Momentum matters. Just
Nissan would certainly like to
For 2007, Nissan is betting it can ignite some action again as it rolls out a pair of critical new sedans, the long-delayed remake of the Sentra and the update of the bigger Altima. The latter model was long an also-ran in the mid-size market, at least until 2001, when Nissan introduced a sedan that was visually striking, sporty and surprisingly well-equipped, not to mention much larger than before — a true mid-sizer.
The 2007 Altima starts out with Nissan’s new Global D platform, developed jointly with Renault, the Japanese automaker’s French alliance partner. It is, for one thing, an inch shorter than the outgoing model. At a moment when fuel prices have manufacturers thinking about downsizing again, that might seem like a smart idea, but the new sedan is also about 100 pounds heavier — depending on specific model — what with all the added airbags and other new features.
Fuel economy is up, however, by a mile a gallon on the six-speed manual-equipped 3.5 SE version we tested, which rates 21 in the EPA’s city cycle and 29 on the highway, both credible numbers. Acceleration, meanwhile, comes in around six seconds, 0-60 mph, also an impressive number.
With the available continuously variable transmission (CVT), fuel economy is rated at 22/28 mpg. Meanwhile, with an automatic and the 2.5-liter in-line four also found in the new Sentra, mileage-minded buyers will get 26 mpg city, 34 highway.
Better still, with the D platform’s lowered engine — which allows the half-shafts to be positioned more effectively — more rigid front, and revised suspension geometry, the ’07 Altima does it without noticeable torque steer.
Styled to a T
1969 Pontiac Firebird
In V-6 form, you can opt for either an Altima SL or SE. We opted for the latter, with its torquey 3.5-liter engine pumping out 270 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque, a distinct improvement over the ’06 Altima SE-R, at 260 and 251. Adjusted for the new SAE measurements, it’s actually an increase of 20 hp — and more than enough to compensate for the ’07’s added weight.
We went with the six-speed manual transmission package for the first part of our drive. It’s not the best stick on the market, with an unsatisfying clutch feel, but it’s reasonably quick-shifting and easy to get the hang of.
Most buyers are likely to opt for the CVT. Nissan has been absolutely gung-ho on the technology, using CVTs in every vehicle possible, and expects to sell more than a million of these step-gearless transmissions around the world this year. Other automakers have also adopted the technology, though generally with far less success. CVTs have a tendency to feel off to the casual motorist, especially under hard acceleration, when it feels sort of like stretching a rubber band and waiting for it to catch up. We find the latest version, used in the Altima, to be about the best on the market and as close as we’ve seen to a conventional automatic transmission.
As mentioned, torque steer has largely been banished, though we found the SE did squat a bit during hard launches. The Altima feels well planted, sporty, and a lot of fun to drive. The speed-sensitive steering provides a definite improvement. It’s both responsive and offers a reasonable amount of feedback.
No more chintz
1966 Fire Truck
The chrome accents are a nice touch, and overall, the materials Nissan has chosen are more luxurious and refined. The new instrument cluster is much more modern, while also being a bit easier to read. Seating is firm, with good lateral support for hard driving. And controls and knobs no longer feel like they might break off in our hands. We appreciate the tilt-and-telescope steering wheel and the new, padded armrests.
But Nissan, while we know that
keyless ignition is all the rage, we’re over the hip-for-hipness-sake
technology. Following a drive from
On the safety side, the new Altima SE offers both front and side airbags up front and head curtain restraints for both front and rear passengers. Front seats come with active head restraints to reduce the chance of whiplash. Four-wheel disc brakes are standard.
On the whole, we have to rate the
2007 Altima 3.5 SE as one of the better entries in the crowded mid-size segment.
It likely doesn’t quite have the broader, plainer appeal of the Camry, or even
the Honda Accord, for that matter. But that’s not a complaint. The
last-generation Altima was the number four on the
2007 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE
Engine: 3.5-liter DOHC V-6, 270 hp/258 lb-ft
Transmission: Continuously variable transmission or six-speed manual (as tested); front-wheel drive
Length x width x height:
189.8 x 70.7 x 57.9 in
Wheelbase: 109.3 in
Curb weight: 3334 lb
Fuel economy (EPA city/hwy): 22/28 mpg (automatic); 21/29 mpg (manual)
Safety features: Anti-lock brakes and traction control; dual front, side and curtain airbags; pre-tensioning seatbelts; active head restraints on front seats; tire pressure monitor
Major standard features: Automatic climate control; power windows, locks and mirrors; AM/FM/CD changer; keyless remote; cruise control; leather-wrapped tilt/telescope steering wheel; power driver seat
Warranty: Three years/36,000 miles