Nissan Altima — Advancing the sedan

By Jim Meachen and Ted Biederman

We like sedans, particularly mid-sized sedans that offer just-right five-passenger size, useful cargo space, decent handling and performance, affordable gas mileage, family friendly prices (compared to crossovers), and pleasing styling. We are thankful that there are a few mostly Japanese companies who continue to advance sedan design despite American automakers’ best efforts to totally eliminate them from the marketplace.
Nissan is one of the companies that has not given up on sedans. Nissan officials say studies show that Gen Z and Gen Y buyers still favor sedans over crossovers.

The all-new sixth-generation 2019 Altima mid-sized sedan is example number one that Nissan intends to remain relevant in the segment. Not only is it the best Altima in the car’s quarter-century history, it’s  one of the best sedans on the road, showing vast improvements in several areas including performance, ride quality, standard amenities, and interior space. 

The Altima is endowed with two new engines, and for the first time it will be available with all-wheel drive. Standard on the 2019 Altima is a new 2.5-liter DOHC inline 4-cylinder direct injection engine rated at 188 horsepower (versus the previous 2.5-liter’s 179 hp) and 180 lb-ft of torque (versus the previous 177 lb-ft). More than just the gains in horsepower and torque, the new engine is more refined, quieter and offers improved fuel economy.

Replacing the previous-generation 3.5-liter V-6 engine is what Nissan says is the world’s first production-ready variable compression turbo inline 2.0-liter 4-cylinder, called the VC-Turbo. It delivers near V-6-level performance with 4-cylinder fuel economy. The engine makes 248 horsepower and 280 lb-ft of torque on premium fuel. It can burn regular, but with a slight reduction in horsepower. The new engine is available on Altima SR and Platinum front-wheel drive grades.

Both engines are paired with Nissan’s latest version of the continuously variable transmission (CVT) and although we aren’t big fans of CVTs in general, Nissan has done a good job making its transmission smooth and quiet.

We took the Platinum turbocharged trim level  on a 150-mile drive on winding roads around Santa Barbara last fall and found the engine strong and satisfying . We passed a couple of slow-moving vans in short passing zones without drama. There was ample power throughout the rev range as the Altima turbo’s engine note emitted a satisfying growl and you won”t be surprised to find the 2.0-liter Altima has been measured from 0-to-60 in about 6 seconds.

What we drove for a week around home was 2.5-liter engine, the one most people will purchase, and discovered that it performed as well as the new Camry’s 4-cylinder powerplant. When you need pedal-to-the metal performance for passing or merging the engine is pleasingly quiet, unlike the outgoing model, and can hustle you around and out of trouble with a measured time of about 8 seconds from 0-to-60.

A modern-looking instrument panel highlights the Altima’s interior design and emphasizes the cabin’s roomy, airy feeling. It’s uncluttered and functional. The wide door openings make for easy entry and exit, and there’s plenty of comfortable rear seat head and legroom. Cargo space in the trunk is adequate measured at 15.4 cubic feet.

Every 2019 Altima comes equipped with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, standard Bluetooth hands-free phone system, streaming audio via Bluetooth, hands-free text messaging assistant, and Siri Eyes Free voice recognition. Available NissanConnect Services powered by SiriusXM provides compatible smartphone and smartwatch access to features such as remote engine start/stop, remote door lock/unlock, valet alert, and more. Additionally, certain remote features are accessible through the NissanConnect Services.

The range of safety and convenience features includes standard Automatic Emergency Braking (AEB), Intelligent Forward Collision Warning (I-FCW) and Intelligent Driver Alertness (I-DA). And very important to us included as standard equipment in the SR is blindspot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert.

The Altima comes in five trim levels. We drove the sporty SR trim paired with the 2.5-liter engine. It comes with a sport-tuned suspension, transmission paddle shifters, LED headlights, and unique styling elements including carbon-fiber trim.

The Altima starts at $24,895 for the base S trim, but a lot of good stuff is available as standard equipment by moving up to the SR or SV trims including numerous driving aids such as adaptive cruise control for under $1,500 for the SR. All-wheel drive can be added to all trim levels of the 2.5-engine for $1,350.

Our SR test car with the Premium package (heated outside mirrors and heated front seats for $1,050) carried a bottom line of $27,665.

Base price: $24,895; as driven, $27,665
Engine: 2.5-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower: 188 @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 180 foot-pounds @ 3,600 rpm
Transmission: continuously variable
Drive: front wheel
Seating: 2/3
Wheelbase: 111.2 inches
Length: 192.9 inches
Curb weight: 3,290 pounds
Turning circle: 36.1 feet
Luggage capacity: 15.4 cubic feet
Fuel capacity: 16.2 gallons (regular)
EPA rating: 28 city, 39 highway, 32 combined
Also consider: Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata

The Good
• Fuel efficient base engine
• Pleasing styling inside and out
• High level of safety equipment

The Bad
• AWD not available with larger engine

The Ugly
• No hybrid model available