Against a background of waning consumer interest in sedans, as well as dramatic redesigns of the top-selling Honda Accord and Toyota Camry, Nissan could ill afford another cautious update with its latest-generation Altima mid-size sedan. And, indeed, the new 2019 Altima sees the model’s most ambitious changes in more than a decade, bringing not only the expected all-new styling and additional tech but also one new engine and one that has been heavily revised, plus, for the first time, an all-wheel-drive option.
Nissan has broomed the V-6 engine as the step-up powertrain offering, replacing it with a turbocharged inline-four. The turbo four is the company’s variable-compression 2.0-liter, just introduced in the Infiniti QX50. (Read how the technology works here.) In the Altima, it makes 248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque, versus 270 ponies and 251 lb-ft for today’s 3.5-liter V-6. It’s optional on the sporty-themed SR model and on the range-topping Platinum.
Most Altimas, however, will be powered by a heavily revised, naturally aspirated 2.5-liter inline-four. Its displacement is unchanged, but output increases from 179 to 188 horsepower (at 6000 rpm). Peak torque is 180 lb-ft arriving at 3600 rpm, an increase of 3 lb-ft. As with the turbo four, Nissan claims that this engine offers reduced noise, vibration, and harshness compared with its predecessor, along with more compact packaging. Once again, the Altima comes exclusively with Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT), which is equipped with paddle shifters on the SR model.
The more significant powertrain news is the availability of all-wheel drive for the first time, a feature not found even on the more expensive Maxima. Among direct competitors, only the Subaru Legacy and the Ford Fusion offer all-wheel drive. In the Altima, it will be available on any model but can be paired only with the 2.5-liter engine.
Changes to the chassis include a redesigned suspension with monotube rear dampers, a new electrically assisted power-steering unit that reduces efforts at low speeds but increases them at higher speeds, and 19-inch wheels, available for the first time as an option on SR and Platinum.
Longer, Lower, Wider
The new Altima is longer, lower, and wider than before; its wheelbase has been stretched and the front overhang trimmed slightly. The styling trades the car’s previous flowing shapes for a more linear design. Nissan’s V-shaped grille is taller and broader, but the brand’s boomerang-shaped taillights are more subdued; the Altima also adopts a floating-roof design as seen on the Maxima and other Nissans. The color palette has been amped up, with Scarlet Ember and Sunset Drift (orange) metallic shades joining the usual variations of white, silver, gray, and black.
The interior also features new colors, and a lower cowl makes for an airier cabin, as does the thinner instrument panel. As on the exterior, horizontal lines dominate. All models have a 7.0-inch screen nestled in the instrument cluster while an 8.0-inch touchscreen stands proud of the dashboard. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are standard, along with SiriusXM satellite radio, Siri Eyes Free and Google Assistant voice recognition, and keyless ignition. The SR, SL, and Platinum get leather, while the S and SV have a cloth interior.