Santa Barbara, CA. Nissan’s “good enough” approach to its cars is paying off huge dividends. Allow me to explain.
Sometime around the development of the current Rogue, Nissan decided not to strive for “best in” anything with their vehicles. They figured that providing enough power, room, amenities, styling and whatnot was going to do the trick and sway consumers into driving off with their cars.
They were right. Some proof lies with Infiniti where no matter how hard designers and engineers try to make the product stand out, they still can’t move them. By contrast, at Nissan, the Rogue, Qashqai and Kicks are flying off the shelves. The LEAF is doing the same but the EV is a very different animal.
The return of the good sedan
What these three vehicles have in common is obvious: they are crossovers. Crossovers are hot.
The all-new Altima is a sedan and while they are slowly running out of steam, the war in the segment remains exceptionally real, especially in the US. Nissan’s come out swinging home-run-hard for the huge market but in Canada, they’ve settled for a base hit. I think the safe bet will pay off.
The difference lies in the powertrain selections. One big piece of news related to the all-new 2019 Altima is that it will be the second vehicle in the extended Nissan family to make use of the new and complex continuously variable compression ratio turbocharged engine, or VCT for short. This 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine produces 248-horsepower and 280 lb.-ft. of torque.
This trick powerplant will not make its way to Canada, at least not in the near future. The standard for all engine is a new direct-injected 2.5-litre 4-cylinder engine rated at 188 horsepower and 180 lb.-ft. of torque (compared to the previous 2.5-litre’s 179/177). 80% of its components are new or redesigned and it shows.
Good to drive
Power is delivered efficiently throughout the rev-rang. It would be easy to complain about a lack of punch when accelerating hard however I cannot picture a real scenario where I would describe the Altima as underpowered.
The CVT is as good as Nissan can make it. It is programmed with “shifts” or “gears” which mimic an automatic transmission. The effect is well-received but the CVT’s signature rubbery response did creep up on occasion.
More important than the power is the fact that the new 2.5-litre operates in a much smoother fashion than the old one did. The changes have drastically reduced NVH from the engine compartment. By comparison, the former 2.5-litre was a tractor engine. This leads nicely into how refined the Altima has become.
The 2019 Nissan Altima is built on a new platform that features revised electric steering, lowered NVH, a new suspension similar to that of the Maxima’s but tuned for comfort.
The upgraded new dual-pinion electric power steering was most pleasing. So many modern cars and CUVs display poor variable steering assistance with fuzzy on-center feel. The Altima suffers no such short-coming. Steering is light at low speeds and picks up nicely as speed climbs.
Nissan’s goal was simply to provide a more comfortable and confident driving experience and they’ve achieved it brilliantly.
The fact that all trims (S, SV and Platinum) are devoid of paddle shifters or drive modes further indicates that this is a regular sedan for all. The addition of Nissan’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive is another such clue.
The system uses an advanced torque split control strategy that circulates torque front to back automatically.
Depending on the driving conditions, it can split the power 50/50, 70/30 or 100/0 to the wheels. My drive partner and I put the system to the test when we ventured into some loose sand off the side of the road for some pictures.
Entering was easy but the exit also posed a steep incline in order to get out – this could have turned into a challenging situation. With proper throttle input, nary a wheel spun and we were out in a jiffy. We’re convinced the AWD will be a true asset for we Canadians.
Attractive in every sense
I recall being at the 2018 New York Auto Show and witnessing the reveal. In a word, the car looks great. The 2019 Altima is 1.1 inches lower, 1.0 inch longer and 0.9 inch wider. Its overall design is sharp and, to be honest, a little less “out-there” than the Camry and Accord.
The cabin is of a contemporary and clean design that is as functional as it is attractive. It is roomy and quite comfortable.
The level of encompassed technology has jumped significantly thanks in part to the available NissanConnect Services provided by SiriusXM, standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth and much more.
The new 2019 Nissan Altima may be dynamic-looking automobile but in the end, it truly is but a really good sedan. No matter the price point, it will include what’s really important for Canadian families such as a complete suite of safety features, to go along with AWD.
The SV, with ProPilot Assist, a heated steering wheel and other cool features is the trim we’d select.