- The Washington Times - Friday, June 26, 2009

The Nissan Altima Hybrid is offered in one standard model, priced at $26,650 — pretty much in the normal price range for sedans. The midsize Altima Hybrid has everything going for it in the competitive midsize sedan class, but the EPA ratings give Altima an edge in the competition to lure eco-conscious sedan buyers.

The Altima Hybrid is rated to achieve 35 miles per gallon in the city and 33 mpg highway. It has a projected driving range of 700 miles on a single 20-gallon tank of fuel.

The Altima Hybrid emits next to nothing in emissions and has been classified as an AT-PZEV, which stands for Advanced Technology-Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle. It’s one of the cleanest cars on earth with a gasoline engine.

The Hybrid gets its power - and it’s not deficient in this area - from a combination of a four-cylinder engine and an electric drive motor. Combined horsepower on the Altima Hybrid is 198. When stopped, the gas engine shuts off and the hybrid mode is active. Fuel economy is earned when the hybrid electric mode propels the forward motion with 199 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s the gas operation that is least fuel-efficient in the stop-go phase of acceleration.

Drivers can feel good behind the wheel of the Altima Hybrid with a sport-designed instrumentation panel and sophisticated gauges that are dynamically illuminated in eye-pleasing cobalt blue and high-energy red.

The Altima Hybrid comes standard with Vehicle Dynamic Control, anti-lock brakes, traction control, six airbags and 16-inch aluminum alloy wheels.

The comfort and convenience features on the 2009 Altima step up to entry-level luxury-class status. The car operates with a push-button ignition and intelligent key you can keep in your pocket - luxurious touches that remind me more of what to expect with Infiniti.

The standard-equipped dual-zone automatic climate control on the Altima Hybrid allows the driver to keep the air conditioning operating at full cooling, even when the gasoline engine is stopped. A number of hybrids I’ve driven - the ones that climb into the 40-plus-mpg fuel-efficiency range - reduce full cooling when the vehicle goes into hybrid mode.

The 2009 Altima Hybrid tester had a bottom line of $33,855 - and so now we’re really talking entry-luxury pricing. The optional equipment is mostly luxury-based stuff, which leads me to believe the Altima Hybrid is Nissan’s conservative-man answer to rival Lexus’ swelling ranks of hybrid models. Lexus is doing cartwheels all over the competition with its hybrid offerings in versions of the GS, RX, LS and HS models.

Since Nissan’s luxury brand, Infiniti, is not 2009-ready to respond to Lexus with a hybrid luxury model of its own, the 2009 Altima has to fill the bill. Inclined eco-drivers with the disposable income to put toward a midsize, high-fuel-mileage, partial-zero-emissions sedan might seriously look at the Altima because of its high-end optional equipment.

My tester featured the kind of optional equipment that the premium eco-friendly sedan buyer seeks. The Nissan hybrid featured a connection package priced at $3,100 with a long list of goodies; among them were leather appointments and wood trim, heated seats, Bluetooth, XM radio, and manual folding outside mirrors. The tester also came with a $2,000 technology navigation package, a $1,300 convenience package, plus $110 for floor mats. The destination charge for the 2009 Altima Hybrid is $695.

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