POSTED: Monday, November 19, 2012 - 6:26pm
UPDATED: Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 6:30pm
It was only a few years ago that Nissan as a company was in the automotive ER on life support. And then Renault rode to the rescue. Yeah, I know, who’d have guessed.
When the Altima originally hit the market in the 90’s, I frankly wondered why. It filled a niche between the mid-sized Maxima and the compact Sentra. It seemed like too small a market to have much of an audience. This is yet another example of why auto companies do not call me for strategic planning.
The new Altima is is the first full redesign since 2007. And it all works.
The Altima coupe is one of the prettiest affordable automobiles on the planet, and the sedan is …well…almost as attractive. It is functional, sleek and completely inoffensive. It is also a bit “generic Japanese sedan.” It’s Nissan’s fault. The coupe has completely spoiled me.
But it is also obvious they are hoping at first glance it looks to you like it’s more expensive Infiniti brethren and sisteren.
Inside, the attention to better materials has paid dividends. A lovely, very usable panel surrounds the driver, and the seats encourage performance driving. Fortunately, the drivetrain and chassis are game for anything you bargain basement Andrettis want to try.
The base engine is a 175-horsepower 2.5-liter four, and our test car had that engine with all of its 182 ponies hooked up to a continuously variable automatic transmission. The manual gearbox was dropped for the sedan a couple of years ago, but thankfully the slick 6-speed is back on the options list. There is even a hybrid version later on if that’s to your taste.
Optional is a 270-horsepower V-6.
On the road, the Altima is perfectly balanced, taking curves as if on rails. 60 miles per hour comes up in 7.7 seconds, and you still get 27 miles per gallon in the city and 38 highway. Prices start at $29-grand and end up north of 30 in our test car.
One magazine called the Altima the un-Camry. I’ll skip the Toyota jokes and say this. The Camry is a high quality appliance. The Altima makes you want to find a curving road and make it yours.