Competes with: Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Mazda6, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Chrysler 200, Subaru Legacy, Hyundai Sonata
Looks like: The Nissan Maxima's distant cousin
Drivetrains: 182-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder or 270-hp, 3.5-liter V-6, CVT, front-wheel drive
Hits showrooms: Late 2015
Related: Research the Nissan Altima
This must be the week for new midsize sedans. Hot on the heels of the new Volkswagen Passat, we have the new 2016 Nissan Altima. One of the best-selling sedans in the country has received an extensive face-lift and update, inside and out, and gets a lot of new features for 2016.
Nissan is making a dramatic play for looking different in the global vehicle market, as evidenced by the fresh styling of the Murano SUV and Maxima sedan. Now the Altima wears that same flowing look, with significant updates to the front and rear ends, as well as new fenders and wheels. Available LED "boomerang" headlights and fog lights are new, and those along with a new daytime running light design and V-shaped grille, update the Altima nicely.
Rear highlights include new taillights and a revised trunk lid, but one thing not here is the dramatic floating roofline from the Murano and Maxima (that would require a bit more of an extensive redo). The new design employs some aerodynamic tricks, like active aero shutters to deliver a 10 percent improvement in drag, which has enabled Nissan to boost the base car's fuel economy.
Nissan calls the Altima's new center console design "gliding wing;" it's inspired by the new Maxima's interior, but doesn't go quite as dramatically sporty. Soft-touch materials abound, full-size cupholders are included and new trim graces the interior as well, but it doesn't look all that different inside. Nissan's Zero Gravity seats are still there, which some of our staff love and some hate, while a new Altima SR trim brings some increased sportiness to the interior with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shifter, paddle shifters for the automatic transmission and sport interior accents.
The electronics get a bit of an upgrade as well, with Hands-Free Text Messaging Assistant available as part of the NissanConnect multimedia system. The multimedia system features a standard 5-inch color touch-screen (on all except the base model) that incorporates the backup camera display and a suite of apps for customer use, as well as a USB port for smartphone connection. Standard on the 3.5 SL and optional on the 2.5 SV and 2.5 SL is an upgraded multimedia system with a 7-inch touch-screen, navigation and satellite radio. It's upgradable to include a concierge service as well that has automatic collision alert, smartphone remote engine start and more. An advanced display is offered for the gauge cluster that shows customizable information on a 4-inch full color display between the speedometer and tachometer.
Under the Hood
Powertrains carry over from the previous model year, with a standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 182 horsepower, mated to a standard continuously variable automatic transmission with front-wheel drive. Optional is a 3.5-liter V-6 making 270 hp for the more power-minded buyer.
The upside of the aerodynamic improvements is fuel economy is expected to increase to 27/39/31 mpg city/highway/combined for the four-cylinder, making it the most fuel-efficient base sedan in the class. The larger V-6 is estimated to get 22/32/26 mpg, according to Nissan. The Altima's suspension gets some attention as well, with new shock absorbers, rear springs and bushings. Nissan says the new tires contribute to improved steering and braking feel. The SR gets a decidedly sportier tune, with much larger stabilizer bars and retuned shocks for 20 percent less body roll than other trims.
The Altima will now offer Predictive Forward Collision Warning that can warn a driver of a potential collision by sensing what the traffic is doing ahead of the car. Blind spot warning is now standard on the SV and SL trims, as is rear cross-traffic alert. Adaptive cruise control with autonomous braking is part of the SL Tech Package.
Seven trims will be available when the car goes on sale later this year, five four-cylinder equipped models (2.5, 2.5 S, 2.5 SR, 2.5 SV and 2.5 SL) and two with the V-6 (3.5 SR and 3.5 SL).