Despite exits by notable participants, the mid-size sedan segment is a formidable battle of giants that include the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and…Nissan Altima. The first two are earning their place with aggressive style and smooth dynamics. By comparison, the Altima is handsome if a bit conservative. But, driving it makes you believe the Altima has some smooth moves to entice drivers.
Working The Details
Looking at the Altima’s profile, it looks much like any other mid-size sedan, but designers really worked the details to give it presence on the road. Nissan’s “V-Motion” grille was taken from the Maxima for an angry face while delicate sculpting on the bodysides, floating rear roof, and faired-in horizontal taillamps add visual grist – even if little distinguishes it from other Nissan products. LED projector headlamps, LED foglilghts, and sleek 17-inch wheels all add flair.
Stylists kept it smooth and luxurious on the other side of the threshold too. The dash is a great example of having everything you need, understated, with absolute convenience. Elegant woodgrain and stitched coverings grace the dash – as does an intuitive touchscreen sprouting up for infotainment that includes navigation and connections for iThings via USBs, Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay. Heated front seats, heated flat bottom steering wheel, Bose audio, power moonroof, and dual-zone automatic climate control add comfort. Aluminized volume and tuning knobs look cool and make surfing channels a cinch. I only wish for a head-up display.
Nissan stepped up with enough safety gear that I almost had to look at the logo in the grille to make sure it wasn’t an Infiniti. Forward collision alert with auto brake, blind spot warning, lane departure warning, and rear cross traffic alert with auto brake were a good start, but our car also came with lane keep assist and Nissan’s ProPilot assist system that centers the car in its lane through active steering while in adaptive cruise mode. You have to keep your hands on the wheel and eyes on the road, but the Altima eases driving.
Peppy And Efficient
Reading the specs, you wouldn’t expect much from the powertrain. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine connects to a continuously variable transmission and delivers 182 horsepower and 178 lb.-ft. of torque. All-wheel-drive keeps it moving in slick weather and on snowy streets. In the real world, the car felt much peppier than those numbers suggest. Even better, fuel economy is rated a frugal 26/36-MPG city/highway.
None of that will make headlines, but driving it is a serene experience. It was happy trolling around town with its suspension erasing rough pavement, but really stretched its legs during a late night four-hour Interstate row. Even while cruising and accelerating at illegal speeds, the engine was smooth – as was the continuously variable transmission that, unlike many competitors, manages to shift power without screaming like a Weed Eater. The steering is a good balance of precision and comfort. Adaptive cruise with lane centering nearly drove itself. It all worked harmoniously enough to be almost boring.
The Altima is proof that not everybody wants a sports car. From its handsome styling to graceful interior and smooth driving, it’s a car that will simply bring you peace every day and do its job without complaint. A base price of $24,100 rises to $34,855 with all of the safety gear. Beyond the obvious, competitors include the Chevy Malibu, Mazda6, Subaru Legacy, Kia Optima, and Hyundai Sonata.
2020 Nissan Altima SL
- Five-passenger, AWD Sedan
- Powertrain: 2.5-liter I4, CVT
- Output: 182hp/178 lb.-ft. torque
- Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind
- Wheels f/r: 17”/17” alloy
- Brakes f/r: disc/disc
- Must-have features: Smooth style, driving
- Fuel economy: 26/36 mpg city/hwy
- Assembly: Smyrna, TN
- Base/As-tested price: $24,100/34,855