We're recommending the redesigned 1998 Nissan Altima to all the people who complain they can't afford a car that costs more than $20,000. But we have more mixed feelings about endorsing the top-of-the-line Altima GLE we recently drove - and it's not just because Paul thinks it's so ugly it needs a flea collar. The bigger concern is that this top-dog Altima nudges the sticker price up to $21,178. Yes, you get all the benefits of this second-generation Altima, which was designed in California by Nissan Design International and built in Smyrna, Tenn. But for real value, you may want to look hard at the middle-of-the-line GXE, which lists for $17,190 and still is loaded with goodies like standard air conditioning, power door locks, a split-folding rear seat and even a CD player. And yes, there is room to argue about the merits of the Altima in general, no matter which of the four trim levels you go for. She: It's funny how some cars make you think of old boyfriends. I kept thinking of John, who possibly exceeded you as the sloppiest guy on the planet. He was so bad that he had a collection of uncashed paychecks gathering dust on the top of his refrigerator and the inside of his Karmann Ghia looked like a dumpster. He could have used a car like the redesigned Altima. Inside, it's like one big organizer. There's a place for business cards, coins, CDs, cassettes and tissues. The door pockets and glove box are bigger. So maybe they didn't change the engine, but so what? You'll never lose anything under the seats, including a paycheck. He: Uncashed paychecks? I may have had 800 beer cans on my piano when we got married, but never an uncashed paycheck. And besides, when did organization become more important in an auto column than things like the engine? Nissan not only carried over the basic front-wheel-drive platform from last year, but the 150 horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine is still the only powerplant you can get. And driving enthusiasts will be disappointed to learn that with the GLE version, you can't even get the five-speed manual transmission. You're limited to a four-speed automatic. But gee, you won't have any coins rolling around on the floor when you're struggling to pass that 18-wheeler on the freeway. She: You sure don't get the idea when it comes to an affordable family sedan. Don't you think Nissan engineers and designers thought about where to put the effort when they changed the Altima? The engine obviously wasn't a big concern. It's got decent power. But space was a concern. Overall length has increased 3 inches and the car is wider by 2 inches. Nissan designers told me they studied women's handbags and noticed that younger women were carrying backpacks instead of traditional purses. These women were going for size and utility. And that's what they were thinking when they redid the Altima. He: Nissan could have made the Altima even bigger. The size increase on the '98 model isn't that dra matic. The biggest improvement is in shoulder room, which increased by about 3 inches. Head room and leg room are virtually the same as the old Altima. And it still feels small alongside an Accord or a Camry. She: Still, you have to agree that fit-and-finish is excellent. There were no gaps in the pieces inside the cabin and all the buttons, knobs and interior fabrics had a nice feel. And I love the Altima's excellent visibility - no real blind spots on this car. He: I agree, but buyers will have to think hard about which trim level they want because you can pick four different versions, from an entry-level XE model which starts at $14,990 to the pricier GLE we drove, with its standard leather-trimmed interior, eight-way power driver's seat and automatic transmission. Even with the top-of-the-line model, though, you have to pay an extra $499 for antilock brakes and you don't get roadside assistance. She: But how many mid-size sedans come with a standard CD player? at's such a terrific item and shows that Nissan is really tuned into the marketplace. And besides, if you pick your trim level wisely, you'll still end up saving a thousand dollars or more over a comparably equipped Toyota Camry or Honda Accord. He: So coin holders and CD players will sell the Altima in a segment that's crowded with great cars like the Honda Accord and even the Ford Contour, which I'd pick over the Altima any day of the week. It bugs me that you can't get a V-6 on the Altima. Yeah, you'll be able to pick out the Altima on the road, but only because it's got such an ugly design. And the colors aren't that much better either. She: I like both the lines and the color palette. The Altima has an intriguing look because if you study it, it's neither jelly-beany nor boxy. There is action and energy in the way the designers have combined lines and curves. And I love the color selections. We drove two Altimas recently, one in a grayish color called Brushed Pewter and another in golden olive. The colors alone make the Altima seem more upscale than a lot of the competition. He: Golden olive. Sounds like something you'd order at a Greek restaurant. She: I don't think of that as a put-down for the Altima. In fact, you're on the right track. The Altima is a lot more exotic than many run-of-the-mill family haulers. And that's why I like it. 1998 Nissan Altima GLE Type: Front-wheel drive, five-passenger mid-size sedan Price: Base, $19,890; as tested, $21,178 (including $490 destination charge) What's new for '98: New exterior style, new instrument panel and console compartments, wider track, improvements in noise, vibration and harshness, increased passenger and cargo volume Standard equipment: Air conditioning, AM/FM stereo cassette with CD player and six speakers, power doors locks and mirrors, split-folding rear seat, four-wheel independent suspension, front-and-rear stabilizer bars, power rack-and-pinion steering, power front disc brakes, P195/65R15 all-season tires, halogen headlamps, tinted glass, body-color bumpers and side moldings, leather seating surfaces, leather-wrapped steering wheel, wood-tone trim, rear seat center armrest, eight-way power driver's seat with adjustable lumbar support, power anddiversity antennas, dual cupholders with covers, power windows with driver's automatic down feature, locking glove compartment, dual lighted vanity mirrors, center console, tilt steering column, coin holder, intermittent wipers, remote trunk, fuel-filler door and hood releases, rear window defroster, front door map pockets, fold-down assist grips Safety features: Dual air bags, remote keyless entry and vehicle security system, steel side-door guard beams, front and rear crumple zones, height-adjustable front seat belts, three child-seat anchors in rear, child safety rear-door locks, energy-absorbing steering column Options on test vehicle: Antilock brakes ($499) , 15-inch aluminum alloy wheels ($299) EPA fuel economy: 22 mpg city/30 mpg highway Engine: 2.4-liter four-cylinder; 150 hp at 5600 rpm; 154 lb-ft torque at 4400 rpm Transmission: Four-speed automatic Competitors: Chevrolet Malibu, Chevrolet Cavalier, Chrysler Cirrus, Dodge Stratus, Plymouth Breeze, Ford Contour, Mercury Mystique, Honda Accord, Honda Civic, Hyundai Sonata, Mazda 626, Mitsubishi Galant, Oldsmobile Cutlass, Pontiac Grand Am, Pontiac Sunfire, Subaru Legacy, Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Jetta Specifications: Wheelbase, 103.1 inches; overall length, 183.1 inches; curb weight, 3012 pounds; legroom, 42.0 inches front/33.9 inches rear; headroom, 39.4 inches front/37.7 inches rear; shoulder room, 55.7 inches front/54.8 inches rear 12-month insurance cost, according to AAA Michigan*: $1,074 Where built: Smyrna, Tenn. * Rates based on an average family of four from the Livonia area whose primary driver is age 40 with no tickets h rives 3-10 miles each way to work. Rates reflect multicar discount and, where appropriate, discounts for air bags and seat belts.
|George Moore||IndyStar.com||January 25, 1998|
|Anita And Paul Lienert||The Detroit News||November 26, 1997|
|Paul Dean||Los Angeles Times||August 29, 1997|
|George Moore||IndyStar.com||August 10, 1997|
|Warren Brown||washingtonpost.com||August 8, 1997|
|Larry Printz||The Morning Call and Mcall.com||August 2, 1997|
|Tom Strongman||KansasCity.com||August 1, 1997|
|Bob Golfen||AZCentral.com||July 27, 1997|
|Jim Mateja||chicagotribune.com||July 6, 1997|
|Anita Lienert||The Detroit News||July 2, 1997|
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