After four highly successful generations, the venerable Nissan Altima entered its fifth generation as a totally new vehicle in 2013 for the 2014 model year. Boasting a combination of innovative mechanical improvements, painstakingly tuned ride and handling, coupled with advanced cockpit connectivity and sleek styling, the Altima feels and drives like it’s in a class above its crowded midsize segment.
In its third model year of this generation, changes for 2015 include the 3.5-Liter V6 SV and SL trims now featuring the Technology package, which adds NissanConnectSM with Navigation and Mobile Apps, Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Moving Object Detection (MOD) and Lane Departure Warning (LDW) as standard equipment. It remains optional on the 2.5 SV and the 2.5 SL. Also, the remote ignition system can detect the ambient temperature and activate climate/defrost functions accordingly, and all SV models add a standard eight-way power driver seat. Most other changes are cosmetic.
The Nissan Altima competes strongly in the most crowded market segment, which includes the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Mazda 6, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Volkswagen Passat, Chevy Malibu and Ford Fusion.
Model Lineup: The 2015 Altima is offered in seven models — the Altima 2.5, 2.5 S, 2.5 SV, and 2.5 SL (our test vehicle). All feature a 182-horsepower, 2.5-liter DOHC inline 4-cylinder engine. The 3.5 S, 3.5 SV and 3.5 SL all boast the 270-horse, 3.5-liter V6. All Altimas come with a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Walkaround: With its a sporty, aggressive, muscular-looking stance, the 2015 Nissan Altima features sleek, aggressive styling that gives the appearance of being a class above its competitors. A chrome-trimmed, grille and smooth-looking headlight cluster meet the short hood, and all flow easily to the steeply raked windshield. A single character line runs cleanly along the side towards the rear. Chrome trim around the windows and bright 10-spoke wheels add to Altima’s near-luxury allure.
At the rear, a bold chrome bar rides above the ending of the side character lines at the bottom of the trunk. The trunk has a convenient low lift-over height and the design signs off with dual chrome tailpipes.
Interior: The Altima lineup offers a varied range of interior trim levels, depending on the model.
The white-on-black instrumentation is extremely legible, and surrounded by nice soft-touch dashboard padding. The Advanced Drive-Assist™ Display comes standard and is customizable, easy-to-use and integrates key information right in front of the driver. Located in the center of the instrument display between the tachometer and speedometer, it features a 4.0-inch color display, more than 400 percent larger than the previous generation, and utilizes more natural 3D-effect graphics. On vehicles equipped with NissanConnectSM with Navigation, the display shows navigation destination turn-by-turn information
Nissan’s Zero-Gravity seats are designed to provide consistent support from pelvis to chest, which we found extremely comfortable for both freeway driving as well as on winding two lane blacktops.
The new Altima also boasts great electronic connectivity. All models come with Bluetooth hands-free phone connections and streaming audio. Available audio systems include an AM/FM/CD design with RDS, MP3, aux-in and six speakers, along with an available kickass 9-speaker Bose® Premium Audio System designed in conjunction with Bose® engineers during vehicle development.
SiriusXM® Satellite Radio is standard on Altima 2.5 SV, 2.5 SL, 3.5 SL and optional on 2.5 S. With the available Hands-Free Text Messaging Assistant via NissanConnectSM) drivers can manage incoming text messages via voice control without taking their hands from the wheel. Drivers are alerted to incoming texts and can hear the text read out loud, and respond via voice recognition, or via the steering wheel switches using pre-set return messages.
Under The Hood: The Altima features the aforementioned 2.5-liter four-banger that puts a surprisingly peppy 182 horses to the highway — or the more forceful 270-hp version of Nissan’s revered 3.5-liter V6 – which has replaced the small-block Chevy for being universally recognized as one of the best, strongest and most versatile powerplants ever built.
Both powerplants are married to a vastly improved Nissan CVT, and the 2.5 delivers a segment-leading EPA Highway rating of 38 MPG.
Behind The Wheel: We found the 182-horse 2.5 worked hard to deliver above-average performance for this segment. Nissan says it does the 0-60 drill in 7.14 seconds. We found 8 seconds to be more realistic — and for 38 mpg, you can handle 8 seconds.
Meanwhile the 3.5 V6 is a brilliant performer, doing the same drill in a very honest 6.2 seconds.
The Altima’s highway manners are superb. The multi-link suspension provides excellent handling on all terrains, and the 4-wheel ABS disc brakes are equipped with electronic brake distribution, delivering minute degrees of braking control in slippery conditions. Understeer control, vehicle dynamic control (VDC) and traction control — each of which are fully automatic and self-activating — combine to deliver the full meal deal of modern safety and security.
Whines: On the 2.5, intelligent circuitry and the CVT regulate engine speed automatically, but we missed paddle shifters — available only on the 3.5 models.
Bottom Line: Terrific fuel efficiency, great handling, unusual quietness, innovative connectivity and extraordinary creature comforts make the Altima a stylish, affordable and tempting choice — regardless of the trim level you choose. The 2015 Altima interior feels like anything but a midsize car.