Nissan For 1998
By Carey Russ
The 1998 model year looks to be a new beginning for Nissan. After a quiet period, the company is embarking on an aggressive product launch schedule, with something new every six months for the next four years. The 1998 Altima made its debut last summer, and was followed in the Fall by the Frontier mini-truck. The Sentra and 200SX have freshened styling.
The second-generation Altima is an evolutionary development of the original. It is slightly larger, with more contemporary styling that is discernably Nissan and looks much like a leaner, trimmer, refined version of its predecessor.
"Refined" is the best description. Nothing about the car is radically different, but nearly every part has changed. The chassis is more rigid for improved ride and handling and lower noise levels. The 4-cylinder engine displaces the same 2.4 liters and makes the same 150 horsepower as before, but numerous internal refinements make it much smoother and quieter. The suspension is the same in general specification, but refined in detail. Front and rear crumple zones, reduced-force airbags, side-guard door beams, and child safety locks add to safety. The interior has been redesigned for better ergonomics, and has more room.
Four models are offered for 1998, the value-leader XE, the volume model GXE, the sporty SE, and the luxury-appointed GLE. Between them, nearly the entire range of small midsized sedan needs is covered. All Altimas are made in Smyrna, Tennessee.
Nissan was the first company to sell a compact pickup in this country, nearly 40 years ago. Since then, Nissan trucks have had the first half-ton capacity, the first long bed, and the first extended cab in a compact pickup.
One thing the Nissan (and Datsun) truck never had was a name. The 7th generation pickup, and third to be built in the U.S., now has a name - Frontier. The Frontier is designed to have class-leading towing and carrying capacity. It is larger and more refined than the truck it replaces.
Inside, the Frontier has much more cab space than any previous Nissan truck. The interior is more carlike in comfort, convenience, and safety without compromising truck utility and functionality. A selection of bench or bucket seats is available, with coverings varying by trim level. Allowing for trim level, cab length, and 2- or 4-wheel drive status, there are seven models. A number of equipment packages are also offered.
All Frontier pickups are built in Smyrna, Tennessee, and are powered by a 143-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine.
The Sentra sedan family has grown for 1998, with the introduction of the sporty SE model. With the same 2.0-liter, 140- horsepower engine, it's a 4-door version of the 200SX SE-R coupe. Is the 4-door sports car making a comeback?
All Sentras have been subtly restyled for 1998, with new front and rear fascias. Five different trim levels are offered, so there is a Sentra for a wide variety of customers. All but the SE use a 115- horsepower, 1.6-liter twincam engine with variable valve timing for improved engine performance at all speeds.
Nissan's flagship sedan now has optional front seat side airbags. Three trim levels are offered - the value model GXE, the sporty SE, and the luxurious GLE. All use a 190-horsepower 3.0-liter V6 engine.
The 200SX is the coupe cousin to the Sentra sedan. Like the Sentra, it has been restyled for 1998. But, in order to differentiate the two cars, the 200SX's restyling is not the same as the Sentra's.
Three models are offered. The base and SE have the same 115- horsepower 4-cylinder engine as most Sentra models. The SE-R has a 140-horsepower 2.0-liter engine and sport-tuned suspension for entertaining performance.
The 240 SX sports coupe upholds the Nissan sports car reputation started by the 240Z a quarter century ago. It is a sophisticated personal luxury coupe with sporty performance and handling. Powered by a 2.4-liter, 155-horsepower 4-cylinder engine, three trim levels of Nissan's only rear-wheel drive car are available.
Nissan's sport-utility is offered in rear and 4-wheel drive form in a variety of trim levels. It has minor interior and exterior revisions for 1998.
The Nissan Quest is a versatile minivan, assembled in Avon Lake, Ohio. The two trim levels offered last year have been joined by the luxury-appointed GLE for 1998.