REFRESHED FOR 2016
You don’t hear as much about the Nissan Altima as you do the Toyota Camry or the Honda Accord, but the Altima is right up there in sales, with 333,000 finding new owners last year. To keep the Altimas moving out of showroom doors in 2016, Nissan freshened the styling, added a new model and provided new technology.
The most noticeable styling change is up front, where the Altima gets a V-shaped grille that mimics the grilles on the rest of the Nissan lineup. However, redesigning the grille meant changing the headlights, which are now boomerang-shaped. In the back, revamped taillights complement the lighting up front. Completing the picture is a set of multi-spoke alloy wheels. The Altima is as stylish as any of its midsize competitors.
Inside, the cabin is spacious with room for five adults. Those up front will find the “zero gravity” seats to be comfy and supportive. Passengers in the back sit a little higher, and enjoy a good view of the road. Head-and legroom are fine, even for tall people. The driver sees a cleverly designed instrument panel that is back-lit and easy to read. On the other hand, the center dash touchscreen is small, and not as bright. However, the control panel is well designed and easy to navigate.
Under the hood, buyers have a choice of either a 2.5-liter, four-cylinder engine with 182 horsepower, or a 3.5-liter V-6 that generates 270 hp. Both are hooked up to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). My test car came with the four-banger, and it had plenty of pep accelerating on to the freeway. The CVT nicely complemented the engine, and was absolutely unobtrusive. But perhaps the best news is that this powertrain enables the Altima to deliver an honest 31-mpg in combined city/hwy driving.
Nissan offers the Altima in five levels of trim this year, base S, SV, SL and the new SR. The base Altima is somewhat bare bones, but it does come with push-button entry and start. The S model adds convenience features, like a power driver’s seat, cruise control and six-speaker audio. Moving up to the SV provides the buyer with more amenities, such as alloy wheels, satellite radio and a rearview camera. The luxury oriented SL is equipped with leather upholstery, heated front seats, a nine-speaker sound system and more.
However, the big news for 2016 is the addition of the sporty SR model. This Altima is geared for the driver who needs space for a family, but likes to have some fun on back roads. It gets a sport suspension, 18-inch alloy wheels, a rear-deck spoiler, sport seats up front and paddle shifters on the steering wheel. It’s available with the 2.4-liter, four-cylinder engine, and the 3.5-liter V-6.
Options like navigation, satellite radio and heated front seats are available on the midrange SV model, but to get more of the high-tech stuff, you’ll need to order the SL. Lane departure warning and moving-object detection are now joined by adaptive cruise control and forward collision warning and braking. This last item detects when you are about to rear-end the car in front of you, and sounds an alarm, and, if necessary, applies the brakes to minimize the collision.
Even if you don’t opt for the new SR model, all the Altimas feel sporty. Nissan enhances their cornering ability with Active Understeer Control. This feature applies brake pressure to the front inside wheel during hard cornering, so that they hold the line better while negotiating a turn. Sachs shock absorbers also do their part, by improving stability, and enhancing the ride quality, which by the way, is pleasingly compliant.
If you are in the market for a moderately priced midsize sedan, you might want to look at the Altima. Prices start at $23,335 for the base sedan, and range up to $28,225 for the V-6 powered SL. My SV test car, with options including a moonroof, navigation, heated front seats and satellite radio, had a suggested retail price of $28,935.
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