2011 Altima New Car Test Drive
The Nissan Altima is more than a midsize transportation appliance. The Altima is a driver's car. For drivers who appreciate sharp handling, the Altima excels. It connects with its driver and inspires confidence. It's steady and predictable in extreme handling situations. As a tradeoff, its suspension is firm compared to other midsize cars, so it isn't as smooth over bumps.
The Nissan Altima is best known as a midsize sedan but it's also available in a coupe version. Four-cylinder, V6, and gas/electric hybrid powertrains are offered. Each version of the Altima has sharper handling than is expected in a mainstream midsize car. This gives the Altima a unique place among the Honda Accords, Toyota Camrys, and Ford Fusions of the world.
The standard four-cylinder engine delivers more-than-ample power with good fuel economy. It is rated at 175 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque (170 and 175, respectively, in California). The available V6, closely related to the engine in Nissan's 370Z sports car, delivers exciting performance, with 270 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque.
The gas-electric Altima Hybrid Sedan boasts an EPA-rated 35 miles per gallon in the city, extending its range past 600 miles between fill-ups. The Hybrid features a less powerful version of the four-cylinder (158 horsepower) and an electric hybrid drive. Its electrically powered air conditioning works even when the engine is stopped.
Altima Sedan models are equipped with a continuously variable transmission, or CVT, which works like an automatic but varies gearing and doesn't shift. Nissan has excelled at CVT technology. The Coupe is also available with a six-speed manual transmission.
The Altima Sedan is comfortable, practical and well suited to growing families. It gives up little rear-seat room to the larger Nissan Maxima, with plenty of room in the trunk for luggage and cargo. In both the Sedan and Coupe, the Altima's cargo space can be expanded into the cabin, thanks to a standard fold-down, locking rear seatback.
The Altima Coupe two-door looks sportier than the Sedan. It sacrifices a substantial amount of rear seat room and we'd say it's a car for two people.
The Altima model line fits a wide range of tastes and budgets. The base sedan begins with the essentials, while the generous list of options, most grouped into packages, allows equipping the Altima at luxury-class levels.
Nissan Altima models get high marks for safety; standard equipment includes a full complement of airbags, anti-lock brakes, Nissan's Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) and Traction Control. A rearview camera is optional.
After receiving a midcycle update for 2010, the Altima gets only minor equipment shuffling in the various packages for 2011.
Drivers who put an emphasis on value for the money with a sportier feel than the average midsize car will find the Nissan Altima worth a look.
The 2011 Nissan Altima comes in sedan and coupe body styles. Three trim levels are available, base, S, and SR.
The Nissan Altima 2.5 Sedan ($20,270) comes with cloth upholstery, air conditioning with cabin air filter, cruise control, power mirrors, power door locks, power windows, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, split folding rear seat, trip computer, and P215/60R16 tires on steel wheels with wheel covers. It comes standard with the CVT. The Altima 2.5 S Sedan ($22,430) adds a six-speaker AM/FM/CD stereo with an auxiliary input jack, and keyless access and starting, as well as a greatly expanded options list.
The Altima 3.5 SR Sedan ($25,110) upgrades to the 3.5-liter V6 engine with CVT, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls, automatic headlamps, eight-way power driver's seat, heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, sport suspension, and P215/55R17 tires on alloy wheels.
The Altima Coupe 2.5 S comes standard with the four-cylinder engine and manual transmission ($23,380) or CVT ($23,880). It is equipped like the S sedan, but substitutes P215/55R17 tires on alloy wheels.
The Altima Coupe 3.5 SR features the V6 and a choice of manual ($30,540) or CVT ($28,210). The CVT version is equipped like the SR sedan but also gets driver-seat lumbar adjustment, sunroof, fog lights, and P235/45R18 tires. The manual version is better equipped, adding leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, Bose stereo, USB port, XM satellite radio, Bluetooth wireless cell phone link, rearview camera, auto-dimming rearview mirror, compass, universal garage door opener, and xenon headlights.
The Altima Hybrid ($26,800) is available only as a sedan and only with the CVT. It is equipped like an S model, but adds brake assist, dual-zone automatic climate control, and alloy wheels, while deleting the split-folding rear seat.
Options start with a Special Edition package ($750) for the 2.5 S Sedan with a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, automatic headlights and alloy wheels. A Convenience Package for the 2.5 S Sedan ($1,150), 2.5 S coupe ($1,070) and Hybrid ($1,300) comes with eight-way power driver's seat with lumbar adjustment, automatic headlights, leather-wrapped steering wheel, dual illuminated visor vanity mirrors, auto up/down front windows, and key fob auto windows down. The Hybrid version also gets a rear spoiler and the sedan version adds alloy wheels. A Convenience Plus Package ($1,150) adds power moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, and side-view mirrors with integrated turn signals.
A 2.5 SL package ($1,540) for the S Sedan comes with leather upholstery, heated front seats, driver's seat power lumbar adjustment, universal garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror, compass, additional interior lights, and rear vents.
Four Premium packages are offered. The 2.5 S Coupe version ($2,070) gets dual-zone automatic climate control, sunroof, mirror-mounted turn signals, Bose audio system, XM satellite radio, USB port, Bluetooth wireless cell-phone link, and a rearview camera. The 3.5 SR Coupe version ($1,420) has dual-zone automatic climate control, rearview camera, Bose audio, satellite radio, USB port, and Bluetooth. The 3.5 SR Sedan version ($2,380) gets leather upholstery, heated front seats, driver-seat lumbar adjustment, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear vents, Bose audio, satellite radio, USB port, Bluetooth, rearview camera, universal garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror, compass, and additional interior lights. And the Hybrid version ($4,230) comes with all of the equipment listed above.
A Leather package ($2,060) for the Coupe gets leather upholstery, heated front seats, auto-dimming rearview mirror, compass, universal garage door opener, and xenon headlights An Audio Package for the 2.5 S Sedan ($1,240) adds a Bose audio system with nine speakers, a 4.3-inch color display, rearview camera, Bluetooth, satellite radio, and a USB port. The Sport Package ($2,370) for the 3.5 SR Sedan includes the dual-zone automatic climate control, sunroof, xenon headlights, rear spoiler, and fog lamps. The Technology Package ($1,780) includes the Nissan Hard Drive Navigation system with a 6.5-inch color monitor, 9.3-gigabyte Music Box hard drive for digital music storage and playback, XM NavTraffic and NavWeather, DVD player, Bluetooth Streaming Audio, steering-wheel system controls, and VTR jack. Stand-alone options include fog lights ($310), Bluetooth ($280), interior floor and trunk mats ($185), rear spoiler ($370 sedan, $460 coupe), and alloy wheels ($570).
Safety features on all models include dual-stage front-impact airbags, front seat-mounted side-impact airbags, front and rear curtain-style airbags, VDC electronic stability control system with traction control, and ABS with electronic brake-force distribution, for optimum braking under a range of conditions.