The last-generation Altima was consistently one of the best-selling cars in its class, so Nissan chose to evolve the current model with subtle, incremental improvements instead of completely starting from scratch. The wheelbase carried over unchanged, while overall length grew by an inch and width increased by 1.3 inches. The suspension features struts in front and a multi-link setup at the rear.
Despite the dearth of dimensional changes, the Altima is lighter than the last-gen model by about 80 pounds thanks to the increased use of high strength steel.
That lighter curb weight, in addition to a retuned 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, helps the new Altima to achieve best-in-class fuel economy of 27 mpg in the city and 38 mpg on the highway. Output is rated at 182 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. Also aiding on the efficiency front is a next-generation continuously variable transmission (CVT) that was re-engineered for reduced internal friction and also features new control logic and expanded gear ratio coverage.
The optional engine is a carryover 3.5-liter V6 that produces a healthy 270 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. Like the four, the six-cylinder pairs exclusively with the CVT, and mileage is rated at 22/32 mpg - an increase of 1 mpg highway for the latest model year.
Premium Look Inside and Out
Nissan has further evolved the styling of the Altima with this year's refresh, giving it a look that puts it right at home next to the refreshed Sentra and Maxima sedans which also boast the "Energetic Flow" design language. While it does not go so far as to embrace the floating greenhouse look being adopted by the brand's SUVs and crossovers, it does give the Altima a modern look without sacrificing the premium elements that made the previous iteration call to mind the more premium Infiniti brand.
The cabin packs so-called "zero-gravity" seats that provide optimal support and help reduce muscular and spinal loads. Noise levels are kept to a minimum thanks to new sound-deadening materials and--for the first time--laminated front glass.
Nissan's interior refresh was intended to provide an "information-centric" experience. The center stack and console area controls were revamped allowing for better ease of use and more extensive connectivity.
All Altima models come standard with NissanConnect, a platform for Bluetooth-based smartphone integration that offers a range of apps like Facebook, Pandora radio, iHeartRadio and Online Search powered by Google.
Other available tech features include Hands-Free Text Messaging Assistant and a navigation system with SiriusXM Travel Link and real-time weather info, fuel prices, movie times and stock updates.
Trim Level Breakdown
The four-cylinder Altima sedan (2.5) is available in five trim levels: Base, S, SV, SR and SL. Several packages are available at various trim levels.
The bottom rung of the Altima ladder is the 2.5 base, which is equipped as standard with A/C, full power accessories, a four-speaker AM/FM/CD player with an AUX input, Bluetooth connectivity with streaming audio capability, Advanced Drive-Assist Display, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, keyless entry, push button start, 16-inch steel wheels with hubcaps, and chrome exhaust tips.
The Altima 2.5 S model adds, cruise control, Nissan Intelligent Key, a five-inch color audio display, two extra speakers for the audio system, auto on/off headlights and an in-cabin microfilter. A power driver's seat package for this trim adds exactly that.
SV models include Dual Zone Automatic Temperature Control, Remote Engine Start System, leather-wrapped steering wheel, aluminum-alloy wheels (17-inch on 2.5 SV, 18-inch on 3.5 SV), RearView Monitor, NissanConnectSM with Pandora radio capability, SiriusXM Satellite Radio, 5.0-inch color audio display, USB port with iPod connectivity, Hands-Free Messaging Assistant, and, new for the latest model year, fog lights and an eight-way adjustable driver's seat.
Three packages are available for the SV. A Convenience package adds a power moonroof and other interior luxury options. A Navigation package adds NissanConnect with navigation. A Cold weather package adds heated front seats and outside mirrors.
An alternative to the SV is the SR. The SR offers many of the same features as the SL, but replaces its 17" wheels with 18" variants, adds smoked headlight housings, and offers unique sport-designed cloth seating surfaces. No packages are available for the SR.
2.5 SL models include leather-appointed seating, Bose Premium Audio System with nine speakers (including woofers), heated front seats and steering wheel, heated outside mirrors, LED taillights, LED outside mirror turn signals, premium interior trim, auto dimming rearview mirror and HomeLink Universal Transceiver. A stand-alone moonroof package is available on SL models, as is a Technology package which adds NissanConnect with navigation, intelligent cruise control and forward collision warning.
With the refresh, the V6 is available only as either an SR or SL model. The 3.5 SR is the "base" model, but is essentially the sportier alternative to the SL. The equipment level is similar to that of the 2.5 SR, but it is also available with a few unique styling options, such as V6-specific 18-wheels. The SL carries over the features of the 2.5L model. The 2.5 SL's Technology package is also available on the 3.5 SL.
All Altima models come standard with dual front, side and full-length side-curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems.
Nissan's new "Safety Shield" suite is also available, adding predictive forward collision warning, forward emergency braking, intelligent cruise control and rear cross-traffic alert.
Buyers interested in the Altima should also check out the sporty Mazda Mazda6 and the stylish Chevrolet Malibu, while the feature-laden Kia Optima is also worth a look. Stalwarts of the mid-size sedan segment such as the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord also merit consideration.