- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 11, 2007

Nissan’s 2007 Altima is not the run-of-the mill midsize sedan. It is well styled inside and outside — and it’s tuned for drivers who really like to drive.

There are six models, with prices starting at $17,950 for the Altima 2.5 and escalating to $28,400 for the top-of-the-line Altima 3.5 SL.

I drove the Altima 3.5 SE, equipped with a V-6 engine and sport-tuned suspension, through mountainous roadways of sweeping uphill and downhill conditions. With its quick transmission shift points, tight on-center steering response and balanced handling on 17-inch wheels and tires, this front-wheel-drive sedan felt nimble and just as fun-to-drive capable as a European rear-wheel-drive sports sedan.

The all-new Altima is slightly smaller than the one it replaces. Marketing executives informed me one of the reasons the Altima is smaller is because female buyers told Nissan the car was too big.

The new Altima has lost inches in the wheelbase, width and length. I thought the sedan had the appearance of largeness, specifically from the B-pillar to the tail end. The passenger’s windows in the second row looked almost Jaguar Vanden Plas-like. The Altima’s visual illusion bears resemblance to a saloon car. Engineers say they’ve retained every bit of interior comfort and roominess by moving the rear glass back, the cowl forward and utilizing a lower belt line for larger side window glass.

From a styling standpoint, the shorter wheelbase and length give the Altima an aggressive stance. Exterior designers pumped up the healthy athleticism with pronounced front fenders, a dramatically chopped rear curvature to the tail end, as well as dual exhaust finishers.

On the inside, the Altima displays better craftsmanship over the previous version of this sedan with such things as padded armrests, a driver-oriented instrumentation and console layout, a tilt/telescope steering column and attractive chrome accents.

The standard engine is the 16-valve, 2.5-liter four-cylinder that generates 175 horsepower at 5,600 rpm and 180 foot-pounds of torque at 3,900 rpm. This engine is mated to a six-speed manual transmission with a continuously variable transmission offered as a $500 option.

The Altima 3.5 SE and 3.5 SL models are equipped with a 24-valve 3.5-liter V-6 engine, mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or a CVT. This powerplant is tuned to produce a satisfying 270 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 258 foot-pounds of torque at 4,400 rpm.

Nissan’s six-speed manual transmission would be a good choice for buyers who like to move through shorter shift strokes. The CVT is new hardware for the Altima, replacing the previous conventional automatic transmission. The CVT used on the V-6 engine has sport mode and adaptive shift controllers, allowing for faster shifting points for a responsive, sport-oriented, fun-to-drive feel.

Altima now has active head restraints, roof-mounted impact curtains, front seat side-impact air bags and dual-stage front air bags.

Anti-lock brakes with brake assist and electronic brake force distribution are standard on the V-6 models and optional on the four-cylinder Altimas.

Available conveniences include a backup camera, sunroof, choice of XM or Sirius satellite radio, Bluetooth phone system, eight-way power driver’s seat, leather appointed seats and steering wheel, dual climate controls and heated seats. A fully loaded Altima can ring in at just over $32,000.

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