Q is, well, cued), we can tell ya’ they just might do it.

Know from the git-go that this observer is not the Maxima’s target audience. Our idea of the perfect largish sedan is Honda’s Accord Sport, although we could be persuaded to consider Subaru’s freshened Legacy. Take the expressive content available on a Honda showroom, add it to any-and-all design delirium found at Subaru, and you still wouldn’t have the compendium of creativity found in just one ’16 Maxima; there is a l*t going on here, folks. For those that like their 4-doors something other than run-of-the-mill, the answer is now at your nearest Nissan showroom.

Subjectively, we were most fond of the Maxima interior, anchored by what Nissan terms a “command central” cockpit. (Of course, in the not-too-distant future command central will be Apple’s California HQ.) Forgetting for a moment the functionality of a driver-centric control layout, know there is genuine stitching on the instrument panel, doors and console; ambient lighting is optional; and the available Ascot leather seating comes with diamond-quilted inserts. You’ll think you’ve died and gone (Ghosn?) to some Italian-spec Heaven, with FCA’s Signor Marchione at the Pearly Gates. It is to drive for. And if diamonds are a girl’s best friend,  for the drivers among us (male or female) Alcantara can be found on the sport-motif SR, on top of a sport-tuned suspension, aluminum sport pedals, unique alloy wheels and 245/40R19 tires. It is to drive faster for…

In sum, while the new Maxima’s chassis and suspension speak to the fabled 4DSC, its larger dimensions and over-the-top sheetmetal make it anything but subtle. We’d probably spend our $35K at an Infiniti showroom, grabbing one of the ‘heritage-edition’ Q40s which, while growing up, we knew as the G37. Actual driving impressions of the new Maxima – and specs – will be supplied soon by my associate ‘buzzard, Ron Moorhead. And for your own impressions, know that your local dealer will happily give you his maxima attention. Really.