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Nissan Altima

On the Road Auto Reviews

cars.com On the Road Weekly Publication

12:00 AM EDT, August 12, 2011

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Not only are there many mid-size family sedans to choose from, most of them are quite good. Count the 2012 Nissan Altima as among the best.

The Altima sedan comes with either a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, good for 175 horsepower, or a 3.5-liter V-6, rated at 270 horsepower. Nissan has made only minor trim changes to this 2012 Altima. The model is in its sixth year of production.

The Altima remains a first-class effort. The fact that it’s still such a strong competitor among mid-size family sedans is a tribute to its designers and engineers.
“The 2012s are on a six-month production schedule,” Phil
Wallace, new car sales manager at Middletown Nissan, said. “They are then going to retool and a new version will be coming.”

Nissan loaned us a four-cylinder SL, the top four-cylinder S version with the leather package added. A family sedan, it nearly passes as a luxury car. The interior is very nicely done, with comfortable seats and room for six-footers in the front seat even with the optional sunroof. Taller riders in the backseat might complain about headroom, and as with many mid-size sedans, will be more comfortable with the front seats moved forward.

Power comes from a dual overhead cam 16-valve 4-cylinder engine with a silent chain drive, variable valve timing and a center-mounted balancer that smoothes out the 4-cylinder vibration. Two of the four engine mounts are liquid filled, further helping to eliminate vibrations.

The only transmission is a continuously variable automatic that can be prompted to mimic a multi-speed automatic when the driver takes command and dictates manual shifts.
Acceleration with this four-cylinder front-wheel-drive drivetrain is quite goo; 60 miles per hour took just 8.5 seconds. If that’s not enough for you, go for the top-of-the-line V-6-powered Altima.

The ride is well controlled and steady. Handling is responsive and rewarding. Noise levels on the highway with
the windows closed are low.

“Buyers say that the Altima offers a lot of bang for the buck,” Wallace said.

Enhancing the car’s appeal is the availability of a Value or Special Edition package. The value package offers a leather-wrapped steering wheel, automatic headlights, a Bluetooth hands-free phone system and an automatic day/night mirror with a garage door opener. The Special Edition package adds alloy wheels, fog lights and a rear spoiler.

Base trim level buyers have nothing to fear. All Altimas come with air conditioning and power assists such as power windows, locks and mirrors. Even a basic version competes well by delivering comfort, convenience, dependability and value, which is just what most family sedan shoppers are looking for.

Factory-backed special leasing promotions and subsidized interest rates are now available, Wallace said.


Nissan Altima: Starts at $20,410.

Engines:        2.5-liter four            3.5-liter V-6

HP            175                    270

Torque (lb-ft)    180                    258

EPA            23/32                    20/27

Next week: Lotus Evora S