2015 Nissan Altima a Satisfying, High MPG Ride

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While the electric LEAF is clearly Nissan’s highest-profile environmental statement worldwide, mainstream cars like this automaker’s Altima – which sells in hundreds of thousands of units annually – are the ones that carry the day. That may change in time as advanced and alternative powertrains seek to displace more conventional motivation, but this is today’s reality.

Our recent time with Nissan’s mid-size Altima 2.5 SV sedan proved this mainstream model a solid performer that not only delivers a pleasing driving experience at affordable cost, but pretty admirable fuel economy as well. Emerging two model years ago as an all-new iteration, the Altima remains a stylish choice with loads of functionality and new levels of connectivity and integration of on-board electronics.

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The Altima is pleasing to the eye with a dramatic front end and sculpted fenders, a long sloping roofline, curvaceous taillights that flow into the body, and a fluid silhouette that helps achieve an efficient 0.29 coefficient of drag. While featuring an eye-catching and distinctive chrome-rimmed grille and projector headlight design, it’s otherwise devoid of gimmicky angles and lines that would diminish its appeal to mainstream buyers. Our 2.5 SV rolled on 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels and Michelin 215/55R17 tires.

Inside is a comfortable and accommodating interior designed with pleasing materials, logical controls, and pushbutton start. Remote engine start is also possible with the vehicle’s Nissan Intelligent Key, plus the ability to precondition the interior to desired temps via the key’s Intelligent Climate Control function. Both driver and front passenger are treated to what Nissan describes as Zero Gravity front seats. These fatigue-reducing seats have been designed with long commutes and road trips in mind, providing support in as close as possible to the ‘neutral posture’ position that NASA research shows a human body takes in a weightless environment. Rear seat passengers are provided comfortable seating and adequate legroom for long trips. The Altima also carries more than its share of gear for those trips with a truly spacious trunk.

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Standard on all Altima models is Nissan’s customizable Advanced Drive-Assist display, which features a 4-inch color screen with 3D graphics located in the center of the instrument panel, flanked by a speedometer and tach. Here, key information can be selectively displayed including instant mpg, tire pressure readouts, audio system information, and turn-by-turn navigation instructions (in nav-equipped models).

Our Altima 2.5 SV included a Convenience Package as standard fare, adding in such niceties as a power sliding/tilt moonroof, SiriusXM Traffic and Travel Link, and folding mirrors with integrated turn signals. The SV model’s Technology Package brings an additional array of desired features including a 7-inch color touch-screen display and NissanConnect with navigation, mobile apps, and available hands-free text messaging.

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Aimed at keeping driver and passengers connected while on the road, NissanConnect apps include Facebook, iHeart Radio, Google online search, and Pandora. The system is designed to allow introducing additional travel, social networking, and entertainment apps. In addition to connectivity, the Technology Package provides important safety technology including Blind Sport Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and Moving Object Detection systems.

During our 700-plus mile drive through California’s gold country, we found the Altima 2.5 SV to be sure-footed, responsive, and comfortable to drive. Its 182 horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder provides all the power needed on the road while delivering an impressive EPA-estimated 27 city and 38 highway mpg. An optionally available 3.5-liter V-6 provides 270 horsepower while achieving EPA-estimated 22 city and 32 highway fuel economy, a 1 mpg improvement over last year. Both versions move power to the road through an efficient Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT).

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Higher fuel efficiency is an imperative these days and Nissan clearly gets it, especially with its 2.5-liter engine. The Altima achieves its efficiencies in myriad ways including the integration of lightweighting techniques like a thermoplastic resin intake manifold, lower rolling resistance tires, 40 percent friction reduction in the transmission, and a regenerative alternator that operates only while coasting to reduce parasitic load on the engine.

Nissan’s Altima is one of the best selling cars in the country and this automaker’s top selling model, period. Staying ahead of the curve in the crowded mid-size market is no easy thing, with the competition continually raising the bar in efficiency, safety, value, and performance. The 2015 Nissan Altima keeps its winning personality and adds in the right mix of new features and advanced electronics to keep its stride in this hot market segment.