2016 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO
Combining good interior space and comfort and fine performance and fuel economy in elegant style
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS
• SEE ALSO: Nissan Research and Buyers Guide
Leave well enough alone? Not Nissan, and not with its popular Altima midsize sedan. What started as a largish compact in 1992 received its greatest transformation in 2002 when it jumped to the midsize class, with essentially everything except the name changed. Changes for 2016 are second only to that, with new exterior styling, a revised interior, re-engineered suspension and steering for improved ride and handling plus a sporty new SR trim level, development of the “Xtronic” continuously-variable transmission (CVT) for better performance and economy, more standard electronic technology for connectivity and convenience, an expanded suite of available electronic safety features, and more standard equipment in all trim levels.
Not exactly typical, considering that the current Altima debuted for model year 2013. But maybe not so surprising, as with continuous growth in popularity in recent years the Altima is catching up to the class leaders — which are not resting on their laurels, either. “Almost as good” is not Nissan’t plan here…
As before, the two engine choices are a 2.5-liter, 182-horsepower four-cylinder or a 3.5-liter, 270-hp V6. Trim level choices with the four are base 2.5 and S, SR, SV, and SL. The V6 is a bit more upscale with only SR and SL. Yes, as with the competition, four-cylinder models are the most popular. No real surprise, as power is much more than “merely adequate” and fuel economy is better than with a more-powerful but thirstier engine. Regarding that, Nissan claims 39 mpg as the new Altima 2.5’s highway rating.
No, I didn’t see that during my week with a well-equipped Altima 2.5 SV. I did see an honest 28 mpg, with mostly city and backroad driving, and maybe 30 percent on the highway. There’s no shame in that, as many a compact or even subcompact sedan couldn’t go that far on a gallon of unleaded regular in the none-too-distant past. Most equally-spacious crossovers even now come nowhere near that mileage. And, if I’m remembering correctly, the EPA mileage test is run on a dynomometer at a simulated speed of 50 mph on level ground. Where I live, level ground is an anomaly, and highway speed is either 70-plus or nearly zero. Speed and grades have a major impact on fuel use.
As-equipped, with Convenience , Cold Weather, and Navigation option packages, the 2016 Altima 2.5 SV was a pleasant, comfortable, and spacious sedan with good manners on highway or byway and enough power to deal with the usual traffic situations and opportunities. The restyling got compliments from friends and neighbors, and the rear seat got rave reviews from everyone who sat there. It’s a middle-of-the-road, middle-class sedan that shows just how good such a car is today.
APPEARANCE: It’s not quite a restyling — the doors and greenhouse are the same as last year’s Altima — but every other external piece has been changed at least a bit. “Energetic Flow” is the theme and the result is distinctive, complex, and cohesive. Most apparent is the front, with its chrome-chinned “V-motion” grille and bumper lines that play off that. “L” -shaped or “boomerang” headlights necessitate some work to the front fenders, and the hood gets a small central power dome (always amusing to see a longitudinal bulge on the hood of a transverse-engined car, but I digress…). The rear fascia is more defined, with larger taillights. All models have dual exhausts. A near-complete undertray improves aerodynamic efficiency.
COMFORT: Changes inside are less than outside, mostly to the center stack and console. Which are important and much-used by the driver and front passenger. All versions except the base 2.5 get a standard five-inch color monitor, used as the interface to audio and other systems such as navigation if so-equipped, and for the backup camera display. And all except the base 2.5 have the Nissan Connect system with various mobile apps, USB connectivity, and Siri Eyes Free™ voice recognition. 2.5 SV and SL models can be equipped with the navigation package, which means a seven-inch touchscreen and more apps. The interface is pleasantly simple.
Returning to car from mobile device, all Altimas, even the lowly base 2.5 get pushbutton ignition and the “Fine Vision” bright electroluminescent instrument cluster, easy to see in any lighting. Centered between the tachometer and speedometer is the Advanced Drive-Assist™ information display. Front seats are Nissan’s “Zero Gravity” design, very good for comfort and support. At SV level, the driver’s is power-adjustable. The Cold Weather Package adds two-level cushion heat, plus a heatable, leather-rimmed steering wheel with the usual audio, info, phone, and cruise controls. The rear seat offers excellent legroom, and good headroom. Because the Altima is at the large end of midsize and the central tunnel is reasonably small, the center position is useable, although the contoured outboard seats are best. There is plenty of useful interior storage, including a locking glovebox, two-layer console box, and door storage. The trunk usefully large, and the rear seatback folds 60/40 for oversize items. There is a space-saver spare under the trunk floor.
SAFETY: Zone Body Construction with front and rear crumple zones, side guard door beams, and other design and construction elements to channel impact forces around the passenger compartment protects passengers in the event of an accident. Further protection comes from dual-stage front, seat-mounted front side, and full-length side curtain airbags. Active safety is enhanced by standard antilock brakes, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) stability enhancement, and traction control and tire-pressure monitoring systems. A blind-spot and rear cross-traffic detection system is standard in the SV and above.
RIDE AND HANDLING: Changes to the 2016 Altima are more than skin deep. Structurally, additional use of high-strength steel results in a bit less weight and greater rigidity. Some of that weight comes back as additional noise insulation, but no complaint there. Life inside the Altima is pleasantly quiet, and at just over 3200 pounds the car is in no danger of obesity. That, and use of high-quality ZF Sachs dampers throughout the line, show in its good behavior on the road. The fully-independent strut/multilink suspension has been further developed for comfort and response, and strikes a good balance between supple comfort and responsive handling. Active Understeer Control, based on the VDC system, uses light, controlled application of the inside front brake to reduce understeer -- the tendency of a car to "plow" to the outside of a corner -- in everyday driving. The Electronic Hydraulic Power-Assisted Steering system has been remapped for better steering feel and response, and combines the feel of hydraulic-assist with the efficiency of electric. It’s one of the most important parts of the driver/car interface and Nissan has done well here. Even in “standard” (not slightly firmer SR) form, the Altima has a sport-touring feel to it, and is far from a mere transportation appliance.
PERFORMANCE: There are almost no changes under the hood, and that’s no cause for complaint. The 2.5-liter QR25DE inline-four is a contemporary engine with dual overhead cams with continuous phasing for optimum efficiency, power, and cleanliness, four valves per cylinder, ditto, and lightweight aluminum alloy construction. Maximum horsepower is 182, at 6000 rpm, with torque peaking at 180 lb-ft at 4000 rpm -- unless you live in a California-emissions state, where it's 179 hp and 177 lb-ft, two less of each. Which is not going to be noticeable. It’s unchanged. Nissan has been aggressive in use of CVTs instead of regular torque converter and planetary gearset automatics. With no discrete gears, a CVT is smooth, and computerized control, integrated with the engine controls, ensures optimum performance and efficiency. A wide "virtual ratio" spread means that there are low lower "gears" for quick acceleration, especially at common city and highway speeds, and a high "overdrive" ratio for economical highway cruising. But with no shifts, and ratio changes and so engine revs determined by road conditions, a CVT can feel strange. Nissan, like other automakers using CVTs, has programmed virtual gearchanges into its “Xtronic” CVT. It feels more familiar, and still allows good acceleration and exemplary fuel economy.
CONCLUSIONS: The 2016 Nissan Altima wraps good interior space and comfort and fine performance and fuel economy in elegant style.
2016 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV
Base Price $ 25,460
Price As Tested $ 28,935
Engine Type aluminum alloy DOHC 16-valve inline 4-cylinder with continuously-variable cam phasing
Engine Size 2.5 liters / 152 cu. in.
Horsepower 179 @ 6000 rpm
Torque (lb-ft) 177 @ 4000 rpm
Wheelbase / Length 109.3 in. / 191.9 in.
Curb Weight 3233 lbs.
Pounds Per Horsepower 18.1
Fuel Capacity 18.0 gal.
Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline
Tires P215/55R17 93V m+s Continental ProContact
Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, BA standard
Suspension, front/rear independent strut / independent multilink
Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive
EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 27 / 39 / 29
0 to 60 mph est 7.8 sec
OPTIONS AND CHARGES
Convenience Package — includes: power tilt and slide moonroof, front passenger window with 1-touch up and down and auto-reverse, rear AC vents, auto-dimming inside mirror, Homelink® universal transceiver, manual-folding outside mirrors with LED turn signal indicators $ 1,350
Carpeted floor and trunk mats $ 210
Navigation Package — includes: NissanConnect™ with navigation and mobile apps, 7-inch touchscreen color display, Nissan voice recognition for navigation and audio, Sirius/XM Traffic and Travel Link $ 580
Cold Weather Package — includes: heated front seats, heated leather-wrapped steering wheel, heated outside mirrors $ 500