Nissan has added a powerful weapon to the redesigned Altima with the addition of all-wheel drive. We tested this new Nissan Altima AWD in the heart of winter.
So what actually happened here. Why are SUVs so popular? Is it because people actually want them or because manufacturers shove them down our throats seeing that they are generally more profitable to manufacture? The answer usually points to the customer; every time a manufacturer puts an SUV on the market it seems to sell more than the car it is meant to replace down the line.
So investments in sedans are scarce. I mean, why would manufacturers risk it?
Nissan just introduced a whole new platform for its 2019 Altima sedan, and it is the highest investment made for a Nissan platform – ever. Yes, a bold move indeed. But there is a plan behind it. See, Nissan believes that a large portion of people want sedans because they are a symbol of a focus to the “self”. In a nutshell, a buyer chooses a sedan to treat him or herself, not to fulfil family obligations or in response to outside factors out of their control.
For its 6th generation, the Nissan Altima treated itself to a new platform, but also to a new standard all-wheel drive system.
I was given the opportunity to test out this new all-wheel-drive Nissan Altima on Quebec’s finest, snow-covered country roads as well as on the very technical Mecaglisse circuit in the Laurentians. This new 2019 Altima is offered in S, SV and Platinum trims, starting at 27,998$.
Stronger body structure, versatile torque distribution
First off, forget the Altima you know, this new platform is stiffer, stronger and lighter. When put to the test in tight corners, the redesigned suspension and AWD system proved to be surprisingly efficient to get the car out of turns at high speed without any body roll. On the track, the 2019 Altima AWD could dance around and be much more agile than the 2019 Murano SUV we put to the test on the same day.
The main takeaway here is that the Altima was surprisingly predictable for a small sedan. That’s in part thanks to the AWD system being highly versatile. It can distribute torque according to road and driving conditions. For instance, during cornering on the ice track, the system gave as much as 70% of the torque to the rear and 30% in the front. On the other hand, it could send 100% of the torque to the front for maximum fuel economy on the highway leading up to the track.
A light at the end of the tunnel for the Xtronic CVT
Pulling the strings behind all these gears and bearings is an improved four-cylinder 2.5-litre engine powerplant that releases 182 horsepower and 178 lb-ft. of torque. On paper, these numbers are nothing to rave about. But this engine gave me plenty of power to accelerate from a standstill, as well as easy pickups at high speeds on the highway.
If you read my past articles about Nissan’s Xtronic CVT, you’ll notice that this component was always the “party pooper” when it came to driving experience. Nissan engineers pulled a few tricks to make this CVT more enjoyable, but they also stressed on the fact that the pairing between the engine and the CVT is more harmonious now, without going into details. It’s not perfect. But whatever was done was a solid improvement and gives me hope for the future of this transmission type.
Chassis and suspension responsiveness often come at a price in this segment and vehicle body style. The ride comfort was slightly impacted and driving on the highway was a little bit bumpier than I thought it would be. But, in my opinion, it’s a fair tradeoff.
The base S variant will get you the NissanConnect system with a newly designed 8” display that is loaded with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth Hands-free system and other gizmos. You’ll be sitting on standard heated front seats and basic active safety like Intelligent Emergency Braking and Intelligent Driver Alertness – which tells you to stop and grab a coffee if it feels you’re not fit to drive – are standard.
The SV variant will add things like heated steering wheel and moonroof along with the loaded Nissan Safety Shield 360 suite and ProPILOT Assist – which is Nissan’s version of a semi-autonomous driving system. Platinum throws in navigation, leather seating and a pumpin’ Bose Premium Sound System, among other refinements.
Materials chosen to construct the cabin are a great improvement from the outgoing model. Seats are bolstered and kept me looking straight ahead when spiritedly engaging in turns.
I think Nissan really hit the spot for people who don’t care for SUVs and want an affordable AWD sedan that can haul people and some cargo, with driving dynamics as a priority. In a world filled with SUVs that try to act like sedans, nothing is better than the real thing!