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BMW’s 3 Series infamously lost the sport sedan plot a couple of generations ago by coddling the premium car crowd, leaving the tiny enthusiast segment with an opening big enough to accommodate everything from the Cadillac ATS to the Jaguar XE to the Alfa Romeo Giulia. There was even room for a front-wheel-drive sedan whose nickname, Four-Door Sports Car, has for decades been more of a marketing ploy than canyon-road reality.
Fortunately, Nissan took the 4DSC trope well beyond image for the Maxima’s eighth generation. The 3 Series — which we compared with the Maxima SR in the March issue after no less a driver than pro racer Andy Pilgrim praised the Nissan during last year’s All-Stars evaluations — came about its sport sedan status as a replacement for the BMW 2002, which defined the genre in the late ’60s. With the Maxima of the ’90s and later, Nissan tried to inject into an upgraded front-drive midsize chassis the sort of dynamics that once made the rear-drive Datsun 510 a poor man’s 2002.
Nissan calls the Maxima its luxury sedan, and road test editor Eric Weiner believes its interior would do an Acura or Lincoln proud. Only the Maxima SR, with its stiffened suspension, is worthy of the sport sedan description.
“I recently drove the Nissan Maxima Platinum with the same 300-hp engine but without the aggressive suspension, wheels, and tires,” Weiner said last summer. “It doesn’t look quite as aggressive, but you get all the same tech plus a 360-degree camera, no ugly suede steering wheel inserts, and a much more comfortable ride. Most Maxima buyers would probably prefer the Platinum’s ride.” More recently, on a road trip from Ann Arbor, Michigan, to Toronto, Weiner’s girlfriend’s Canadian relatives mentioned that the ride of the SR was a bit harsh. Contributing writer Marc Noordeloos suggests the ride/handling trade-off has more to do with the SR’s 19-inch wheels and tires, though. Other Maximas roll on 18s.
The Maxima SR bounced between the West and Third coasts, and its enthusiast bona fides became most apparent when Pilgrim and executive editor Mac Morrison
compared it with a BMW 340i at California’s Willow Springs International Raceway.
“Look at the torque difference (69 lb-ft more in the BMW 340i), the power difference
(20 more horses in the Bimmer), less sticky tires on the Maxima SR, and the continuously variable transmission. Is one more fun?” Pilgrim pondered. His conclusion surprised a few of us. “I had to be more careful with the steering input in the BMW because it maintained higher speeds, but the chassis moves around more, and I felt it was going to be easier for me to make a mistake. I really was concentrating hard to keep the BMW on the limit. I was able to be aggressive with steering wheel movements in the Nissan without fear I was going to go over that edge. That’s the difference.
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