- The Washington Times - Friday, December 28, 2001

The all-new Nissan Altima sedan can be described from bumper to bumper with one word: wow.
This Altima, now in its third generation, is nothing like the two previous models. Equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine that produces 240 horsepower, this exciting beauty has sportscarlike performance.
Compared to the conservative Altima of yesteryear, the 2002 model is longer, wider, higher and much faster. This car has 17-inch alloy wheels, a new front grille with large, round fog lights, plus a sharp-looking spoiler on the rear deck. Headlamps, with the optional xenon bulbs, brighten the road, and the clear taillight lenses add to its attractive appearance.
A few years ago, I visited the Nissan assembly plant in Smyrna, Tenn., and watched the robots wait until the joints were in precise position before welding. Everything about an Altima, then and now, fit with precision. It's a pleasure to open and close the doors of the 2002 model and hear the "thunk," a sound similar to that heard when shutting the doors on luxury cars. Don't misunderstand, my tester, loaded with options, isn't cheap at $26,363.
The new Altima is also available with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that begins at $16,349. For driving enthusiasts, however, the difference in price is worth the driving enjoyment derived from the more expensive model.
Nissan's public relations people point with pride to the interior, saying it is designed to be "relaxed, modern and comfortable, emphasizing the harmony between the driver and machine." Those words echoed through my mind sarcastically every time I groped for the three-point safety belt; it had an annoying way of hiding itself behind the driver's seat.
Nevertheless, the entire interior has much more head- and legroom, front and rear, compared to previous models. There is a 60/40 fold-down rear seat, making the cargo-carrying capacity of the trunk even more useful should there be need to transport a long object.
The three-gauge cockpit-style instrument panel is integrated with a multifunction trip computer. To its right are easy-to-understand-and-operate heating and air-conditioning controls, plus an excellent sound system. The interior is reasonably quiet with the power sunroof closed.
My tester was equipped with the optional Bose AM/FM radio, with an in-dash six-disc CD changer, plus eight speakers. This system also has the Radio Data System, speed-sensitive volume control and steering wheel audio controls. The antenna for this system, located in the glass, effectively attracted distant stations.
The Altima has the standard dual-stage supplemental air bags for safety. There also is an option package that includes an anti-lock braking system, front side-impact air bags, and front and rear head-curtain air bags.
The highlights of my tester's suspension system were front and rear stabilizer bars and a multilink independent rear suspension. Although an automatic transmission is available, my tester was linked to a five-speed manual transmission. I couldn't ask for more responsive pickup. Although it is not the most economical way to drive, I would leave the car in fourth gear and enjoy the quick response from a touch on the accelerator.
Driving this very stable car down a winding road is equally enjoyable much like a sports car. You may have noticed the TV commercial in which the Altima does an entertaining pirouette, to which I exclaimed: "Wow." However, as much as I wanted to, I didn't have the nerve to duplicate the spin.
MOTOR MATTERS


Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.

 

Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide