First Drive: 2016 Nissan Altima

The midsize segments continues to get more competitive, with more year to year revisions and technology trickling down from what was once luxury-exclusive. Midsize sedans are also no longer the top sellers in the industry (thanks to crossovers), but the sheer quantity of midsize vehicles purchased every year is still astounding.

Nissan redesigned the Altima just three years ago, and while it’s still a great car to drive and own, it is not at the top of the heap like it was in 2012. It was getting behind on safety technology and beginning to look dated.

Product planning at Nissan knew this and performed an extensive mid-generation refresh to ensure it remained strong. Nissan was able to offer some features from their luxury Infiniti division to bolster the new Altima’s appeal.

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One of the greatest features is the intelligent cruise control system on SL trim levels; it’s radar based, and does well in rainy and foggy weather (unlike camera-based systems).

During our drive, the intelligent cruise system was easy to engage by simply setting the cruise and then selecting one of three following distances. It worked smoothly, a result of excellent system integration and fine calibration. In fact, our passenger didn’t even realize the system was engaged as we followed a vehicle for several miles on some winding roads.

Predictive Forward Collision Warning, a feature that first debuted on the Infiniti Q50 luxury sedan, is now also available on the 2016 Altima. The system uses a radar sensor in the lower front fascia that tracks the vehicle directly ahead of the Altima, in addition to the vehicle traveling in front of that one.

The huge benefit of collision mitigation with Forward Emergency Braking support is an added bonus of this tech. Emergency braking will be standard on all cars in the United States by 2022.

Nissan’s engineers revamped the Blind Spot Warning system from a camera-based system to radar, which works in tandem with the backup camera to provide reliable rear cross-traffic alerts when backing out of a space where the driver can’t see if there are people or cars coming.

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Nissan also updated their infotainment system with NissanConnect services that provide direct access to someone during an emergency, or when needing directions. Nissan’s infotainment systems work well, especially their voice commands, and we appreciate the retention of real buttons and knobs for quick and safe operation.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are absent, but Siri Eyes Free and a logical interface make this one of the best OEM systems out there.

The infotainment display also projects a feed from the backup camera, standard on 2.5S trims and above.

Those of us who live in very hot or cold climates will appreciate the remote engine start system. It’s standard on SV trims and above, and kicks on either the heater or air conditioner depending on the outside temperature.

Some features like the Nissan’s Easy-Fill Tire Alert, Smart Auto Headlights with new LED daytime running lights and available LED high and low beams, and Nissan Intelligent Key system are standard on most trim levels.

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One of our favorites from Nissan are the Zero Gravity seats which nearly eliminate muscle fatigue, and the buttery softness of the door and center console elbow rests.

The rear seat is is beyond impressive, with a usable center seat position. A six foot passenger can sit behind a six-foot driver, with room to spare.

The trunk opening is large and the inside, cavernous

A laminated windshield and denser but lighter insulation in the firewall lead to a quieter cabin than before.

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Under the hood, Nissan retains the 2.5L and 3.6L engines, with the 2.5L now up one MPG on the highway to 39. On our short drive of urban driving, we averaged 34 MPG.

Acceleration feels much better thanks to D-step logic. It simulates shifts like a regular automatic transmission, even though a continuously variable transmission (CVT) is under the hood.

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The new-for-2016 SR trim is sportier, with 200+ percent stiffer sway bars, which can be felt in he turns. Nissan is pricing it at the most popular price point, a huge plus.

The Altima was excellent before; now it’s perfect with the latest tech, safety systems, comfortable cabin and refreshed exterior design. The value proposition is undeniable, and with the sportier SR available, it’s easy to find the Altima that’s just right.

Make: Nissan
Model: Altima
Trim Levels: 2.5, 2.5S, 2.5SR, 2.5SV, 2.5SL, 3.5SR, 3.5SL
Engine: 2.5L 4-Cyl, 3.5L 6-Cyl
Transmission: CVT 
Observed Fuel Economy: 34 MPG (short drive)
Equipment Options: Varies on trim
Base Price: $23,335 (2.5)
As-Tested Price: $31,905 (2.5SL w/ tech and moonroof pkgs)

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