Last year we brought you coverage of the new Sentra and Pathfinder, but the car that kicked off the new deluge of amazing Nissan products was the new Altima. We decided after the incredible new cars we already tested, we had to give the new Altima a go. With Nissan claiming that the newest Altima gets 38 mpg, has fatigue free “zero gravity” seats and more space than ever before we decided a long road trip would be the best way to run the car through its paces. We loaded myself, two passengers and enough gear to go camping and SCUBA diving for a week and headed on an 800 mile journey to Florida.
The trip is a bi-annual excursion into the heart of Northern Florida. When not writing about cars or gadgets we help with the instruction of a SCUBA class at the local university, and the trip is part of the semester final. Our full list of gear included 3 sets of full SCUBA gear with wetsuits and tanks, two tents, a cooler and clothing. The car of choice was a 2.5 SL
Despite the rather large capacity trunk, we still had to load half of the back seat and pack our road guest in with all the sleeping bags. We never had any major complaints from the peanut gallery, but a larger vehicle would have made the trip easier. As for us in the front seats, the trip was just fine. The “zero gravity” seats are a unique feature that many may not entirely appreciate. We find them to be firm and mildly uncomfortable, but when you step out of the car after 8 hours there is no general soreness or achiness. It’s an interesting experience.
That’s a good thing too, as this car will soak up the miles. We hit Interstate 75 and set the cruise. We glided on in comfort for several hours while listening to the Bose audio system and fiddling with the NissanConnect system with text message reading and response.. If we had one large complaint about the car it would be this system, but that is not necessarily Nissan’s fault. We own the phone the Jobs built, and only with the newest update of iOS 6 has MAP Bluetooth profiles been supported. Despite the fresh batch of software, our phone refused to play nice with the system. After lots of finagling, we finally got our phone to recognize the system, but we could never get a text to send or be read. This is most likely an issue with the new phone software, but it still didn’t make our trip any easier.
Once the highway ended and the roads got a bit narrower, the Altima took on a new attitude. The fancy hybrid power-steering system may not provide the most feedback in the world, but it is very direct and features great weighting. The suspension that sucked up the bumps on the highway began to hold the car to the back roads. As expected some lean was present, but the car held on to the pavement well.
The engine in our particular Altima was the 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 182 horsepower, and it came mated to the newest version of Nissan’s Xtronic CVT transmission. The big headline for the new Nissan is that 38 mpg highway rating, and while we never hit that magic number, we did manage to get above 35. We feel that with the large load we were carrying, that number seems more than adequate. We see no reason why that magic 38 wouldn’t show up on the dash if we were running light on cargo.
When we started this trip, we were unsure how the Altima would hold up. Anyone who dives or does heavy camping understands the strain you can put on a vehicle. Despite our best attempts to beat the Altima into submission, the little car kept on rolling. We loaded and unloaded, used the car for food runs and tank fills, and never once did it put up a fight. The little car built in Tennessee made it the full 1600+ miles and asked for more.
We have had experience with the Altima previously, but this was our first chance to really put it through the ringer and it performed admirably. A definite reccomendation.