Words: Don Cheng
Photography: Don Cheng
Published: June 22, 2016
Porsche, Ferrari, and McLaren are household names whose brands are synonymous with power, precision, and motorsports. Literally every single segment has key players that define it. When it comes to the everyday family man’s chariot however, the unequivocal king of the hill has always been the Toyota Camry.
Other Japanese manufacturers have tried to knock it off its podium finish, but they’ve always fallen short. Nissan’s Altima was a very popular option in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, but couldn’t quite snatch the belt after 2008. Don’t get me wrong, all of the major automakers produced some good stuff then, but they lacked the memorability of their older models.
The initial launch of the 2013 Altima came with some positive reception. Nissan hopes to continue to steer the ship in the right direction with a 2016 facelift. With it, comes a new trim – the SR.
Let’s talk aesthetics for a moment – the facelift brings the Altima in line with the rest of the Nissan family. A new signature V-grille, sculpted front fenders, and new LED running lights highlight some of the design changes on the outside.
The new SR trim slots right between the S and mid-tier SV models and comes uniquely optioned with all the everyday conveniences you’d expect, as well as what Nissan claims to be a “sportier” drive. Staying true with their first promise, the Altima SR offers push-button start, auto on/off headlights, heated seats, remote start, Bluetooth audio, and a sport tuned suspension.
Inside is typical Nissan flair with abundant soft touch plastics, and the occasional hard textures. None of it creaks nor rattles, and it’s well put together, but the interior doesn’t do much to provoke a “more expensive than it looks” atmosphere. That’s not the company’s fault, after all, it is still a vehicle geared towards value. My only wish is that Nissan would ditch the steering wheel that looks like a pair of satin silver fallopian tubes.
As journalists, we’re often accustomed to driving fully-loaded offerings from manufacturers. The chance to drive something lower in the pricing range is rare, and we jump on it whenever we get the opportunity. That said the Altima never felt “base”, and the SR featured a strong set of modern day conveniences that never had me wanting more. If I were really nit-picky though, I’d say something like “the Altima certainly needed a sunroof!”
However, due to the sportier nature of the car, Nissan probably ditched it to retain torsional rigidity – and save costs. Two birds, one stone! And they were right. The four-door Altima is a rather entertaining drive, and we also came away very impressed by the reworked Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT).
Named “D-Step” CVT (I feel like there’s an opportunity for a missed dub-step joke here) the transmission is designed to behave like a traditional 6-speed automatic. Tip in the throttle and the CVT will actually drop down the rev range. Current CVTs like to hold engine speed to around the 4-5,000 RPM mark before producing an ear-grating whine that can only be topped by three children simultaneously screaming “are we there yet?”
Drive through the city and you will immediately notice how much better they have made the CVT. Engage manual mode and the transmission will allow you to drive the revs all the way up to redline. “Shifts” are quick too. The tach needle snaps down as soon as you tap the up-shift paddle. There’s even some semblance of shift-shock too. It’s very faint, and far from what you would expect from a dual-clutch transmission or even a traditional torque-converter automatic, but it is certainly there and positively contributes to the Altima’s sensory driving experience.
Producing 182 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque, the Altima felt adequate at low and moderate speeds around town, with highway passes requiring a firmer press on the pedal (or a tap of the downshift paddle). Included in the SR trim is a new sport-tuned suspension. These improvements include a subtle trunk lip spoiler and a few enhancements in the suspension geometry.
A set of stiffer springs were among the changes in last year’s Altima, and the engineers have followed up this year with stiffer (re: thicker) anti-roll bars. A 24.2 mm one in front (replacing the 22.2 mm previous) and 26.5 mm bar in the rear (replacing the 22 mm one) allows for 21% less roll in the body. The extra stiffness benefits the brake-based torque vectoring too, allowing the car to grip harder in a turn.
I certainly felt all of that during fast on-ramps. The car felt planted and body roll was well in check. As per usual, the steering felt rather disconnected and too light for my liking, with all but the harshest road imperfections masked by the electronic rack.
At an as-tested price of $28,098 and chock full of value, Nissan’s family sedan makes a strong case for itself, but the Altima isn’t the sole occupant of the mid-size segment. In fact, it’s one of the busiest segments with every mainstream manufacturer offering a competitor. Honda’s ubiquitous Accord has captured a large share of the market and continues to do so with stylish packaging, a charming driving experience, and a slight horsepower edge (3 hp). The American Ford Fusion offers a strong line up of gas sipping motors, but tack on a few options and the Fusion quickly diffuses (pun intended) out of the picture. We can’t forget about the successful Toyota Camry either.
In all, the Nissan Altima undoubtedly offers a sportier driving experience than its rivals and benefits from a convincing CVT and engaging suspension. However when factoring in other elements into the fold, it becomes quickly evident that the Altima is merely playing catch up rather than pushing the envelope itself. Be that as it may, if you’re looking for a spirited alternative to the plain jane vanilla, the Altima may just be up your alley.
型号 Model: 2016 Nissan Altima SR
顏色 Paint Type: Deep Blue Pearl
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $27,798
試車售價 Price as Tested: $28,098
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,775
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 4,874 / 1,830 / 1,474
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,476
引擎 Engine: 2.5L DOHC 4-cylinder
最大馬力 Horsepower: 182 hp @ 6,400 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 180 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
波箱 Transmission: CVT
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, FWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 8.9 / 6.3
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 8.1
輪胎尺碼 Tires: P235/45R18