A familiar conundrum with flagship sedans from mainstream manufacturers is that with a few options, their price typically rises to match that of an entry-level luxury alternative. The Nissan Maxima versus the Infiniti Q50 is an obvious example. Why not pay a little more for the luxury brand?

The all-new 2016 Nissan Maxima gets around this by offering a finely crafted, luxurious and well-appointed model that not only looks like it’s part of a luxury brand stable, but also offers standard leather interior, heated seats and steering wheel Nissan Connect and navigation with a standard eight-inch, touchscreen display for a Canadian starting price of $34,900. So given that you don’t have to pay more for these popular options, Nissan appears to ask, “Why pay more at all?”

For 2016, the eighth-generation Maxima (yes, it’s been around that long!) wears an all-new design from front-to-rear, starting with a complete revision to the grille and flowing back through the sculpted profile that brings it in line with design elements introduced with the latest Nissan Murano. Expect all Nissan models to adopt the new look as they are updated and replaced. Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn describes it as nothing less than “the return of the four-door sports car!”

The Maxima wears its new sheet metal well, while reinventing, to some extent, the Maxima reputation as a four-door sports sedan seen in generations past. Now categorized by Nissan as a “4DSC,” (four-door Sports Car), the new Maxima is 33 millimetres (1.3 inches) lower, 56 mm (2.2 in) wider, 36 kilograms (82 pounds) lighter and has 25 percent more torsional rigidity.

With a much sportier chassis designed for agile handling, the new Maxima gets a 300 horsepower 3.5L V6 engine with 60 percent new parts and using technology and “lessons” from the GT-R coupe. According to Nissan, the 2016 Maxima offers a higher specific output (horsepower/litre) and better power-to-weight ratio than a BMW 335i or Acura TLX. The engine is mated to a new performance-oriented Xtronic (CVT) transmission. Additionally, the Maxima returns a 15 percent improvement in fuel economy compared with the outgoing model.

The all-new interior features a fully redesigned cockpit with controls and displays angled towards the driver. The cabin presents a premium environment and a quiet ride is expected due to the Active Noise Cancellation system that reduces low-frequency sounds. An interesting option, however, is Active Sound Enhancement that enhances engine sound into the cabin for a sportier driving experience. You’ll need to check the “Bose audio” box to get this, however.

Another interesting feature is the lack of availability of a moonroof on the sporty SR model. Because of the solid roof panel that lowers the vehicle’s centre of gravity while adding torsional stiffness, a moonroof is not available. A panoramic moonroof is available on other models, however.

What is available is the full suite of modern safety aids including Intelligent Cruise Control, Driver Attention Alert, Forward Collision Warning, Forward Emergency Braking and Blind Sport Warning with Rear Cross Traffic Alert.

The 2016 Nissan Maxima is a lot of vehicle for the money. Big power, performance-oriented handling, sleek design and luxurious interior. Under the bright lights of the auto show stage, the Maxima literally sparkles. The reality is a little more subdued but nonetheless impressive. This is a formidable looking car that embodies the “class-above” aspirations of the brand and should vault it into contention against vehicles like the Ford Taurus, Toyota Avalon, Chevrolet Impala, Kia Cadenza and other mid-large sedans.

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