Vehicle Overview
After moving to a brand-new, larger front-wheel-drive platform in 2002, Nissan's midlevel four-door sedan was updated as an early 2005 model. Changes include smoked headlights and taillamps and a restyled hood. Nissan calls it a "dramatic overhaul," adding that the 2005 Altima features a "totally revamped interior." A DVD-based navigation system is available in the Altima for the first time.

On the mechanical side, the available V-6 engine has gained 5 horsepower; it is now rated at 250 hp except in the SE-R, where its output is 260 hp.

The Altima lineup includes four-cylinder and V-6-powered models. Principal rivals include the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry. Altimas are manufactured in Tennessee.

The new Altima SE-R features forged 18-inch wheels, a three-gauge center instrument cluster, an "aggressive" front fascia, a rear spoiler, high-flow mufflers and black leather-appointed sport seats.

The Altima is ample in size and exhibits a wedge-shaped profile with a high belt line. The wheelbase is comparatively long at 110 inches, and its overall length stretches to 192.3 inches.

The cabin boasts long side windows. Nissan says the taillights were inspired by super bikes. SL models feature chrome accents.

The Altima uses a fully independent suspension. Depending on the trim, 16- , 17- or 18-inch wheels are installed.

Seating for five people includes separate front seats and a three-place, 60/40-split folding rear bench. The instrument panel is designed to "fall away" from occupants, providing more legroom. To improve visibility, the front-seat hip point is relatively high. Trunk volume totals 15.6 cubic feet, and a cargo net is standard. Leather seating is optional.

Under the Hood
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder produces 175 hp (170 hp in California). A 3.5-liter V-6 that produces 250 hp (260 hp in the SE-R) is available. Either engine can team with a five-speed-manual gearbox. A four-speed-automatic transmission is available in four-cylinder models, while the V-6 engine teams with a five-speed automatic that incorporates a manual-shift mode. The SE-R is the only Altima that can have a six-speed manual. Traction control is available in Altimas equipped with V-6 power and an automatic transmission.

All-disc brakes are standard. Antilock brakes, side-impact airbags for the front seats and roof-mounted side curtain-type airbags are available.

Driving Impressions
Simply put, the Altima delivers an appealing road experience. It steers with a rather light touch, is stable on the road and exhibits minimal body lean. Ride comfort is satisfying, and the fully independent suspension deals adeptly with pavement bumps and holes.

Strong performance from the V-6 matches excellent response from the automatic transmission, which downshifts promptly and eagerly. Acceleration is even more energetic in models equipped with the five-speed-manual gearbox, but the unit is a bit on the clunky side. A four-cylinder automatic transmission-equipped Altima turns in credible performance, so many buyers won't require the V-6. The seats feel comfortable and pleasantly supportive, and the sedan comes across as tightly constructed.