2011 Nissan Altima 2.5 SPosted on January 4th, 2011
Midsized sedan combines value and sporty performance
By Nina Russin
One of the good things to come out of the economic down-tic is a renewed interest in the midsized sedan. Buyers stepping out of larger sport-utility vehicles and crossovers are finding a lot to love in a fuel-efficient car which holds up to five passengers.
While sedans don’t have the tall cargo bays necessary for carrying bicycles, those with a rear pass-through are easily capable of holding skis, snowboards and camping equipment, making them a good choice for certain athletes.
The value-driven Nissan Altima fills all of these squares, with a choice of two engines and three grades, ranging from the base model to the premium SR. The test car is the volume-leading S with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and continuously variable automatic transmission.
MSRP is $22,060 not including the $750 destination charge. An audio upgrade and two convenience packages add appealing features such as satellite radio, iPod and Bluetooth interface, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, alloy wheels, an eight-way power driver’s seat, power sunroof and dual-zone climate controls, bringing the price as tested to $26,660.
32 mile-per-gallon fuel economy
The 2.5-liter powerplant is part of a new generation of large four-cylinder engines which offer better power than their smaller counterparts with excellent gas mileage. Engineers have figured out methods of eliminating vibration that used to be the bane of large four-cylinder blocks. In the case of the Altima, it’s a counterbalance which is part of the timing chain assembly.
The timing chain has the advantage over a rubber belt of eliminating a costly maintenance procedure at about 60,000 miles. The continuously variable transmission provides smooth power delivery throughout.
The 175-horsepower engine develops peak torque, 180 lbs.-ft., at 3900 rpm: about half throttle. As a result, the Altima has excellent acceleration in the 20-to-50 mile-per-hour range for merging onto the highway. There is plenty of power on the high end for passing slower vehicles. I had no problems getting around some trucks hauling trailers on a two-lane road north of Phoenix.
Fuel economy for my 150-mile test drive was on par with the EPA estimates of 23/32 miles-per-gallon city/highway.
New Year’s resolution run
As a distance runner, I always begin the new year with a resolution run. It’s a way of renewing my commitment to an activity I credit for sustained good health and a growing circle of friends.
This year, I had the opportunity to take the test car on a resolution run as well. Having been an automotive journalist for the past twenty years, writing about cars is more than a job for me. It’s a passion. What better way to celebrate this passion than a New Year’s Day drive with fellow car enthusiasts?
Friends in Scottsdale who collect vintage cars organize the event, inviting kindred spirits to take to the roads on a day which typically offers traffic-free driving.
Late morning the group set off on a drive that ended in the southern Arizona town of Wickenburg. The route along the Carefree highway skirts the northern border of Phoenix and passes Lake Pleasant, with intervals of desert and mountains.
A car its owners can be proud of
What has consistently impressed me about the Nissan Altima is its combination of youthful styling and peppy performance, setting it apart from the competition. The current-generation sedan continues in that tradition, with its stylish exterior and user-friendly passenger cabin.
Engineers did an excellent job of isolating passengers from road, engine and wind noise, enabling both rows to converse with ease. The only audible sound is an occasional belch from the dual exhaust pipes which driving enthusiasts will appreciate.
Optional sixteen-inch alloy wheels on the test car eliminate some unsprung weight from the chassis, enhancing performance. Speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering provides ample assist at low speeds while maintaining positive on-center response on the highway. Engineers have continued to improve the Altima’s torsional rigidity over successive generations to enhance high-speed performance.
A four-wheel independent suspension with stabilizer bars on both axles provides a compliant, yet responsive ride. Four-wheel disc brakes with four-channel antilock braking stop the car on in a firm, linear manner.
Visibility around the vehicle perimeter is good. I had no problems viewing cars in the adjacent lanes merging onto the highway or passing slower vehicles. A rearview camera which comes with the audio upgrade makes it easy to back out of vertical parking slots in crowded parking lots.
The Altima’s stylish interior includes numerous features typically associated with luxury models. For example, standard keyless entry and start enables the driver to enter the car and fire the ignition without removing the key fob from his pocket. Not only is this a great convenience; it also adds a measure of safety for women who drive alone in urban areas after dark.
I found the cloth seats both attractive and comfortable. While many bolstered seats bother my chronically-tight hamstrings, these did not. The standard tilt-and-telescoping steering wheels enables smaller drivers to maintain a safe distance from the front airbag, and an uninterrupted forward view.
Due to a tall floor tunnel, the rear seats can only hold two adult passengers comfortably. Those seated in the outboard positions should find plenty of head, leg and hip room.
Designers did an excellent job of including storage bins around the passengers, including a locking glovebox and two-tier center console bin. There are plenty of cup and bottle holders, in the center console and the doors.
Both the gauges and center stack displays are easy to read in a variety of lighting conditions. An information display in the gauge cluster includes ambient temperature: handy for anybody heading out for a bike ride or trail run.
The rear seats fold flat, extending the Altima’s cargo floor for long items. Even with the seat in place, the long, deep trunk has plenty of room for luggage or the weekly groceries.
The Nissan Altima comes standard with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction and electronic stability control.
Nissan builds the Altima at its Smyrna, Tennessee assembly plant.
Likes: An attractive, affordable midsized sedan with excellent handling and performance. The 2.5-liter engine is surprisingly peppy, while offering exceptional fuel economy on the highway.
Dislike: Floor and trunk mats are a $175 option.
Model: Altima 2.5 S
Base price: $22,060
As tested: $26,660
Horsepower: 175 Hp @ 5600 rpm
Torque: 180 lbs.-ft. @ 3900 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 23/32 mpg city/highway
2 responses to “2011 Nissan Altima 2.5 S”
marcos lopez February 19th, 2011 at 23:10
Absolutely love it. I have three kids 8, 7, and 3….they fit better in my new Altimia than the SUV I traded in. I give this car a 10 out of 10.
Excellent care when I rented in LA and lots of power on the hwy. This will be my next car.
Leave a reply