|The amazing Vince Gil.|
I'm not the kind of guy who says, no, to an evening with Vince Gil. Truth be told, I didn't even know a side trip to listen to Gil play and sing with The Time Jumpers, a country swing group with which he has been affiliated for five or six years, was on the agenda when I eagerly accepted Nissan's invite to Nashville to audition the redesigned Nissan Maxima in May.
I have seen a raft of country artists in concert: everyone from Taylor Swift to Willie Nelson. Only two remained on my must-see-at-some-point bucket list: Vince Gil and Garth Brooks. I was obliged to enter a check mark beside Vince's name on this trip.
Nashville is Nissan's North American home and a place I love to visit, especially when Nissan is throwing the affair. Nissan's events there always include an evening of dropping into a honky tonk or three to catch some great music. On the Maxima event, Nissan treated those of us who wanted to go to the show at a joint called 3rd & Lindsley. The Time Jumpers play there most Monday nights. It's only $20 to get in – a bargain by any metric.
|"Ranger Doug" Green tips his hat to my camera.|
Upon hitting the door, our little band split off into several smaller groups. A good buddy and I with a couple of Nissan PR types, blocking for us like a couple of pulling guards, hustled up the stairs, across the left-side balcony and then down the back stairs to come to rest just off the left side of the stage. We didn't have seats, but who wants to sit listening to country swing anyway? I was able to work my way around the front of the stage snapping photos as I went. At one point, “Ranger Doug” Green stopped in the middle of a song to tip his hat to my camera, to the glee of his band mates and the audience. A little red faced (well, more red faced than usual), I slunk back to our little stage-left conclave.
This isn't Gil's band; consequently, his vocals were only featured every fourth-or-so song, but he sang backup and played that magical guitar throughout the night.
Good friends, a couple of PBRs and some great music: a special night, indeed.
|Sinema's well-stocked bar.|
It was the wrap to an evening that also included dinner at Sinema, a converted movie theater transformed into a wonder restaurant. The food was exceptional and it featured one of the most extensive whiskey bars I've seen. There were a few bourbons with which I was totally unfamiliar. It was difficult, though, to sample those when the list included Black Maple Hill Bourbon and two versions of Angel Envy Rye. Oh, Momma.
|Just a couple of the bourbons I'd never seen before.|
Oh, and about that 2016 Maxima – the actual reason I was in Nashville – it's brilliant.
Here's the skinny....
With Maxima's redesign, Nissan is reviving its 4-door sports-car legend. This was its marketing tagline when first introduced in 1981 – seven generations ago. Near-luxury shoppers, however, need not despair, Maxima hasn't lost any of its high-end appeal with the redesign.
Nissan claims its exterior styling was inspired by jet fighters after the design team made a trip to Pensacola, Fla. to visit with the Navy's Blue Angels. It's always good to have a little lore tossed into your product development story. In any case, the exterior wrapper is beautifully sculpted. One of the notable styling updates is what Nissan is calling the V-motion grille.
With 61 percent of its parts all new, the 300-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 delivers its output to the front wheels by way of a new continuously variable transmission (CVT). Nissan has been pretty much married to the CVT for the past several years and probably does it better than anyone. Product-planning types borrowed a gimmick or two from the GT-R's engine, like sodium-filled valves, to improve performance. Government estimates put fuel economy at 22 mpg city, 30 highway and 25 combined city-highway driving.
With a center stack angled toward the driver, the new cockpit, is clearly drivercentric. A generous eight-inch touchscreen, located at the top of the center stack, is the face of the navigation system, standard on even the $32,410 entry-level S grade. Operating with pinches and swipes like a smart phone, the touchscreen also honchos the NissanConnect with its apps, Google search and other functions. A noise-canceling technology helps maintain low noise levels in the cabin.
A rearview camera is standard. Other safety features available as you work your way up through the five trim levels are Forward Collision Warning, Driver Attention Alert, Forward Emergency Braking, Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and 360-view camera.
Taking a page from the Honda play book, to gain more content, you must step up in grade; there are no factory options.
We spirited the new Maxima around the Tennessee country side. It handled well even when aggressively pushed. It's comfortable, quiet and fun to drive. All in all, it can go toe to toe with the entry-level cars of any luxury brand, offering a more sporty driving experience than several of them.