1996 Nissan Altima Review

1996 Nissan Altima - Practical solution.


Nissan's Altima sedan combines practicality and driving kicks.

Nissan is successfully concentrating on high-volume practical sedans such as its subcompact Sentra, compact Altima and mid-size Maxima.

None are blah, and the sporty Altima SE model I drove especially shows Nissan knows how to inject motoring fun into a four-door model.

All the curvaceous, front-drive Altimas have the solid, refined feel of a costlier, larger car and provide impressive performance. Four 6-footers comfortably fit in the quiet interior, but elbowroom isn't generous and narrow rear door openings impede entry in back. The roomy trunk has a small opening.

Altimas range from the $15,649 base XE model to the $20,999 GLE. Even the XE has dual air bags, power steering, tilt steering column, rear defroster, reclining bucket seats, sports sedan instrumentation and fairly wide 60-series tires.

The raciest Altima is the $19,299 SE. It adds a sport suspension, sport front seats that provide superb grip, a rear spoiler, all-disc brakes for surer stops and alloy wheels - but not lower-profile tires. You also get a leather-wrapped steering wheel, AM/FM/cassette, air conditioning, cruise control and power windows and locks.

Anti-lock brakes are a $999 option for all Altimas.

The SE always was eager to whisk me quickly and safely to a destination - thanks largely to the strong 150-horsepower four-cylinder, which powers all Altimas. The 2.4-liter engine gets loud when pushed hard, but has goodies such as dual overhead cams and four valves per cylinder. It propels the Altima from 0-60 m.p.h. in 8.1 seconds with the standard five-speed manual transmission, which works with an easy clutch and shifts fine as long as you don't rush it.

An available four-speed automatic - standard on the GLE - doesn't hurt acceleration much, but order the manual for the SE for maximum driving enjoyment. Economy is an estimated 24 m.p.g. in the city and 30 on highways with the manual and 21 and 29 with the automatic.

Quick, precise steering and a supple all-independent suspension provide sport sedan agility, and the brakes stop you quickly and surely.

Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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