It's no longer enough for automakers to mildly retouch their lineup halfway through each model's production cycle. That's especially true for midsize sedans including the 2016 Nissan Altima.
It's pretty common that buyers are being wooed with significant sheetmetal changes, content updates and performance enhancements at around the three or four-year mark of a typical six or seven-year model run. Chevrolet even launched a new-from-the-wheels-up Malibu a mere three years after the previous model hit the streets.
Nissan didn't go quite that far with the Altima, but there is plenty of "new" in view, starting with different front-and rear-end designs that mimic Nissan's current "language" featured on much of its lineup. In particular, the "V Motion" grille is more aggressively shaped and the headlight pods, front fenders and hood have been altered. In addition, grille shutters have been added that divert airflow around the car (instead of trapping it inside the engine compartment) at higher speeds. Under-floor aero covers similarly keep the air moving. The net effect is a lower drag coefficient and improved overall fuel economy.
Base price:$23,300 (including destination)Engines: 2.5-liter, I-4 (182 hp); 3.5-liter, V-6 (270 hp)EPA rating (city/highway): 27/29 mpg (2.5-liter)
Along with fresh looks, the revised interior includes a new control panel and center console inspired by the Murano and Maxima. The 5 and optional 7-inch touch screens (depending on the model) are also set up for the optional navigation system (with 3D map views) as well as for Google's subscription-based Online Search. Lastly, more soft-touch materials and new seat fabrics and trim pieces provide cabin enhancements.
Back again and essentially unaltered is the Altima's engine duo. The starting point is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 182 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. If stretching your fuel dollar is the priority, the 2.5 is now rated at 27 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway, which is up slightly from the previous 26/37 rating. Nissan points out that over the past decade, Altima's highway numbers have increased by about 25 percent, or 10 mpg.
Available on top-level versions is a 3.5-liter V-6 that puts out 270 horsepower and 251 pound-feet. The engine isn't nearly as thrifty as the 2.5, but 26 mpg in combined city/highway driving is very livable.
As before, a continuously variable transmission (CVT) connects to both engines, which might be a drawback for some who prefer actual gears to belts.
The engines might be familiar, but the Altima's suspension and steering systems have had work done, with new shocks and rear springs for better ride control and handling. For the sporty SR iteration (also new for 2016), there are thicker stabilizer bars that are designed to reduce body roll in the turns (part of the sport-tuned suspension package).
The SR also arrives with darkened headlight covers, a rear-deck-lid spoiler and unique wheels as well as power front seats with special stitching. The SR can be had with either engine.
However if you prefer your Altima more on the basic side, the base S model that sells for $23,300, including delivery charges, comes with the usual power and climate control content, but you'll have to settle for 16-inch steel-wheels (instead of 17-inch alloys) and miss out on most of the convenience and audio connectivity features that kick in on other trims. You also have to move up to get the latest active safety software, such as back-up alerts and blind-spot/ lane-change warning.
No, the revamp of the Altima is not as drastic as it was for a car like the Malibu, but the Altima has never been as harshly criticized. Updates like this for 2016 that keep the Altima ahead of the curve will likely ensure that that doesn't happen.