2012 Nissan Altima

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Review: 2007 Nissan Altima

This 2007 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2012.
By Dan Jedlicka of MSN Autos
Rating: 8

Bottom Line:

Sportier and more refined without sacrificing practicality.
Pros:
  • Nicely redesigned
  • More V6 power
  • Roomy
Cons:
  • Torque steer
  • Long reach into trunk to fold seatbacks
  • Gimmicky push-button starter

The last generation Nissan Altima was a big step up for the automaker, which gave it a bold look and potent V6. The car really should have done better against the No. 1 Toyota Camry and No. 2 Honda Accord.

Still, the front-wheel-drive Altima sold well, making it Nissan's top-selling car, and the redesigned 2007 is even more of a sound alternative to the Camry and Accord.

Some Downsizing
Most new cars have become larger, but it almost seems as if the new-generation Altima has been downsized. It's 2.5 inches shorter overall than its predecessor, with a wheelbase about an inch shorter at 109.3 inches for slightly better maneuverability. However, the new car is nearly a half-inch wider and is the same height.

Styling is smoother, although the 2007 Altima looks much like the 2006 version. It has a mildly reworked greenhouse (area above the bottom of the windows), bolder hood and fenders, reduced wheel opening gaps and more exaggerated taillights. A windshield with a greater rake helps provide a sportier look.

Improved Interior
Altima interiors never have been one of the car's strong points, but the quieter new interior looks more upscale. It has better workmanship, chrome accents and more use of soft materials for such items as padded armrests. Front console cupholders have a cover to give the console a one-piece appearance when the cover is closed.

Front seats provide good side support and the backlit gauges can be quickly read, even in bright sunlight. Controls are conveniently placed and major ones can be operated easily. But the push-button engine start/stop feature is gimmicky because it can't be used unless the interior contains a bulky fob, which usually ends up in a cupholder.

Four tall adults easily fit. Five would fit comfortably if the extra occupant was slender, but the center of the rear seat is too firm for comfort, even on short trips.

The trunk remains roomy, with a low, wide opening. But one must almost crawl into the trunk to fold the rear seatbacks forward to enlarge the cargo area.

New Platform
Nissan's new "D" platform is used for greater body rigidity and reduced noise, vibration and harshness. There's also a new front suspension for better stability, and the rear suspension has been improved for a smoother ride and more nimbleness.

List prices are competitive, ranging from $17,950 to $28,400. The Altima comes as the base 2.5, higher-line 2.5 S, midrange 3.5 SE and top-line 3.5 SL. (A gasoline/electric hybid version using Toyota technology is sold in eight low-emissions states, including California.)

Stronger V6
A smoother, refined 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine continues with 175 horsepower and powers the 2.5 trim levels. The 3.5 trim levels have a revamped 3.5-liter V6, which generates 270 horsepower. That's up from 250 horsepower for the standard 2006 V6. (The 2006 SE-R hot rod version's V6 had 260 horsepower.)

The 4-cylinder should be OK for many Altima buyers. Actually, most midsize Japanese sedan buyers opt for a 4-cylinder engine. A 4-cylinder Altima does 0-60 mph in a respectable 7.5 seconds, but the V6 propels the car to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds and allows stronger 65-75 mph passing.

Both 2007 engines have dual exhausts with chromed outlets for more efficiency and help give the Altima a sexier appearance.

A continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) is standard for the 3.5 SL and optional for other trim levels except the base Altima 2.5. A 6-speed manual gearbox with shorter shift strokes is standard for all but the 3.5 SL.

Good Highway Mileage
The Altima delivers good highway mileage. Estimated fuel economy with the 4-cylinder and manual transmission is 24 mpg in the city and 31 on highways—and 23 and 29 with the CVT. The V6 delivers 21 in the city and 27 on highways with the manual and 22 and 28 with the automatic.

The engines are positioned lower to give the Altima a lower center of gravity for better handling. However, I experienced some torque steer (unwanted pulling to one side) during hard acceleration from on-ramps to freeway speeds. However, torque steer has been reduced from last year's Altima.

Fun to Drive
The 3.5 SE is the most fun—and as close as you can get to last year's SE-R hot rod. It has the sharpest handling, with a sport suspension featuring larger-diameter stabilizer bars and unique spring rates and strut damping—besides wider tires on 17-inch (vs. 16-inch) wheels.

Other Altimas aren't too far behind in the driving enjoyment department with such items as an all-independent suspension. However, while they have a sporty feel, none are sports sedans—you get a good dose of understeer if you drive hard.

Steering is precise, although it has a rather heavy feel in the 3.5 SE. The ride is supple, although slightly firmer with the 3.5 SE. The brake pedal has a linear action for smooth stops.

An Altima V6 has standard anti-lock brakes, which are optional for the 4-cylinder versions except the entry trim level.

Safety Features
Safety features are understandably important to many midsize sedan buyers. Standard Altima safety items include front-seat side airbags and side-curtain airbags. Traction control is standard on V6 trim levels and unavailable on 4-cylinder versions. An anti-skid system with a full-size spare tire is offered for the 3.5 SE and 3.5 SL.

The base Altima is fairly well-equipped, with items including cruise control, a tilt/telescopic wheel, console, split-folding rear seat and power mirrors, windows and door locks with remote keyless entry.

The 2.5 S adds air conditioning and AM/FM/CD player. Move to the 3.5 SE and added are a power driver's seat and a steering wheel with radio controls. The top dog 3.5 SL adds leather upholstery, power sunroof, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, in-dash 6-disc CD/MP3 changer and satellite radio.

A bunch of option packages contain desirable items, but aren't inexpensive. For instance, a 3.5 SE premium package costs $4,400, but it contains such items as an upscale sound system, leather seats, power sunroof and XM satellite radio.

The competitively priced Altima provides a sporty look and feel, without sacrificing practicality. That's more than enough for many midsize sedan buyers.

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BB03 - 7/28/2014 9:26:51 AM