San Francisco: Since
2002, the Nissan Altima has offered buyers something different in the
midsize field. The original Altima was more of an oversized compact when
it debuted in the early 1990ís, but the new model goes toe-to-toe with
the extremely popular Japanese-name brands (you know who they are).
The 2005 model is an
evolution of the revolutionary 2002 edition. The front and back ends
have been tidied up, with new combination headlamps and large round
chrome-festooned taillights, a revised hood shape, and some chrome
accents for upper level cars. Newly designed wheels are an inexpensive
but noticeable upgrade. Even the base model now wears 16-inchers.
It is inside the car
where the real upgrade becomes obvious. Nissan designers massaged the
dash to a new design that feels extraordinarily spacious. Addressing
complaints, the materials have been upgraded, although the doors on the
console bins still feel a little flimsy. Chrome accents go a long way
toward imparting substance in the new Altima, with the satisfying feel
of the metal door levers a real tactile improvement. The chrome rings on
the instrument panel liven up the dash considerably. The fake wood in my
test car was unconvincing, but still looked attractive.
The trip computer in my
Sonoma Sunset colored test unit worked much like others I have used, but
the button was a little ľ-inch tab on the steering wheel spoke. Once I
got used to pushing it, I found it easy to manipulate the control while
driving. The cupholders are gargantuan, and the liners come out for
My carís beige cloth
seats were quite comfortable, and the fabric matched a wide sweep across
the doors. The fat three-spoke leather steering wheel felt good to grip.
The poetically named interior choices are Charcoal, Blonde and Frost.
The Altima continues to
have plenty of oomph under the hood if you want it. The economical
choice is a four-cylinder 2.5-liter four that puts out a respectable 175
horsepower and 180 lb.-ft. of torque. This thrifty and clean powerplant
meets the PZEV (partial zero emission vehicle) standards in California.
The upgraded powerplant
is a 3.5-liter V6, which puts out 250 horsepower and 249 lb.-ft. of
torque. My tester contained this engine, and it hauled the car along
swiftly. I got the five-speed automatic with gated shifter in my car,
but a five-speed manual is also available. Itís not easy to find a car
these days in the midsize segment that letís you row your own gears
unless you move up to the German luxury sedans.
There are now six
separate series of Altima. Nissan has chosen the typical alphanumeric
monikers. You can start with the base 2.5 (reflecting its use of the
2.5-liter four-cylinder engine), the 2.5 S, or the 2.5 S with the SL
Package. Next comes the
3.5 SE, with which I spent my week in, and there is a new 3.5 SL model.
Most interesting for enthusiasts is the top level 3.5 SE-R variant,
which manages to eke an extra 10 horsepower out of the V6 engine, and
enjoys a performance exhaust system, more aggressive exhaust pipes, and
rakish 18-inch alloy wheels.
My 3.5 SE was rated at
20 City, 30 Highway, but I achieved an average of 20.2 miles per gallon
with a week of mixed driving conditions.
My 3.5 SE came stocked
with all of the features you expect on a midsize car, including power
windows, which had power up and down for the driver. You can open or
close the driver and passenger windows by turning the key in the
ignition or using the keyless remote. The driverís seat has eight-way
power adjustment. The volume on the AM/FM/CD player has speed sensitive
automatic volume control. The headlamps have an automatic setting that
turns them on at night. The mirrors and locks are power, and air
conditioning and cruise control are on the standard menu, too.
My car added only the
five-piece floor mat set, with a fine-looking trunk rug ($150) and the
Sport Package, which contained a rear spoiler and power glass sunroof
($1,250). The bottom line for this spacious and speedy package was just
$25,710, including destination charges. In todayís money,
Thatís quite a complete
package. The base SE model, with four-cylinder engine and automatic
transmission, starts at just under $18,000, the SE-R tops out just under
the $30,000 mark.
If you want a midsize
car and donít want to own a Honda or Toyota just like your neighbors,
check out the Altima. But with its increasing appeal, it could become
extremely commonplace itself someday soon. By
Steve Schaefer © AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Nissan Home Page
Byline: Syndicated content provided by Tony Leopardo ©
are now six separate series of Altima
2005 Nissan Altima
The 2005 Nissan Altima
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