Enhanced handling, attractive styling, class-leading fuel economy and a quiet, comfortable cabin make the 2016 Nissan Altima a strong contender in the highly competitive midsize segment.
Nissan says the primary goals of the updated 2016 Altima were straightforward and consumer oriented: Build a midsize sedan that offers excellent fuel economy, but make sure it is fun to drive and looks “cool” in the process.
Only one of the three is an objective goal, as the 2016 Altima earns up to 39 mpg on the highway, which is best-in-class. The other two targets for the new Altima are subjective. I was able to drive the new SR model quite aggressively and can honestly say that I had a ton of fun while doing it. The looks, well, I’ll leave that up to you, but it seems about as “cool” as a midsize, family-oriented sedan needs to be.
The four-door, five-seat Altima sedan is available in seven trim levels. The 2.5, 2.5 S, 2.5 SR (new for 2016), 2.5 SV, and 2.5 SL are powered by a refreshed 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The new 3.5 SR and 3.5 SL arrive with a 3.5-liter V6 under the hood. All models are front-wheel drive and employ a continuously variable transmission (CVT).
Acting like the vehicle’s fingerprints, today’s manufacturers are creating unique front bumper details that signal the brand’s arrival once the vehicle reaches the line of sight. The Altima’s V-motion grille works with the sedan’s boomerang headlights and LED signature daytime running lights to create an aggressive and decidedly Nissan appearance.
The Altima’s muscular fenders and stylized hood carry the grille’s V-motion into the roofline and doors, which are unchanged for 2016. Out back, the Altima’s energetic flow concept is addressed with a new trunk lid, rear bumper details and four-piece “boomerang” taillights.
While not a total departure from the solid looks of the 2015 model, the concept-inspired refresh is aesthetically pleasing and meets the criteria that Nissan set forth in the redesign.
While not as dramatic as the new exterior, the nicely appointed interior is treated to a “gliding wing” design that features a new center console and interior odds and ends, including revised door panel treatments. The theme is information-centric, and the revised infotainment system is evidence of Nissan’s efforts and works quite well.
The zero-gravity front seating is comfortable, providing excellent non-fatiguing support. Nissan’s new seats continue to surprise me. They seem to get more comfy the longer that you sit in them.
I ventured out for a couple of 2-hour-long drives in the Altima in quick succession, and never once did I feel the need to stretch or relax my back. I was even able to leave my bulky leather wallet in my back pocket, which is something I’m rarely able to do with the seats found in so many of today’s vehicles.
The front seating area offers a spacious and open feeling. Thanks to the Altima’s large windshield and generous door glass, occupants are treated to plenty of sunshine. The rear seats exhibit the qualities that a family looks for in the segment, with plenty of cup holders, a lot of little storage compartments and enough room for three teenagers.
The standard cloth seating material feels durable and is fairly attractive. The perforated leather-appointed heated seats found in the Altima SL are well-made and understated, providing a mature look to the midsize sedan. Higher trim levels receive a matching leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob.
A visual inspection of the Altima’s interior reveals high levels of fit and finish, with stitching that lines up nicely and trim work that is attractive and well-designed. I was able to spend time in numerous vehicles across the model line and found consistent quality throughout. Attention to detail shines all the way from the well-appointed base trim to the top-tier SL models.
The Altima’s trunk offers 15.4 cubic feet of cargo space, putting it on par with the majority of best-selling midsize cars. As with other vehicles in the segment, the Altima provides plenty of room for trips to the grocery store, carpool back packs and the occasional cross-country road trip.
Rarely does a midsize sedan excel at providing enthusiast-inspired handling, precise steering, above average acceleration and newsworthy fuel economy. The formula is typically one of compromise.
Fresh driving dynamics usually equate to stale fuel efficiency or vice versa. Sure there are exceptions, but even then the toll is extracted on driving comfort or interior noise levels, as shedding the necessary weight to wring out the additional miles per gallon is often at the expense of noise isolating stop gaps.
The engineering team at Nissan realized that the only way to take the new Altima to the next level would be to address this conundrum. Build a midsize car that is extremely quiet on the road, offers a high level of comfort and luxury, and then dial in the chassis so that drivers don’t fall asleep on the way to work. If you can do all that and achieve 39 mpg on the highway you have a winner on your hands.
After spending some time with the new 2016 Altima I can report that Nissan has accomplished their mission. Another example of today’s golden age of the automobile, the 2016 Altima kind of does it all with reasonable compromises. Yes, there are other excellent midsize sedans on the market, but the new Altima holds its own and pulls toward the head of the pack. Slight shortcomings of the 2015 model have been addressed, resulting in a vehicle that rewards the driver with a compliant and spirited experience.
The standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine creates 182 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. Fuel economy is newsworthy, as the fuel-sipping inline-four offers 27/39 mpg city/highway.
The 3.5-liter V6 found in the 3.5 SR and 3.5 SL trim levels produces 270 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque. Nissan’s silky-smooth power plant offers excellent fuel economy, especially considering the performance, at 22/32 mpg city/highway.
Choosing a model is largely dependent on your driving expectations and needs. The smaller four-cylinder engine provides plenty of muscle for most people, with a decent balance between power and efficiency. Meanwhile, the V6 engine’s 270 horses are going to win over enthusiasts who need the convenience of a midsize sedan.
The debate over the capability and feel of the CVT will forever be with us, but Nissan has proven itself with recent transmission retuning and D-Step Shift Logic that simulates the feel of a traditional automatic. The result is a CVT that feels like it is making its way through the gears, and a nice improvement over the rubber-band softness of previous CVTs. While I would personally prefer the hearty V6 with a traditional automatic transmission, the compromise for efficiency’s sake makes good sense.
The base Altima’s includes a basic four-speaker audio system with Bluetooth connectivity. Base models do not include a USB port, but you can connect non-Bluetooth devices through an auxiliary audio jack. All models also include an instrument cluster with a drive-assist display that provides useful vehicle information.
New for 2016, Altima 2.5 S models include NissanConnect with smartphone app integration as standard equipment. The system includes a 5-inch color display, hands-free text messaging and a USB port. The system also includes Siri Eyes Free voice recognition. S models also get two extra speakers and speed sensitive volume control for enhanced audio.
The Altima SL enjoys an upgraded nine-speaker Bose audio system with either a 5-inch (2.5 SL) or 7-inch (3.5 SL) color monitor.
NissanConnect with navigation and mobile apps is standard on the 3.5 SL and optional on the 2.5 SL. The 7-inch touch-screen controlled system includes in-vehicle smartphone integration for iPhone and Android operating systems. When you opt for the subscription, the system also provides SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link information.
What really caught my attention was the optional NissanConnect Services powered by SiriusXM, which is available optionally on 2.5 SL and 3.5 SL trims. The nicely integrated service takes advantage of satellite communications and provides automatic collision notification, emergency calling, stolen vehicle location services and dealer service scheduling and maintenance alerts. I was able to test the app for the iPhone and found the functionality to be beyond what I expected. The ability to remotely start your Altima from anywhere in the world with cell service is pretty amazing. Additionally, as the “car guy” in my family, being able to remotely read engine codes from 2,500 miles away would be invaluable to me.
The Altima protects occupants in a collision by using an advanced air bag system that includes dual stage supplemental front air bags with seat belt and occupant classification sensors. The Altima also includes driver and front passenger side-impact air bags and roof-mounted side curtain air bags for front- and rear-seat head protection.
The Altima’s construction absorbs impact during a collision, while the standard stability control, tire pressure monitoring and traction control systems work to help you avoid one. Altima S models and above are equipped with a standard rearview monitor.
Blind spot warning and rear cross traffic alert are standard on SV and SL models. Unfortunately, forward collision warning, forward emergency braking and intelligent cruise control are only available as optional equipment on the Altima SL. Unlike some other vehicles in the segment, you will need to invest in Nissan’s top-tier model to gain the extra safety that these sophisticated systems offer.
The base 2016 Altima 2.5 starts at $22,500, which is $200 more than the outgoing 2015 model. The nicely equipped S trim only costs $400 more than the base 2.5, but adds a 5-inch rearview monitor, NissanConnect with mobile apps, USB connectivity and more. Although I applaud Nissan for offering a less expensive option, for many owners the almost negligible price difference makes the Altima S a better starting point.
The new for 2016 2.5 SR model is quite attractive. Starting at $24,470, the Altima SR includes attractive 18-inch alloy wheels, a sport suspension, a lip spoiler and fog lights. The steering column-mounted paddle shifters appear to have been lifted straight from the mighty Nissan GT-R’s parts bin and the 10-way power-adjustable driver’s seat emphasizes the enthusiast nature of the car. While the straight-line performance of the 2.5-liter car isn’t quite up to enthusiast standards, the SR handles amazingly well and deserves the “sport” moniker as much, if not more, than any other sporty model in the segment. Those looking for some extra muscle on the SR trim will want to investigate the 270-horsepower V6 in the Altima 3.5 SR, which starts at $27,390 and serves as the base V6 trim.
The top-tier 2.5 SL retails for $28,570 and the 3.5 SL for $32,090. Nissan has obviously done its homework, the top-trim Altima prices are competitive with other manufacturer’s comparably equipped models in the midsize segment.
The crowded midsize car class is a boon for consumers, since intense competition results in manufacturers continually bringing their A game to remain relevant and attractive in a sea of viable options.
With the 2016 Altima, Nissan rises to the challenge by offering a nicely appointed vehicle at an affordable and competitive price point. Excellent fuel efficiency that doesn’t sacrifice driving performance sweetens the deal. Even the base Altima proved to be a lot of fun out on the road course.
Nissan’s new SR model, even with the 2.5-liter engine, is a viable midsize sedan for enthusiasts and stacks up nicely next to key competitors such as the Toyota Camry SE, Honda Accord Sport, Hyundai Sonata Sport and Ford Fusion SE.
Families looking for a comfortable midsize sedan that offers class-leading fuel economy will want to add the 2016 Altima to the prospective shopping list. Cargo space is adequate and rear seat occupants won’t have too much to complain about. Higher trim levels offer near-luxury appointments at a reasonable price, but don’t get carried away with gimmicks just to raise the price tag.