Already a best seller since its redesign three years ago, the 2016 Nissan Altima gets a re-fresh that brings it in-line with the recent styling changes seen since the introduction of its Murano and Maxima siblings.
Featuring the brand’s new “energetic flow” ethos, designers have replaced everything forward of the A-Pillars. This new Altima includes the “V-motion” grill, which moves it away from the so-called spindle style grill found on the front end of cars from other manufacturers. Boomerang shapes still appear at various points on the new Altima, including on the rear fascia itself, which receives a more dramatic look with low and wide four-piece taillights.
The 2016 Nissan Altima will be available in five four-cylinder flavors, starting with the base 2.5, 2.5 S, 2.5 SR, 2.5 SV, and 2.5 SL. For those desiring a 3.5-liter V6, there is the 3.5 SR and 3.5 SL models. Competitively, the Altima goes head-to-head with the likes of the Ford Fusion, Mazda6, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima and Honda Accord, not to mention its lifelong nemesis, the Toyota Camry. The Altima plays in the lower mid-sized segment, where buyers are typically lower aged than Camry buyers.
About those two engines: The 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine produces 182 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque in standard form, while the California-spec PZEV version makes 179 ponies and 177 lb-ft, respectively. Power users who opt for the V6 can expect 270 horses and 251 lb-ft of torque. In both cases, the Altima is a front engine/front wheel drive platform. Both engines are mated to Xtronic continuously variable transmissions with D-step Shift logic, which approximates the feel of stepping down in the gear range to execute a pass, or in the case of the SR, to give a more performance-oriented feel.
The 2016 Altima features a redesigned suspension with new shock absorbers, rear springs and bushings. The Altima SR (sport) version features additional and unique suspension tuning with larger stabilizer bars, and a firmer damping force compared to non-SR models. An electronic-hydraulic power-assisted steering system offered the efficiencies of an electric power-assisted system, with the feel of a more traditional hydraulic-power system for improved handling and road feel. Finally, Active Understeer Control offers brake-based torque vectoring to help rein in the effects of understeer while negotiating sweeping turns.
We tested the 2016 Altima SR, which the brand calls the sportiest Altima ever. Billed as being stiffer than the current model, it includes an enhanced engine, performance tuned ride and handling, enhanced headlamps, larger front and rear stabilizer bars, column-mounted paddle shifters, unique interior sport accents, 18 aluminum alloy wheels, and the all-important rear decklid spoiler.
Due to aero-enhancements, Nissan estimates a 1-mpg gain in fuel economy for the four-cylinder engine to 27 city/39 highway, 31 combined. According to the EPA, buyers of the 3.5-liter V6 should expect 22 city/32 highway, 26 combined. Company officials were quick to point out that since 2002 through 2013, the Altima has seen a fuel economy improvement of 44-percent.
The interior includes Nissan’s gliding wing dashboard design, first seen in the new Maxima and Murano models. Other interior features include a standard 5.0-inch monitor (except on 2.5 base model) with NissanConnect, and Apple’s Siri Eyes Free voice recognition system for Siri command on iPhones. Depending on model, a 7.0-inch touchscreen display is available with navigation and 3-D effect map views as well as other features including Sirius XM and Sirius XM traffic. And of course, Nissan’s Advanced Zero Gravity front seats are standard for extended behind-the-wheel comfort.
Finally, Nissan did not slack off on the safety side, and offers an available suite of their latest Predictive Forward Collision Warning system (PFCW), that can now read obstacles or stalled traffic up to two cars ahead of you. There is also the available Intelligent Cruise Control, Radar based blindspot warning, Forward Emergency Braking and Rear Cross Traffic Alerts.
Behind the wheel of our 2016 Altima SR, we were both familiar, and impressed with how the brand was not content to leave well enough alone. Acceleration from the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine was brisk, whether we were in fully automatic mode or “paddle shifting through the gears” of our CVT transmission. Regardless of how hard we pushed, there was a notable calmness, thanks to the new acoustically-tuned windshield, engine mounts, quieter muffler and firewall insulation, that all managed to keep extraneous sounds outside the cabin.
Steering was well-weighted and offered good road feedback on the sweeping turns through southeast Michigan. We didn’t find the SR’s ride overly harsh, preferring a similar ride in our personal car, but some buyers may like the standard (and softer) trim level suspension found in the S, SV and SL model lines.
Our tester was equipped with cloth-covered zero-gravity seats, which offered great comfort during our two-hour drive. For those times where we felt in a passenger state of mind, we were more than happy to take up residency in the rear seat with its more than adequate degree of legroom.
Being a best-seller means constant improvement is needed, lest the competition eat your lunch. Nissan clearly has read the memo and has shown with the 2016 Altima, that they are definitely not asleep at the wheel.
2016 Nissan Altima SR
Base price: $24,470, as tested: $26,115.
Includes LED Appearance Package, $600; Floor Mats, $220; Destination fee: $825.
In Dealers on Nov 11.
Check out the photo gallery of the 2016 Nissan Altima SR by Mark Elias:
Lauren Fix is a nationally recognized automotive expert, media guest, journalist, author, keynote speaker and television host. A trusted automotive expert, Lauren provides an insider’s perspective on a wide range of automotive topics, energy and safety issues for both the auto industry and consumers. Her analysis is honest and straightforward. Follow Lauren on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram