Friday, October 14, 2011

Smaller engine, big surprise in Altima ride

Sacramento, California – It had been some time since I had reviewed a Nissan Altima sedan, so I eagerly anticipated its arrival.

Oh, here it is now and … Rats, it’s a 2.5!!!

A 2012 Nissan Altima 2.5 S to be specific, but the key factor here is 2.5.

I much prefer the 3.5 Altimas, with their 3.5-liter V-6s pouring out 270 glorious horses. The V-6 makes the Altima perform at a level resembling the pricier Nissan Maxima. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed more than a few moments blowing off hot cars in a series of Altima 3.5 testers.

Well, gotta live with it. The next morning I’m heading down the freeway entrance ramp with my right foot deep in the tester’s 2.5-liter in-line 4 with 175 horsepower, and I zip past a pretty good car. About two seconds later, I blast past what I consider to be a very frisky foreign model.

What gives? This Altima 2.5 S is performing way above what I remember. I looked it up: I tested 2002 Altima 2.5 S, and the horsepower rating was exactly what it is now, 175 ponies. But I don’t remember that car giving me the oomph the current model was giving me.

Somewhere along the line while I was driving Altima 3.5s, the Nissan engineers must have tuned the four-banger to run with the wolves. Nice surprise? You bet.

Everything else in the 2012 Altima was just what you’d expect from a model that compares favorably with heavyweights such as the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.

Interior space was plentiful, even in the back. Trunk space was likewise ample.

An uncomplicated, easy-to-use layout of dashboard controls made for easy motoring. The car looked aerodynamically pleasing riding on its 16-inch all-season tires. A long list of standard comfort/convenience features makes the $22,570 manufacturer’s suggested retail price seem like a bargain.

My tester was dressed up with a couple of “Convenience” packages that included an eight-way power driver’s seat, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a power sliding moonroof and dual zone automatic temperature control. The bottom line on my ride was $26,320.

In truth, I could have done without the extras and been perfectly happy in the car. And fuel mileage ratings of 23 miles per gallon in the city and 32 mpg on the highway felt pretty good too.

Would I recommend the Altima 2.5 S to a friend? Yes, without hesitation. After all, horsepower isn’t everything, and saving a few bucks on gas in a still-peppy car makes my day.

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