Nissan has redesigned its popular Altima midsize sedan for the latest model year, adding new high-tech features, a quieter interior and a more stylish look. What really makes the new Altima stand out from its competitors, however, is its fuel economy - Nissan expects the volume-selling four-cylinder model to hit 38 mpg on the highway, a figure previously reserved for compact cars.
The last-generation Altima was consistently one of the best-selling cars in its class, so Nissan chose to evolve the new model with subtle, incremental improvements instead of completely starting from scratch. The wheelbase carries over unchanged, while overall length is up by an inch and width increases by 1.3 inches. The suspension continues to feature struts in front and a multilink setup at the rear, although the latter was revised for more nimble handling.
Despite the dearth of dimensional changes, the Altima is lighter than the outgoing model by about 80 pounds thanks to the increased use of high strength steel, which allowed lighter materials to be used elsewhere.
That lighter curb weight, in addition to a retuned 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, helps the new Altima to achieve best-in-class fuel economy of 27 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. Output is rated at 182 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. Also aiding on the efficiency front is a next-generation continuously variable transmission (CVT) that was reengineered for reduced internal friction and also features new control logic and expanded gear ratio coverage. The previously standard manual transmission is no longer available on the Altima sedan.
The optional engine is a carryover 3.5-liter V6 that produces a healthy 270 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Like the four, the six-cylinder pairs exclusively with the CVT, and mileage is rated at 22/30 mpg.
Premium Look Inside and Out
With recent midsize sedans such as the Hyundai Sonata and Ford Fusion bringing a heightened degree of style to the formerly staid midsize sedan segment, Nissan had its work cut out for it in making the exterior of the new Altima stand out from the competition. The redesigned car features what Nissan calls a "premium" look that mimics the organic, flowing design language seen on many Infiniti models.
A high point of the old model thanks to a simple design and high-quality materials, the cabin has now been further upgraded with so-called "zero-gravity" seats that provide optimal support and help reduce muscular and spinal loads. Noise levels are down thanks to new sound-deadening materials.
A standard, customizable "Advanced Drive-Assist" display consists of a four-inch color screen mounted in the intrument panel that displays a variety of data from the trip computer, audio system or navigation system. Nissan says that the system helps drivers keep their eyes on the road longer than a traditional center-stack information monitor.
Available technology features include Bluetooth audio with streaming capability, Pandora internet radio, Google POI search and Hands-Free Text Messaging Assistant.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Altima Sedan will be available in no less than seven trim levels: four for the four-cylinder model (2.5, 2.5 S, 2.5 SV and 2.5 SL) and three for the V6 model (3.5 S, 3.5 SV and 3.5 SL).
The bottom rung of the Altima ladder is the 2.5, followed by the Altima 2.5 S model which includes a six-way power-adjustable driver's seat, Advanced Drive-Assist Display, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, cruise control, Nissan Intelligent Key, six speakers, auto on/off headlights, in-cabin microfilter, Tire Pressure Monitoring System with individual tire pressure readouts and more. Altima 3.5 S adds 18-inch wheels and tires, plus paddle shifters with manual mode.
Altima SV models include Dual Zone Automatic Temperature Control, Remote Engine Start System, leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminum-alloy wheels (17-inch on 2.5 SV, 18-inch on 3.5 SV), RearView Monitor, NissanConnectSM with Pandora radio capability, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, 5.0-inch color audio display, USB port with iPod connectivity, Hands-Free Messaging Assistant and more. The 3.5 SV also adds a moonroof, fog lights and HomeLink Universal Transceiver.
Altima SL models include leather-appointed seating, Bose Premium Audio System with nine speakers (including woofers), eight-way power driver's seat, heated front seats and steering wheel, heated outside mirrors, LED taillights, LED outside mirror turn signals, premium interior trim, power sliding moonroof, auto dimming rearview mirror and HomeLink Universal Transceiver.
Just three options packages are available: a Convenience Package (2.5 SV), Navigation Package (SV) and Technology Package (SL). Stand-alone options include remote start and a rear spoiler.
All Altima models come standard with dual front, side and full-length side-curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems .
Bundled with the aforementioned Technology Package is a trio of high-tech safety systems: blind sport warning, lane departure warning and moving object detection. As its name suggests the moving object detection system (a segment first) detects moving objects such as other vehicles when the Altima is backing up and warns the driver with visual cues
Buyers interested in the Altima should also check out the sporty Mazda Mazda6 and the stylish Chevrolet Malibu, while the feature-laden Kia Optima is also worth a look. Stalwarts of the mid-size sedan segment such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord also merit consideration.