Calling a large saloon saddled with a CVT that feeds the power to the front wheels ‘sporty’ would be a bit of a stretch to put it mildly. The latter is something nobody with true sporting aspirations will ever want and the less said about the former the better — but I suppose we have to give Nissan a bit of credit for being brave enough in presenting the Maxima as a four-door sportscar. It isn’t of course but this Midnight Edition looks like it’d be a match for some of the most thrilling saloons out there by using one of the oldest tricks in the book — having much of its exterior painted black...

The thing about blacked out cars is simple — they look meaner, angrier, mysterious and decidedly more sophisticated, as does this Maxima. Adding to the standout V-Motion front-end, signature boomerang lights, kick-up C-pillars and unique floating roof is a black rear diffuser, a black sport spoiler, black wing mirror housings and it rides on exclusive Midnight Edition 19in alloy wheels. What colour are they? You guessed it. Even the interior has been swathed in charcoal leather — in fact I was left counting my lucky stars that our tester was painted silver otherwise with so much black trim generously sprinkled all over I’d probably not have been able to see it at night. Other exterior features include heated mirrors with turn signal indicators, front fog lights, LED daytime running lights, and dual exhaust chrome tailpipe finishers. Not bad at all.

 

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The Maxima Midnight features all-new black alloy wheels, a black rear sport spoiler, a black rear diffuser and a charcoal interior

The cabin too is a nice place to be and has terrific fit and finish and is loaded with premium materials. The 8.0in Nissan Connect infotainment system has all your entertainment and connectivity needs from satellite radio, GPS navigation, a hands-free phone system, streaming audio, and a variety of apps accessed through Apple CarPlay. The 7.0in Advanced Drive Assist Display keeps the driver informed at a glance while a Home screen shows navigation, speed, and audio information. Subsequent pages relay vehicle and trip data like fuel efficiency, drive time and tyre pressures.

The climate-controlled front seats (wrapped in premium Ascot leather with diamond-quilted inserts) deliver optimum comfort for long drives thanks to their three-layer foam design providing increased softness while the SR trim also comes as standard with a heated steering wheel, an 11-speaker Bose sound system and LED interior accent lighting. It also has a plethora of safety systems such as Predictive Forward Collision Warning, Intelligent Cruise Control, Forward Emergency Braking, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Blind Spot Warning.

 

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It has quilted premium alcantara inserts on its black leather seats while the diamond theme continues into the dark silver door and dashboard accents. The flat-bottomed steering wheel is a nice touch too

The laminated glass on the windshield and front door windows do a fine job in keeping unwanted road noise from entering the cabin and overall the Maxima exudes a quiet confidence about it — but its elegant lines, wide stance and low profile (not to mention this Midnight pack) don’t paper over the obvious cracks; it isn’t a proper sports saloon and doesn’t need the unfair pressure Nissan heaped on its hefty shoulders — but the Midnight Edition tries its best. It has an impressive 300 horses at its disposal produced from its 3.5-litre V6 and it can scorch the 0-100kph run in under six seconds but it never feels torquey and that’s because, annoyingly, it’s mated to a CVT which Nissan says is a “performance-oriented Xtronic transmission” — but this doesn’t translate to much on the move in spite of the more aggressive shift mapping. It saps too much power and moreover appeal. I can’t help but wonder how much better this eighth-generation Maxima would have been if it had a torque-converter automatic. It doesn’t have a vociferous exhaust note either but a bigger issue it has to contend with is its big weight transfer; the front end tries to dig in but with it tipping the scales at 1,616kg, the rear doesn’t feel engaged around corners. Even with its numerous computer-managed systems (Active Trace Control, Active Ride Control and Active Engine Braking), it fails to hide its limitations in fast cornering.

 

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Photos: Stefan Lindeque

Sure, it is bigger, bolder, more aerodynamic and more powerful than ever but when all is said and done, it is still a family hauler and a very good one at that. It isn’t a surprise that it is one of the most popular models in the UAE’s E-segment because it is comfortable, practical, loaded with tech and kit and it affords a very smooth ride. It is a really good car, of that there is very little doubt, but without neck snapping straight-line pace or cornering ability, the purists will tell you this isn’t a proper sports saloon. It looks better with the Midnight package but this has done little to change the Maxima’s actual family man character.