2006 Nissan Altima

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2005 Nissan Altima

This 2005 review is representative of model years 2002 to 2006.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Rating: 7.75

Bottom Line:

Nissan finally gets its mainstream family sedan, the Altima, up to snuff while maintaining a healthy dose of engine power with both four-cylinder and V6 powerplants. Here's hoping the Altima now keeps up with new competitors.
Pros:
  • Strong V6
  • Sporty looks
  • Updated interior
Cons:
  • Fuel economy
  • Fit and finish
  • OK for today, but newer competitors are appearing

Any time I start to wonder just how savvy car buyers are I think about the Nissan Altima sedan.

The early Altima was compact-sized and not as big as its top competitors in the family sedan segment—the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.

American consumers weren't fooled. Altima sales never approached those of the Camry and Accord.

By the 2002 model year, Nissan had introduced a larger, midsize Altima. But the interior wasn't considered by many to be on par with Honda and Toyota.

Now comes the 2005 Altima with an upgraded interior that has a noticeable, higher quality than any previous Altima. For example, the cloth upholstery in the test Altima 3.5 SE not only looked nice, it was soft to the touch. The ceiling material also is textured and richer-looking than the plain stuff Nissan used before.

Further, the new Altima has sportier outer styling that makes the Accord, especially, look a bit ho-hum. Other changes include a slight, 5-horsepower boost to the already-strong Altima V6 as well as new options, such as a DVD-based navigation system.

Engine power is tops
The Altima bests the top competitors in engine power, regardless of whether you select the four cylinder or the V6.

The power is palpable, conveying a spirited ride, and seems fitting for a sedan that has a sporty, rather than conservative, look. Specifically, the Altima's 2.5-liter double overhead cam four-cylinder engine can produce 175 horses and 180 lb-ft of torque at 4000 rpm.

This compares with 157 horses and 162 lb-ft at 4000 rpm in the Camry with 2.4-liter four cylinder and 160 horses and 161 lb-ft at 4500 rpm for the Accord with 2.4-liter four cylinder.

The Altima's 3.5-liter double overhead cam V6 generates 250 horses and 249 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm. This compares with the Camry's top, 3.3-liter V6 that produces 225 horsepower and 240 lb-ft of torque and the Accord's 240-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 that has 212 lb-ft of torque at 5000 rpm.

I liked how the V6 sounded in the Altima test car. I heard it every time I accelerated. This, plus some road noise that told me what kind of road texture I was on, seemed to be about all that I noticed inside the Altima.

Shifts of the 5-speed automatic transmission that was in the test car were smooth and nearly imperceptible. I liked that the Altima allowed me to shift, without having to depress a clutch pedal, from gear to gear, if I wanted.

All I had to do was move the shift lever over to the right, where a plus sign and a minus sign helped guide my upshifts and downshifts.

Engine considerations
One downside to the Altima's fine V6: Premium is the recommended fuel. Another issue for shoppers to consider: Fuel economy of the Altima isn't the best.

Indeed, the highest fuel economy rating for this car is found in the base, four-cylinder model with manual transmission, which is rated at 23 miles a gallon in city driving and 30 mpg on the highway.

This is far less than the segment's top gasoline model, the Mitsubishi Lancer with four-cylinder engine and manual transmission. It's rated by the federal government at 28/35 mpg, respectively.

Sizing it up
Front-seat passengers fare the best in the Altima. The car has a tad more front headroom and more front legroom than the Accord and Camry.

But the Altima winds up just a bit short in rear-seat headroom and legroom, though I sat quite comfortably back there and could even stretch my legs. I liked that the middle passenger in back has a soft resting spot.

The Altima's trunk looks cavernous when you lift the trunk lid, but its 15.6 cubic feet of space is less than the Camry's 16.7 cubic feet. It is more than the Accord's 14 cubic feet. Note that a lot of the Altima's trunk room is under the rear parcel shelf, so a person has to reach way under that shelf to get at many items in the trunk.

Feeling some bumps
The ride in the 3.5 SE sent some vibrations through to passengers, and on occasion, I heard a "ba-boom" sound come from the rear suspension as I passed over potholes.

On a dirt lane, I felt a good number of bumps and a lot of jostling. Still, overall, the ride in this front-wheel-drive car is neither cushioned nor overly jolting. The front suspension is independent strut with coil springs, while an independent multi-link design works at the rear.

Odds and ends
The 2002 Altima was an early-for-the-model-year introduction and sales after its debut zoomed to levels that have never been seen before.

The cloth upholstery in the tester was nicer than many other car upholsteries. It had a pleasing, not cheap, look and felt dense to the touch. It also did a superb job holding me in place in the seat during aggressive driving maneuvers.

For 2005, Nissan adds a new Altima model. The new SE-R, which had a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price of more than $29,000—some $11,000 more than a base, four-cylinder Altima and some $5,000 more than a base V6 model—is the sportiest Altima available.

Among the changes on the SE-R is a retuned V6 that provides 260 horses—10 more than in the regular Altimas—as well as stiffer front and rear springs and sport-tuned rear shock absorbers and front struts. The SE-R rides on 18-inch, Y-rated tires and has new front and rear fascias.

Note that a couple items on the tester didn't show the best fit and finish. Example: The gaps around the hood.

Still, in summary, it's good to see Nissan has finally gotten the Altima to where it needed to be. I'll be interested to see if Nissan keeps it competitive.

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BB03 - 8/29/2014 1:39:43 PM