2006 Altima New Car Test Drive
The Nissan Altima is a roomy, comfortable, practical mid-size sedan. But while the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry aim squarely at the mainstream buyer, the Altima boasts lots of power, sporty handling and expressive styling. It's designed to please fewer people, but to please those few more intensely.
In this respect the Altima reminds us more of Mazda's mid-size sedan, the Mazda6. Both offer stand-out styling; both surrender some refinement for gains in handling response. In other ways, however, they are diametric opposites: The lean and wiry Mazda is the smallest car in this class, powered by a choice of high-winding engines; while the muscular Nissan tops the class in both horsepower and wheelbase and is one of the roomiest cars in the class.
The Altima delivers stunning acceleration when ordered with its 250-horsepower V6, essentially the same engine used in the Nissan 350Z and Maxima. Punch it in any gear and it takes off, with nimble handling and brakes to match its thrust. The high-performance Altima SE-R adds 10 more horsepower and even more sports appeal. And for its part, the Altima's standard four-cylinder engine is more powerful than comparable engines in the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Mazda6 or Mitsubishi Galant. So no matter which model you buy, you get a more powerful car with the Altima.
Altima also boasts a bigger interior than Camry and Accord. Altima's interior was redesigned for 2005, which resulted in an improved cabin. Altima also received some mild styling enhancements and a slight boost to its V6 for 2005. For 2006, Nissan has added four new option packages, and the optional satellite radio receiver is now factory-installed.
The 2006 Nissan Altima comes in five trim levels: The 2.5, 2.5 S and 2.5 SL are equipped with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, while the 3.5 SE and 3.5 SL feature the powerful 3.5-liter V6.
The Altima 2.5 ($17,650) comes standard with power windows, tinted windshield, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, power steering, fold down center armrests front and rear, a 60/40 split folding rear seat and an in-glass antenna. Air conditioning and a stereo are not included, however. The base model is only available with a five-speed manual transmission.
The 2.5 S ($19,500) 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. It comes standard with a five-speed manual transmission or a four-speed automatic ($20,000). This is the most popular Altima, and Nissan offers several option packages to further its appeal. The Convenience Package ($1,680) features alloy wheels, eight-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) adds to the above a Bose audio system that includes a six-disc in-dash CD changer. Special Edition, Premium, Comfort, and Trip packages will also be available.
The 2.5 SL ($23,450) is the luxury Altima. It comes standard with the four-speed automatic transmission, heated leather seats, a power driver's seat, simulated wood trim, and most of the features offered in the convenience packages above. The only convenience option is the sunroof ($900). For those who want all the goodies without the big engine, this is the car.
The 3.5 SL ($27,300) adds the 250-horsepower V6 and five-speed automatic and comes standard with the four-speed automatic transmission, heated leather seats, a power driver's seat, simulated wood trim, and most of the features from the convenience packages. This is a very nice car, the top-of-the-line Altima.
The 3.5 SE ($23,500), on the other hand, is a performance model, equipped with the V6; five-speed manual transmission; 17-inch alloy wheels; wider, speed-rated tires; a performance-tuned suspension; fog lights; and dual chrome exhaust tips. The SE is also available with the five-speed automatic ($23,800). Cloth upholstery is standard. A Leather Package ($3,000) includes leather upholstery, Bose audio, sunroof, and heated front seats and mirrors. 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 SE-R ($29,550) features a 260-horsepower version of the 3.5-liter V6, performance-tuned front struts and rear shocks, stiffer front and rear springs, thicker front and rear stabilizer bars, speed-rated 225/45WR18 tires and 18-inch forged aluminum-alloy wheels. Anti-lock brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist are standard. Unique front and rear fascias and its own rear spoiler, compact fog lights, side-sill spoilers, and large dual exhaust finishers highlight the exterior. Inside, the SE-R gets sport leather seats, dark chrome trim, and a three-pod center-mounted gauge package. A six-speed manual transmission is standard, but the five-speed automatic is available as a no-cost option.
Safety features include dual-stage frontal airbags. Optional: side-impact airbags designed to provide torso protection for driver and front passenger and roof-mounted curtain airbags designed to provide head protection for front and rear passengers in a side impact or rollover. We strongly rec.