The Nissan Altima drives into 2017 with few changes from last year ? and that might not be such a good thing. The midsize sedan segment is changing rapidly, and features that were once considered the exclusive domain of luxury cars ? such as adaptive cruise control ? are not only becoming commonly available, but are must-haves for many midsize-sedan shoppers. The Altima was last redesigned four years ago, and what was new and hip then is now looking dated when compared to the more recently redesigned competition.
The Altima did get a minor update last year. Many of the changes were cosmetic: New grille, headlight and taillight designs. Nissan did add advanced safety features like forward collision warning with automatic braking and adaptive cruise control, but these are only offered in the top-of-the-line model. Other manufacturers are offering these potentially life-saving options on mid-level and even low-end models. We still love the Altima's "zero gravity" seats and find them much more comfortable than the competition, but overall the interior décor feels dated and a bit stale.
The Altima's ace in the hole is fuel economy, at least in four-cylinder form. Nissan offers a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that sends 182 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque to the front wheels through a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Nissan has programmed its CVT to operate in steps, making it feel more like a conventional automatic transmission. EPA estimated fuel economy is 31 mpg combined (27 city/39 highway), which is very good for the class, though if you opt for the SR model you'll see that combined figure drop by 1 mpg. The engine is noisy under acceleration, and the ride is less refined than the competition ? more signs of the Altima's age.
While many automakers are now offering turbocharged engines as more powerful alternatives, Nissan is sticking with a traditional V6 ? the brilliant 3.5-liter VQ-Series found in several Nissan and Infiniti vehicles. With 270 hp and 251 lb-ft of torque on tap, it can get the Altima to 60 mph in 6.2 seconds ? nearly 2 seconds faster than the four-cylinder ? but EPA estimated fuel economy drops to 26 mpg combined (22 city/32 highway).
Nissan offers five versions of the Altima. The nameless base trim level includes the basics, but most buyers will probably want the additional creature comforts found in the Altima S. The SR is the sporty version, while the SV features more comfort-oriented features. The top-of-the-line SL trim is the leather-lined luxury liner of the Altima range, and it's the one you'll have to buy if you want those latest and greatest safety features. Which one will suit you best? Edmunds can help find the perfect 2017 Nissan Altima for you.
Edmunds attended a manufacturer-sponsored event, to which selected members of the press were invited, to facilitate this report.