Motor Trend Comparo - $30k Sedans - Nissan Maxima vs Pontiac G8

Discussion in 'OT Driven' started by TriShield, May 30, 2008.

  1. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    End Game: When spending $30K on a performance sedan, what drives you-front or back?

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    By Arthur St. Antoine
    Photography by Evan Klein

    No doubt some of you are already heading for the drop box marked "hate mail." Front drive versus rear drive? V-6 versus V-8? Why don't you just compare apples and orangutans?

    As we see it, if you've got around $30,000 to spend on a sport sedan, you want to know your options-and you've got important choices to make. At that price, Nissan's brand-new Maxima proffers a high-output V-6, an advanced continuously variable transmission, oodles of electronic conveniences, and what's claimed to be one of the best-performing front-drive chassis in the world. And for roughly the same money, Pontiac's new G8 GT delivers the thunder of a big-bore V-8, a six-speed automatic, and a fat-tired rear-drive platform. Both are roomy, eye-catching four-doors. Both promise driving thrills far above the common sedan paradigm. One is a wonder of 21st-century can-do; the other radiates the iconic aura of the 20th century's glory days. How do their behind-the-wheel experiences differ? And which one makes the more compelling case for your cash?

    As noted in the preceding pages, Nissan has set the bar for its flagship four-door way up somewhere in the ionosphere. Chassis target for this new front-drive sedan: the rear-drive Porsche GT3, one of the world's best-handling purebred sports cars. Also as noted, though, the Maxima model most likely to approach that lofty target-the 3.5 SV with Sport Package and optional 19-in. summer tires-was unavailable to us. Instead, Nissan provided a 3.5 SV Premium fitted with 18-in. all-season rubber. On the other hand, our test car was representative of what'll likely make up the bulk of the Maxima's 70,000 or so annual sales. Summer-shod Sport editions will be rarer sightings.

    Nissan product strategy director Mark Perry says that, early in the car's development process, the Maxima team took a step back to reassess the project's aims-even going so far as to consider seriously a move to rear drive. In the end, though, engineers settled on the front-drive "D" platform, shared with the Altima, citing advantages in weight and cabin roominess and, says Perry, "handling so good we didn't need rear drive."

    In contrast, Pontiac's new Australian-built G8 has deep rear-drive roots; it's based on the Zeta-platform Holden Commodore. While a V-6-powered version is available, the G8 GT-sporting a 6.0L V-8-starts at just $29,995, right on top of the new Maxima. Add heated, power leather seats (as on our Maxima 3.5 SV) plus the Sport package (just $600 for 19-in. alloys, summer Bridgestones, metallic pedals, and a leather-wrapped wheel), and you're still only up to $31,845. Strong value? The G8 GT is more potent (361 hp) than the $59,275 BMW 550i.

    Taking Shapes

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    Side by side, the G8 and the Maxima represent vastly different visual interpretations of the word "sporty." The Maxima is slender, flowing, sculptural-a Henry Moore modern on wheels. The G8 is far longer, wider by an inch and a half, and about as soft and rounded as a cheese grater. The ladies on our staff unanimously hate it ("Eeewwww! It's so...eighties!" cried one). We guys, on the other hand, kinda, well, you know...like it. The G8 is bold and aggressive without undue adornment. Besides, those big gnarly wheels are really cool.

    Edge: Maxima. Gymnast physique trumps bodybuilder's.

    Insides Story

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    Both cars make fine daily drivers, delivering room, comfort, and conveniences aplenty-from dual-zone climate control to premium audio with iPod inputs. The G8 has a conspicuous edge in rear-seat head- and legroom; a six-footer can sit behind another six-footer with knee space to spare. Pontiac offers a huge pass-through in the rear seat (you could almost stuff a canoe in there); Nissan buyers can opt for a 60/40 split-folding rear seat or a bench with a smaller pass-through (the rear buckets of previous Maximas are gone).

    The G8 is nicely trimmed in leather, "technical" materials, and brushed-metal accents; it's almost spare in its straightforwardness. Strangely, the otherwise excellent driver's seat has power fore-aft control but recline is operated by a rotating knob that's hard to reach and use-manual fore-aft and a power backrest would make more sense.

    The Maxima's cockpit, though more intimate, is a cut above. It's dressy without being flashy and radiates quality. Sophistication rules, from the designer shapes to the supple feel of the leather to the crisp numerals on the display screens (the G8's center stack is marred by low-res, bright-red amp and oil-pressure readouts that appear to have been lifted from a 1970s Atari computer). The Nissan's huge dual-panel sunroof (only the front glass opens) draws lots of passengers "wows" when you hit the button and the shades retract, if you insist on being a showoff.

    Edge: Maxima. Sport-sedan cockpits don't come much nicer.

    Cut to the Quick

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    The Maxima's DOHC, 24-valve V-6 makes a stirring 290 hp at 6400 rpm. The G8 GT's pushrod V-8 churns out 361 horses at 5300. Even allowing for the G8's greater bulk (it weighs nearly 400 lb more than the Nissan), its 71-hp advantage means straightline sprints are no contest. While the Maxima is quick-0 to 60 mph in 6.1 sec-the G8 is a full half-second quicker, gunning to 60 mph in just 5.6 sec. (The Pontiac's numbers are well off the 5.3-sec runs we recorded with another test car-same track, same driver-in our April issue; stay tuned to motortrend.com for updates as we investigate this anomaly.) Launched fender to fender on the dragstrip, the Maxima quickly disappears in the G8's rearview mirror. What's more, the G8 is more viscerally thrilling, its V-8 booming with brawn and its six-speed auto cranking off quick, smooth upshifts. The Maxima's CVT seems downright quirky in comparison.

    In the other direction, braking, the G8 is stopped from 60 mph while the Maxima rolls on for another 19 ft.

    Edge: G8. Not even close.

    In This Corner...


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    Nissan has done impressive things with its D platform: The Maxima puts its considerable power down well, grips powerfully (0.85 g), and provides solid, mostly torque-free steering feel. But any handling accolade you apply to the Maxima must contain a caveat at its suffix: "for a front-drive car." If the priority really was to build a "four-door sports car," Nissan should have opted for rear drive.

    Again, the G8 shines. With its front tires unburdened by power delivery, the Pontiac steers more fluidly; feedback is undiluted. Stability control switched off, the G8 happily wagged its tailed around our figure-eight course, the rear end breaking loose with a gentle nudge of the throttle and the chassis sliding past the cones all crossed up but completely controllable. The fun factor simply isn't comparable, however impressively the Maxima hangs on. And despite its weight disadvantage, the G8 felt (and is) better balanced, easily wringing out 0.87 g of grip.

    Edge: G8. Sir Isaac Newton called this one a long time ago.

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    FIRST PLACE: PONTIAC G8 GT
    Fast, smooth, roomy, athletic. With standard cylinder deactivation, it even returns respectable fuel economy (15/24 city/highway mpg). You can't beat the rear-drive layout-or the window sticker. At around $30 grand, one of the great driver's-car values on the road today.

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    SECOND PLACE: NISSAN MAXIMA 3.5 SV
    A foregone conclusion? Perhaps, though we're still eager to sample the "full-up" summer-tired car. Sophisticated demeanor and artful styling make a compelling case for purchase. Maxima is sure to remain a "cult" favorite.

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  2. MeanGreen

    MeanGreen New Member

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    Nothing has been bolded for me to read
     
  3. art_VW_shark

    art_VW_shark OT Supporter

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    unless you live in a very snowy region and NEED a luxurious interior (more gadgets, wood,e tc) the G8 is a no brainer. that said, I hand interior and probably over-all complete-ness to the Maxima.
     
  4. Possum Stomper

    Possum Stomper The Great Bird of the Galaxy

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    :rofl:
     
  5. Mitchj

    Mitchj OT Supporter

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    that maxima's interior is gorgeous, but really, no one who loves sports or performance cars would buy one over the g8.
     
  6. P07r0457

    P07r0457 New Member

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    i agree the interior on the maxima is nice -- but I don't care for the exterior. It also completely loses me with that CVT. Sorry, but a CVT just isn't sporty. Much less so than an auto.

    G8 ftmfw.
     
  7. deusexaethera

    deusexaethera OT Supporter

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    Not having read the full thing, I have to say anyone who doubts the CVT transmission in the Maxima really needs to drive one. Keeping the engine at the power peak continuously while accelerating does a lot to make up for the smaller displacement.
     
  8. P07r0457

    P07r0457 New Member

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    not rly. I drove a murano and didn't like the CVT. All of the control, response, feel, and feedback that you would associate with a "sporty" vehicle are lost with a CVT.

    Nissan is arguably the best at doing CVTs (although that's a bit like saying you're fastest sprinter on the special olympics water polo team -- it's the wrong skill for the wrong sport in an admitedly handicapped league).

    I fully agree with the articles sentiments that the Nissan does very well, but you always must add that conditional "...for a fwd vehicle" at the end. And in the category of a sporty sedan, that simply has no place.

    I could compare a Chevy Aveo favorably against a Lamborghini Murcielago simply by adding the condition "...for a $8k fwd econobox". Of course, we all know which one really wins the "sporty" competition.

    So in the end we're left with two nice cars. One hits home and rings true as a sporty sedan -- the G8. Of course the Maxima is nice. But in the context of the question at hand, it is simply not even a close competitor.
     
  9. Mitchj

    Mitchj OT Supporter

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    No offense to the maxima, but it seems like more of a car an old person would drive.

    The acceleration times surprised me though, its very fast for that amount of power.
     
  10. Corz

    Corz ha ha! snikt

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    performance figures aside, that maxi pad is fucking HIDEOUS
     
  11. 0wn3d_productivity

    0wn3d_productivity OT Supporter

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    I can't imagine buying the Nissan when the Pontiac looks as nice as it does- that Nissan is ugly to begin with, but looks like shit next to the G8.
     
  12. Mitchj

    Mitchj OT Supporter

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    I never realised how closely the commodores had to a perfect 50/50 weight distribution, thats amazing with such a huge engine up front.
     
  13. Mitchj

    Mitchj OT Supporter

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    Also the maxima ran a 14.7 and the G8 ran a 14.1

    Something is up with those G8 times, the G8's have been clocked running 13.5 before.
     
  14. deusexaethera

    deusexaethera OT Supporter

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    That's because of the CVT holding the engine at peak power. The CVT is a great idea and Nissan did a good job implementing it.

    EDIT: Jolly, are you seriously basing your opinion of Nissan's CVT on how it felt in an SUV? SUVs are never, ever even remotely "sporty"; go drive an Altima Coupe or something and then tell me what you think of the transmission.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2008
  15. Mitchj

    Mitchj OT Supporter

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    Just because something's faster doesn't mean its necessarily better. The engine reving through the gears is something that gives the feel of acceleration.

    Go drive a 12 second turbo 4 cylinder and you'll see what i mean, the second it hits boost it feels really fast. Its that on/off power that makes cars feel quick.
     
  16. ww_Crimson

    ww_Crimson New Member

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    Went to a GTO/Vette/G8 Meet today... 2 G8's showed up.. They looked OK but I don't think I'd drive one.. There wasn't anything really appealing about their exterior design.. I didn't get a chance to see their interior or sit inside one but they definitely seemed to have quite a bit of power.

    Not sure that I'm a big fan of the maxima either though :X
     
  17. deusexaethera

    deusexaethera OT Supporter

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    I dunno, when I first heard about CVTs I thought the idea was really cool, unlike most everyone I knew at the time. Now three of my friends have them, and they all say it's a lot nicer than they thought it would be.

    You're right that kick-in-the-ass acceleration feels fun and fast, but it gets annoying when that's the only way the car can drive. A CVT, on the other hand, reminds me of accelerating in a jet aircraft -- no lag, no variation in power due to RPMs, just smooth and constant.

    Seriously, if you haven't driven one, you really should before you make up your mind about it. It's very cool to peg the gas and watch the RPMs stay redlined until you get tired of going fast.

    - - -

    For the record, I'm not too keen on the Maxima myself. I just like the technology.
     
  18. P07r0457

    P07r0457 New Member

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    porsche cayan?
    volvo xc90?
    jeep srt8?
    infiniti fx45?
    range rover?
    chevy trailblazer ss?
    bmw x5?
    mercedes amg m-class?
    audi q7?

    just to name a few.
     
  19. art_VW_shark

    art_VW_shark OT Supporter

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    is that desirable, though?
     
  20. TriShield

    TriShield Super Moderator® Super Moderator

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    Cars are like anything else, your results may vary.
     
  21. Mitchj

    Mitchj OT Supporter

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    yeh
     
  22. deusexaethera

    deusexaethera OT Supporter

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    No on all counts. Too tall, too heavy. A big engine and shiny wheels does not a sports car make.
     
  23. deusexaethera

    deusexaethera OT Supporter

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    I can't tell you how you'll feel about it. All I know is I thought it would be cool and it was, and three of my friends thought it wouldn't be cool and they changed their minds.

    Just gotta try one to see what you think.
     
  24. [paradox]

    [paradox] No replacement for displacement. 6.0L Crew.

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    im pretty sure mine is manual fore-aft, power recline :confused:
    thats bizzare. but i also dont get heated seats, maybe they are totally different. :dunno:

    its so true :rofl: :hs:
     
  25. P07r0457

    P07r0457 New Member

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    Besides ALL of them being faster than your passat, several of them will out-handle, as well.
     

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