2004 Altima New Car Test Drive
The Nissan Altima boasts a bigger interior than the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord and most other mid-size sedans. It's quicker, too.
The Altima offers everything buyers want in a reasonably priced sedan, particularly those who don't always travel alone. It's roomy, comfortable, and functional. It has comfortable rear seating and a big trunk. Bold styling sets it apart.
With its powerful, 245-horsepower V6, the Nissan Altima 3.5 SE is one of the hottest cars in its class. It delivers stunning acceleration. Punch it in any gear and it takes off, with nimble handling and brakes to match all the thrust. For 2004, the Altima's standard four-cylinder engine has been certified to meet the stringent new PZEV emissions standard in California and several Northeast States.
Redesigned two years ago, the current Altima is much larger than the previous-generation model. Its combination of looks, room and performance earned it the 2002 North American Car of the Year award and it quickly became Nissan's best selling vehicle.
Nissan Altima is offered in four trim levels: 2.5, 2.5 S, 2.5 SL and 3.5 SE. Two engines are available. Base, S, and SL models are powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The SE features a powerful 3.5-liter V6, essentially the same engine used in the Nissan 350Z and Maxima.
The base 2.5 model ($16,850) comes standard with power windows, a green-tinted solar glass windshield, power steering, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, fold down center armrests front and rear, a 60/40 split folding rear seat and an in-glass antenna. Stereo and air conditioning are not part of the base package, however, and other options are limited to chrome wheels, automatic transmission and fog lights.
The 2.5 S ($18, 700) adds air conditioning, power mirrors, remote keyless entry with remote trunk lock, an eight-way adjustable driver's seat, cruise control, a six-speaker audio system, seatback pockets and a lock for the split rear seat. This is the most popular Altima, and Nissan offers several option packages to further increase its appeal. The Convenience Package ($1,680) features alloy wheels, 8-way power driver's seat with lumbar support, leather-wrapped steering wheel, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, trip computer, dual illuminated vanity mirrors, speed-sensitive volume control, automatic headlights and a vehicle security system. The Convenience Plus Package ($2,500) adds a power glass sunroof with sunshade to the other goodies, while the Premium Convenience Package ($3,300) ups the ante with a Bose audio system that includes a six-disc in-dash CD changer.
The 2.5 SL ($23,200) is the luxury Altima. It has most of the features offered in the Convenience Packages and comes standard with an automatic transmission, heated leather seats, a power driver's seat and simulated wood trim. The only convenience option is the sunroof ($850). For those who want all the goodies without the big engine, this is the car.
The 3.5 SE ($23,149) comes with the V6, 17-inch alloy wheels, wider, speed-rated tires, a performance-tuned suspension, fog lights, and dual chrome exhaust tips. A Leather Package ($ 3,000) includes the leather upholstery, Bose audio system, sunroof, heated front seats, and heated mirrors. The Sport Package ($1,250) adds a sunroof and rear spoiler; the Sport Package Plus ($2,600) includes the sunroof, spoiler, Bose premium audio, and xenon headlights. The Leather Sport Package ($3,900) combines the Leather Package with the spoiler and xenon headlights. The top of the line is the Altima SE with the Premium Leather Package ($4,000).
Altima's prices this year reflect a fairly modest increase of $201 on all models compared to 2003. To its credit, Nissan has kept option prices essentially the same. The automatic transmission ($500) has actually decreased in price.
The 3.5 SE with automatic can be ordered with traction control, which is packaged with front side-impact and full-cabin head protection airbags, as well as ABS ($1,100). The S, SL and SE manuals offer the other safety gear ($800) without traction control. Unfortunately, the side airbags and ABS aren't available on the base Altima.