Last year's redesign of the Nissan Altima brought with it smoother sheetmetal and a tastefully refined interior. Where past Altimas have taken a quirky approach to style and details, the current model looks and feels like the next of kin to its upscale Infiniti cousins–so much so, that we're starting to wonder if there's really room for the Maxima in the lineup these days.
Nissan claims that the body stampings on the Altima's sheetmetal are some of the most complex the brand has ever done, taking cues from the larger Maxima and several Infiniti's flowing lines to create one very attractive mid-size sedan. The angled, arrow-themed cues are most obvious in the headlights and taillamps, and the sidelights draw to a point after they gracefully taper to a gentle upkick. The grille is much simpler than those of the Murano or Juke, and we've come to like this half-hourglass motif.
The interior stands out in sharp contrast to the sheetmetal. It's conservatively drawn, with straight lines dividing off the center stack of controls from the driver and the passenger. There's also more space left for larger LCD screens for more advanced infotainment systems, a selling point where the Altima's lagged behind the Koreans and Americans. Big dials and a three-dimensionally drawn screen between them fill up the gauge cluster, while the wide center console is spanned by the shift lever, cupholders, some usefully large storage bins, and covered in a decently rendered artificial woodgrain or a back-to-wardrobe metallic print that looks like bad sharkskin material cut on a bias. The finishes are more spendy this time, and more soft-touch plastics meet the hand and the eye--except at the door pulls, where it's hard, wide-grain plastic. It's probably as durable as possible.