By David Colman
Hypes: Zero Gravity Seats, Excellent Mileage
Gripes: Imprecise Steering, Pitchy Ride
Let’s say you prefer mild cuisine, vanilla ice cream and colorless clothing. Has Nissan ever got the perfect set of wheels for you. It’s called the Altima, it costs just $28,180, and it will serve your family with faithful, if innocuous obedience. With its spacious 109 inch wheelbase, and 15 cubic foot trunk, the Altima is perfectly suited to whisking 4 adults and 4 suitcases away for extended drives. This car shows its virtue on the freeway, where its CVT transmission slots soundlessly into its highest cruising range and the 2.5 liter inline 4 loafs along at 70mph without making a peep. When you arrive at your destination, you will give the gas gauge a second look, because the needle never appears to move from full to empty. In fact, this is not optical illusion. The 182hp motor sips fuel like a teetotaler sips wine: judiciously. On the freeway, this fully equipped, 3,130lb. four-door sedan returns a startling 38MPG. A series of lengthy trips around the Bay Area failed to dislodge the gauge needle from its seemingly permanent position at half full. You won’t do much complaining about the Altima’s overall rating of 31MPG.
What you may complain about is this model’s inaccurate steering, excessive body roll in turns, and floundering response to acceleration requests. Let’s start with the feedback at the steering wheel. On a jaunt up Highway 101 with few curves I found myself constantly administering small course corrections to stay in my lane. Now mind you, this test sedan was equipped with a $1,090 Technology Package which provided, among other features, Lane Departure Warning. Every few seconds the LDW buzzer would activate as the Altima migrated hither and yon like a yacht tacking upwind. The solution to the problem is forgo the Technology Package, and pay real close attention to lane position, even when you’re driving this Nissan in a straight line. When the road gets curvy, the ultra soft suspension heels over onto its bump stops, the shocks cease to absorb bumps, and the middle-of-the-road Michelin Energy tires hang onto your prescribed arc with increasing difficulty. Nissan makes no pretense that the Altima 2.5 SV is a sports sedan.
On the other hand, the soft suspension and pillow-like steering provide a cloud-calm ride that will eat up freeway miles faster than a bullet train. If you do a lot of I-5 cruising, the Altima is perfectly suited to your needs. The interior features what Nissan calls “Zero Gravity” seats. These offer a suspension system perfected in conjunction with NASA that makes you feel like you’re suspended over an air cushion rather than strapped into an unyielding bolster. The effect of this technology advance is much appreciated by your derriere. The interior fixtures of our test SV benefited from a $1,350 Convenience Package upgrade that added a power sliding Moonroof and a “Mood Lamp” in the roof console that will save you trips to the Disco joint or Studio 54. In fact, the interior of the Altima is a most hospitable space, with extra A/C vents added for rear seat passengers as part of the Convenience Package.
The SV version of the Altima includes a Nissan Intelligent Key with a remote engine start feature. This means you can start the engine even when you are not seated in the driver’s seat, a nice bonus if you live in, or visit cold climes where pre-heating your car is a way of life.
However, we ran into one transient problem with the Intelligent Key when we returned to the locked Altima, used the key fob to unlock the doors, then pressed the engine start button on the dash. But the instrument panel informed us that it sensed an “incorrect” key and refused to start the car. So we climbed out of the Nissan, relocked the doors, then unlocked them, climbed back in and again pressed the start button. Once again we got the “incorrect” key read-out. So we scoured the owner’s manual for advice. The best it could offer was “See your Nissan Dealer.” After a few more minutes of “now what are we supposed to do?” the Altima finally decided it was OK to start. The problem never occurred again. But this episode certainly left us wondering about the dependability of such now common remote start systems. At the very least you should always carry a spare battery for your key fob transmitter.
2015 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV
- Engine: 2.5 liter DOHC, 16 valve inline 4 cylinder
- Horsepower: 182hp
- Torque: 180lb.-ft.
- Fuel Consumption: 27 MPG City/38 MPG Highway
- Price as Tested: $28,180
- Star Rating: 7 out of 10 Stars