By Peter Newton
- Luxury features
- Notable gas mileage
- Affordable price
- Mushy handling
- Sluggish acceleration
The Altima, assembled in Tennessee, is one of Nissan’s best selling cars in North America and provides some touches of luxury in a firmly positioned mid-size car. New for 2012 is the Value Package, available for the Altima 2.5 S model, which includes a Bluetooth® Hands-free phone system, automatic on/off headlights, leather-wrapped steering wheel with steering-wheel-mounted audio controls, a HomeLink® Universal Transceiver, and passenger-side front-window one-touch auto-up/down.
Our tester for this review is the Altima 2.5 S with Nissan’s Xtronic CVT® (Continuously Variable Transmission) and includes features such as Nissan Intelligent Key®, push button ignition, AM/FM/AUX input 6-speaker audio system, driver and front-passenger seatback map pockets, driver’s footrest finisher, power windows with driver side one-touch auto up/down and more.
The Altima provides the basic service of getting from point A to point B in an unassuming fashion. The styling does not stand out, either to distinguish the car with flair or aggression, but rather blends into the wallpaper of family sedans on the market. However, the real impact of the Altima lies with the goodies inside. Nissan has offered several features that are normally seen on cars that retail for thousands more.
Keyless entry with push button start means you never have to take the key out of your pocket. Solid Bluetooth integration means you don’t have to dig out an annoying ear piece to comply with hands-free state driving laws. Choosing the Convenience and Convenience Plus packages gets you automatic temperature control and headlights, which means that you don’t have to monitor and mess with the lights and climate controls as you travel between points A and B. Along with a sunroof and telescoping steering wheel, you can experience many of the luxury features common on BMW, Lexus or Cadillac. Unfortunately, the illusion of luxury fades once you shift out of park.
The Altima’s 2.5-liter engine paired with the Xtronic CVT® produces 175hp and will get you on the freeway onramps, but is not enough to create a sense of driving excitement. Similarly, the handling does keep the car on the road and pointed in the right direction, but does not match the more nimble turning of the more popular Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. While neither the Accord nor Camry have sport suspensions, they do provide a better driving experience compared to the mushy handling on the Altima. On a positive note, the conservatively powered engine delivers very solid gas mileage. With an EPA estimate of 23 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway, we recorded 28 mpg combined after our week with the Altima.
Drivers who prefer a little more “ooomph” to their mid-size, 5-person, 4-door carriage can opt for the 3.5-liter 24-valve DOHC V6 rated at 270 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The V6 version — known as the 3.5 SR — comes standard with a sport-tuned suspension that trades some ride comfort for sharper handling, making this Altima feel more like a sport sedan than a family sedan.
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