The first time I gave chase to an Altima was in 2007. Just as it cruised down the Sheikh Zayed Road smoothly, too smoothly, with me holding onto its steering – leaving me clueless if its CVT transmission was ever going to stabilize into a steady drive. From that time, the Altima has come a long way; so has Nissan’s CVT transmission and the Altima’s styling, which was always confused between Hugh Jackman and Hugh Grant. The Altima in its 2014 version has evolved. UPSIDE: Generous storage, comfortable ride, Refined CVT gearbox, Improved styling, Value-added features
FLIPSIDE: Disputable handling skills, Restrictive rear wind screen, Blurred rear view camera
The Price: (all prices are with Insurance at the time of publication which saves up to AED 4000) 2.5 SV is AED 78,500, 2.5 SV AED 85,200, and 2.5 SL AED 97,100 / 3.5 L SL (tested) AED 109,500
Key features: Dual airbags (Side and Curtain airbags in top of the line), ISO FIX child seat anchors, ABS, EBD & Brake Assist, TCS, VDC with Active Understeer Control, In SV and SL: Bluetooth, Rear view camera, Front & Rear Parking Sensors / In SL only: Remote engine starter, 7” colour touch display with navigation, 9-speaker Bose system, Nissan Connect The Drive
My Nissan Altima 3.5 SL had a namesake engine metered to a CVT transmission that is much more aware of what it does, so that you have a grip over what’s happening. Talking about grip, actually the steering of the Altima 2014 too is less loosely placed, providing more control and response. But that doesn’t stop the car from letting in some torque steer that stems out of 270 horsepower and 340 Newton metres of torque. I guess things would be smoother with the 2.5 litre engine version (182 hp and 244 Nm) but that’s not to say that I am unhappy with the sheer power of Nissan’s 3.5 litre naturally aspirated engine, which ironically, I was about to meet again in the new Hybrid Infiniti Q50.
The drone that characterized CVT engines in the past is almost totally absent in the Altima 2014. Instead what you get here is a steady climb of acceleration which gets still better in the mid-range. I guess it could be hard for most cars in the category to match the quickness of the Nissan Altima 3.5 SL on the road. But that’s not to say that it overwhelms itself with accuracy, agility and all those sporty attributes many family cars promise these days. The car turns in quite abruptly while the suspensions and seating comfort is finely tuned to the satisfaction of a family. Despite the available power, a feeling of heaviness (which ironically doesn’t show up in door closures), a good amount of body roll and the tendency to slide out in quick manoeuvres keep the car far from being really sporty. The fuel efficiency recorded on the gauge was 9.2 km/L while my drive derived 8.4 km/L. Whichever is more accurate, for a fairly large engine, it is exceptional. There is even a little game that the driver can play on the Altima dash, linked to the efficiency of his pulling off and braking. It’s called eco-sport or something like that.
So now pedal it, let the torque flow, and then take that corner. And what do you get? Under steer, under steer, under steer. Great, go drifting! But there’s only one problem, this is a family car. But then what’s the problem, drive it like a family car. The Design
The Altima 2014 has shed its classic-styled rear lamps and gone ahead with a rear lamp design that is more in sync with new, larger grille design. The car has managed to look muscular but not overdoing itself with the haunches or the pronounced shoulder line. The sloping rear almost verging on sport back territory adds to the powerful profile.
Cabin and controls
Nissan has encored its usual magic in providing enough and more space for passengers in the cabin. Not only in terms of head room and leg room but also in the rear storage, which actually raises the boot than earlier. Now, this kind of compromises the rear view because the raised rear windscreen line eschews the traffic directly behind you but supported by the side view mirrors, and in the higher end versions with the blind spot monitor and the lane departure warning, provides for easy observation.
The Altima has somehow found a balance in terms of the buttons and the functions. The mechanisms like Bluetooth or navigation are quite a breeze. The seven inch navigation screen offers a good visual of the map with right directions that brought me to the spot every time. The 2014 Altima 3.5 SL came with rear view cameras and parking sensors. But especially after seeing crystal clear rear view cameras in the past weeks, the night vision in this camera was at best a blur despite an extra amount of helpful lighting – but it still serves the purpose.
Inside the Nissan Altima cabin, there’s nothing that really belies any compromise made. Yes, agreed that this is the top of the line 3.5 SE but the soft cushioned door arm rest, the premium looking leather, and some material on both sides of the door and the dash inserts that nicely reminds you of carbon fibre trims border on more expensive territory.
The new Altima 2014 will be rightly placed at the Apex of mid-segment family cars. It is larger, reasonably stylish and accommodates even XL sized members of the family. The mid-seat is anyway uncomfortable unless reserved for children. The perforated leather seats only serve the purpose of looking premium. The Altima interiors don’t suffer from any noise intrusion but for a tolerable level of wind chatter. The Altima has rear AC vents and this Nissan again lives up to its reputation of an ice house. If this review were written out like a weather report, cabin climate would read as: “24.5 ambient temperature, feels like 20.”
Where Nissan scores as the family car is the way it innovatively manages the space and storage inside the cabin. Check under the armrest, inside the glove box, within the doorsill storage, the lidded niche under the dash, on the console; I mean you’ll find deep generous space everywhere, including the boot. Even the cup holders are supersized. The icing on the cake inside the cabin is definitely the Bose system, very well configurated, complementing long drives. That inevitable family pleasure that everyone forgets after two weeks – a sunroof – also graces the front part of the cabin.
The Essential Nissan Altima 2014
Consider the Nissan magic of creating a spacious cabin driven by a superior 3.5 litre engine and a much more refined CVT transmission, you will happily forgive Nissan for the little faults in handling, because it is never misbehaved anyway. Nothing strays beyond what cannot be corrected by an easy gesture, and along with the good fuel record and comparatively good value in its safety and comfort features, that is what makes the Nissan Altima 2014 an evolved family sedan.
Drive Courtesy: Nissan Middle East
- Pictures: Sudeep Koshy