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HEELS ON WHEELS: 2011 NISSAN ALTIMA vs 2011 TOYOTA CAMRY


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SEE ALSO: Nissan Buyers Guide
SEE ALSO: Toyota Buyers Guide
SEE ALSO: Compare Cars Specs Side by Side
SEE ALSO: Compare Total Cost to Own a 2011 Nissan Altima Versus 2011 Toyota Camry

HEELS ON WHEELS: 2011 NISSAN ALTIMA vs 2011 TOYOTA CAMRY
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

INTRO TO THE ALTIMA AND CAMRY VEHICLE

Two great sedans divided by two unique experiences. Sounds like a dramatic movie tagline, doesn’t it? Since both 5-passenger vehicles are popular sellers, the real difference that divides the 2011 Nissan Altima from the 2011 Toyota Camry is a little more than $4k. But this difference can buy you a bigger engine, a nicer interior and more upgrade packages that include technology features.

I drove a 2011 Toyota Camry SE with the 179-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine and the 6-speed automatic transmission. The Camry is offered in the following trims: base, LE, SE, XLE and Hybrid version. Highlights included an upgraded $420 6-speaker CD player with satellite radio, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity. My SE trim opted for the $1,090 Value Package that came with a moonroof and a color-keyed rear spoiler. Total price came to $26,254.

I also drove a 2011 Nissan Altima with the 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V6 engine, Xtronic CVT automatic transmission and sport-tuned suspension. The Altima is offered in the following trims: base, S, SR and Hybrid. Highlights included the $2,380 SR Premium Package with heated leather seating, Bluetooth, a 4.3-inch backup monitor/screen and a 9-speaker Bose audio system. The $2,370 Sport Package came with a rear spoiler, Xenon headlights and a moonroof. Total price came to $30,415

HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA

Stylish But Comfortable Results: The Altima with its upgrade heated leather seating really stood out against the Camry’s interior fabric. Both audio systems were user-friendly to figure out, but the Altima’s Bose system had an obvious edge. However, when it came to seating, both cars cradled passengers equally well. Visibility was also excellent with both sedans, although the Altima should have shown more of an edge with the backup camera.

Reliability & Safety Factor: Both vehicles feature their own in-house line of safety features. Toyota boasts a Star Safety System that includes VSC with TRAC, ABS with EBD and Brake Assist. They also provide and advanced airbag system (even for kneecaps), a tire pressure monitoring system and LATCH. The Altima offers much the same, along with 3-point seat belts, zone body construction and a vehicle security system.

Cost Issues: The two have very competitive prices: a base Camry starts at $19,720 and a base Altima at $19,900. In my experience with the brands, Toyota does tend to give a few extras while I feel Nissan really nickel-and-dimes a consumer for every little feature.

Activity & Performance Ability: Powered by a big 3.5-liter engine, the Altima really roared on the roads and delivered performance on command. On off-ramps, the Altima was spirited and controlled with much more gusto than I would expect from a standard sedan. Both the Altima and Camry showed tapered cornering and generous turning radiuses. I find Nissan steering to be a little stiff at times, while Toyota vehicles are more balanced when working the wheel. The sport-tuned suspension on the Altima created a more composed and maneuverable vehicle than the Camry could hope to be, but the upgrade did come at a larger cost.

The Green Concern: The Camry’s 4-cylinder delivers gets 22-city/32-highway driving MPG for an average of 26 MPG. The Altima’s V6 engine delivers 20-city/27-highway driving MPG for an average of 23 MPG. But simply downsize the Altima (or upgrade the Camry) engines and the two are equal. As far as Hybrid gas mileage fuel estimates, both models achieve an average of around 33 MPG.

FINAL PARTING WORDS

Both sedans can be considered excellent buys and stay competitive by offering Hybrid options. The real point is that an extra $4k gives drivers a significant plusher and more powerful experience than what a 4-cyliner and no-frills interior can deliver. So whether you are dealing with an Altima or Camry, do some upgrading!

©2010 Katrina Ramser