2001 Altima New Car Test Drive
Since its 1993 introduction, Altima's strength has been its slightly smaller size, lower price, and more nimble handling than the mid-range, mid-size Nissan Maxima, Toyota Camry, or Honda Accord. Faster, roomier, and more sophisticated than a compact, Altima has offered a real, between-floors alternative that some people find just right.
That's why we were a little surprised when Nissan redesigned the Altima last year, making it longer and more powerful than before. But we needn't have worried, because neither the extra inches nor the increased horsepower diminished the Altima's unique charm. In fact, the newest Altima is sleeker-looking and quieter, yet even more responsive than before.
For 2001, Nissan has focused on making Altima an even better value, with a new Limited Edition option package for the already value-oriented Altima GXE.
Four models are available, all powered by a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine.
The basic XE lists for just $15,140, but to get air conditioning you'll need a $1,999 option package that also includes a 100-watt CD stereo and cruise control.
The $16,340 GXE adds luxury touches including a folding rear seatback, a lifting adjustment for the driver's seat, cloth trim for the inner door panels, and fancier wheel covers. To get air conditioning, you still have to pay $999 for a ``value option package' that includes larger tires, CD stereo, cruise control, power locks, remote entry, lighted vanity mirrors, variable wipers, and an overhead console with map lights and sunglasses holder. The new-for-2001 GXE Limited Edition package lists for $1,375, and includes all of the above plus a power driver's seat, remote keyless entry with vehicle security system, floor mats, and special LE badging.
Traditional with Nissan is an SE sport model, which gives you the largest wheels and tires, a firmer suspension, rear disc brakes, a monster six-speaker CD stereo, and a driver's seat lumbar support. The SE lists for $18,640.
The top-line GLE has a softer, more luxurious ride than the sporty SE. And it comes with an eight-way power driver's seat, side-impact airbags, leather upholstery, and automatic transmission, for $20,390.
The SE can be ordered with leather for $1,299, but then Nissan requires that you also buy the $849 power moonroof. Automatic transmission, fortunately, is an $800 stand-alone option on XE, GXE, and SE.