2016 Nissan Altima SLPosted on June 15th, 2016
Refreshed midsize sedan gains in style, safety and fuel economy
By Nina Russin
Since first coming on the scene in the early 1990s, the Nissan Altima has been a sporty alternative to the ever popular Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Although the midsize sedan has changed significantly over the past quarter century, it maintains the original strategy of affordability, style and appealing performance.
For 2016 Nissan significantly refreshed the current model with new exterior styling, a stand-alone sport grade and enhanced active safety features. Fuel economy has also improved to 39 miles-per-gallon on the 2.5-liter model tested.
With the average transaction price for automobiles reaching $32,000, it’s refreshing to see a fully-loaded premium sedan costing significantly less: $28,570 for the test car equipped with leather upholstery, keyless entry and start, heated zero gravity front seats, Bose premium audio system with satellite radio and Bluetooth streaming audio, heated mirrors and 17-inch alloy rims.
A technology package on the test car adds forward collision warning with emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, NissanConnect with navigation, stolen vehicle location and remote start via smartphone. Final MSRP including destination is $32,510.
Test drive in Phoenix, Arizona
This week I drove the newest Altima around the Phoenix, Chandler and Gilbert, Arizona metropolitan areas during the height of summer heat, with temperatures well in excess of 100 degrees, and the air conditioner thankfully blowing ice cubes.
Styling revisions to the car’s exterior make the newest Altima look more like its siblings, the current Murano and Maxima. The addition of active grille shutters and revised aerodynamics underneath the chassis contribute to the one mile-per-gallon fuel economy improvement over the previous year’s model.
Engineers also reduced internal friction in the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, and added variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust valves to maintain maximum torque over a wider speed range. Nissan’s continuously variable automatic transmissions are among the best in the industry, with pleasant linear response and none of the rubber band feel that plagues competitive units.
Blind spot monitoring is standard on the upscale SL, illuminating LED signals in the A pillars when vehicles in adjacent lanes pass through the driver’s blind spots. A standard rearview camera with rear cross traffic alert makes it easier to monitor cars speeding by in crowded parking lots.
The snow birds have left, but Phoenix summer weather ignites tempers of those who stick around. The active safety package made me feel better protected from this insanity as I wove through typically crazy Sky Harbor Airport traffic to drop my husband off for a business trip.
The electric power steering system is speed sensitive, giving drivers more assist at low speeds with pleasantly heavy response on the highway. Larger rims give the SL a slightly larger turning circle than the base model, but I had no problem performing a U-turn on a wider surface road.
A four-wheel independent suspension consists of independent struts with coil springs in front and multi-link system in back. Stabilizer bars on both axles keep the chassis flat while cornering.
Four-wheel disc brakes stop the Altima in firm, linear fashion.
Engineers did an excellent job of minimizing noise intrusion to the interior, so occupants can converse on the highway or enjoy the Bose audio system.
The Limited’s premium interior makes the Altima feel like a more expensive car than it actually is. As architect Mies van der Rohe once said, “God is in the details.” Small but important features such as its locking glovebox and rear air conditioning vents separate the Altima from similarly priced competitors.
Keyless entry and start saves the driver from fumbling for the key fob. I was able to adjust the power driver’s seat high enough for a clear forward view, with good lower lumbar support. Both the gauge cluster and center stack screen are easy to read in bright daylight and after dark.
Dual-zone air conditioning controls keep front seat occupants comfortable in temperature extremes. The shift lever was a challenge in the heat: chrome touchpoints made it difficult to shift into reverse without using gloves.
Rear seat passengers should be quite comfortable, with plenty of head, hip and legroom for average size adults. A spacious trunk easily holds multiple pieces of luggage, golf bags, smaller camping equipment and the weekly groceries. Rear seats fold flat in a 60/40 pattern to extend the cargo floor for skis, snowboards and other long items. Cyclists will be better served with the Nissan Murano crossover that has a taller, more versatile cargo area.
The Nissan Altima comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, antilock brakes, traction control, stability control, a tire pressure monitoring system with easy fill tire alert that chimes when the driver reaches the correct tire pressure, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert.
Nissan builds the Altima in its Smyrna, Tennessee assembly plant.
Like: A stylish midsize sedan affordably priced with premium amenities and exceptional fuel economy.
Dislike: Shift lever is difficult to use in extreme hot temperatures due to chrome touch points.
Model: Altima 2.5 SL
Base price: $28,570
As tested: $32,510
Horsepower: 182 Hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque: 180 lbs.-ft. @ 4000 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: No
Fuel economy: 27/39 mpg city/highway