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Darling of the Consumer Crowd

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Tue, Nov 8, 2011

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

Nissan Altima 2.5 S with SL Package

Most consumers looking for a family sedan seem to set their radar on Camrys and Accords, but the perennial favorite of the consumer periodical crowd has been the Nissan Altima. It’s all the more surprising since the car has been virtually unchanged since 2007. How does the Altima stack up? Mark Dorman reports. By Mark Dorman When the editor called me to let me know I would be test driving the 2012 Nissan Altima, I have to admit I wasn't exactly doing cartwheels. On the other hand, I know Nissan to be a solid manufacturer that produces good quality cars, and to be honest, I haven't driven an Altima since 2004. Let's just say I was pleasantly surprised by the 2.5 L Sedan I received.


Inside and Out Walking around the car you can see how the lines of the car flow, giving it a sporty and classy look without being gaudy. Our test car came with some nice understated 16-inch alloy wheels, which fit the car rather well. Entering the cabin, you are greeted by an allotment of leather, soft touch plastics, and metallic trim. The leather wrapped steering wheel feels smooth and comfortable, while the seats were very supportive. The controls for the climate control are well laid out and logical, as are the navigation/audio controls. It did take me a minute to get used to the steering wheel button layout, but overall it was fairly intuitive. Leg and headroom are more than ample in both the front and back. There is easily enough space to fit four six foot tall adults in the car without any leg cramming and fitting a fifth isn't much of a squeeze. As far as features go, the Altima has a whole slew of options. If you opt for the Technology Package, you get such things as Satellite Navigation (with touch screen), XM Satellite Radio, Zagat restaurant reviews, and audio/video auxiliary inputs. Along with all that you get nine (yes nine) cup holders standard. The interior build quality is impressive for a car in this class and seems like it will stay rattle free for quite a while.


Driving impressions The Altima is no small car. It competes in the mid size sedan category with the likes of the Accord and Camry. While driving it, you enjoy a well-balanced seating position that provides a great view of the road without making you feel like you're in a SUV. The ride is supple and composed while cruising, soaking up bumps and road imperfections with ease. The car is quiet for its class, producing only a modest amount of road and wind noise at highway speeds. The handling is secure and emergency maneuvers can be performed fairly easily. This does not mean the Altima handles like a sports car—far from it. In fairness, however, the model we tested did not have the optional sport package. Steering wheel feedback is adequate for daily driving, but at the limits does not provide the kind of feel that inspires confidence in brisk driving.


The engine feels quite strong, with plenty of power to get around town. Off the line performance is average, but passing power is quite impressive. Because the Altima uses a CVT (continuously variable transmission), it does not shift like a conventional transmission. This results in a very smooth driving experience and makes highway passing undramatic. The car does come with a Tiptronic-style “manual mode”. We could not quite figure out its purpose, considering the transmission has no gears to begin with and the performance seemed worse all around while attempting to use this feature. The voice commands are fairly easy to use and work well for hands free operation of the stereo and navigation system. The Altima also performs well in the fuel economy category, returning close to 30 mpg with mixed highway and street driving. SUMMARY JUDGMENT All in all, the Altima is a well-built car that is competitive in its class. Interior and exterior fit and finish are very good for the price, and should keep you running along happily for years to come. For more information about Nissan products, go to


SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2012 Nissan Altima 2.5 S with SL Package Price $20,410 (base) $26,750 (with SL Package) $31,995 (as tested) EPA fuel economy rating (miles per gallon): 23 city/32 highway Engine: 2.5 liter DOHC 16-valve four-in line Horsepower: 175 horsepower at 5600 rpm Torque: 180 pound-feet at 3900 rpm Transmission: Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) with manual mode Drive configuration: Front-wheel drive Steering: Power-assisted, speed sensitive rack and pinion Suspension: Front independent subframe-mounted strut-type with stabilizer bar Rear independent multi-link with stabilizer bar Brakes: 11.7-inch frontg and 11.5-inch rear disc brakes with 4-wheel anti-lock braking system (ABS) and electronic brakeforce distribution (EBD) 16 x 7 inch alloy wheels with P215/60R-16 all-season tires Dimensions Width: 70.7 inches Height: 58 inches Length: 190.7 inches Curb weight: 3193 pounds


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