The Nissan Altima enters its sixth generation for 2019, but the styling changes aren't drastic.
Sure, it adds about an inch in length and width. It also sits a little lower than the previous generation. And, yes, the exterior and interior styling looks more modern.
But the 2019 Altima is still very recognizable as an Altima.
The big news for this new iteration of the midsize sedan: all-wheel drive.
Other than the Subaru Legacy and the soon-to-be-defunct Ford Fusion, there aren't any other midsize sedans in the non-luxury segment that offer this.
Plus, it will be available on every trim for an additional $1,350.
That means you can get an Altima with AWD starting at $25,995.
The caveat, though, is you can only get it paired with the base 2.5-liter engine.
Nissan's reasoning behind this: The automaker presumes this base engine will be the volume seller, and it wants to make AWD available to as many people as possible.
Execs on hand at the preview said this doesn't mean it won't appear with the up-level engine at some point. But it doesn't mean it will either. That is to say, there is no technical reason why it couldn't be available with both engines.
It just isn't.
During the press preview we only drove the top-tier 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, and overall it is really nice. It delivers 248 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque, which translates to nice off-the-line starts and smooth seamless acceleration. It's also really quiet.
This engine replaces the former 3.5-liter V-6.
Unfortunately this engine is not available across the entire lineup; it's only available at the SR and Platinum trims (and on Edition One for 2019). Opting for this engine will add $3k to $4k depending on to which trim it is added.
The base engine, which we did not have the opportunity to test, delivers 188 horsepower and 180-pound-feet of torque.
One of the nice things about the engine drivetrain combinations is you'll probably see about 30 mpg in combined driving -- even if you opt for the AWD and the 2.5-liter engine.
Other than the fuel-efficiency and improvements, Nissan has made huge strides in terms of outside noise entering the cabin and interior materials. Touch points are solid and even the dash materials are soft.
I like the clean and simple center stack and the fact it has two USB ports and two USB-C ports. One of the things I wasn't a fan of, however, is the plasticky faux-carbon-fiber accents on the doors. Also, for as solid as the materials feel, the doors themselves feel a bit hollow and closed with a tinny thwap sound.
In addition to AWD, Nissan adds more standard up-level amenities to Altima. Even the base S trim will come with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, automatic emergency braking, 8-way power adjustable driver's seat, Zero Gravity seats and an 8-inch color touch-screen display.
Available features include leather seats, navigation, ProPilot Assist, Safety Shield 360 and an around-view monitor.
One thing I find curious is the Safety Shield 360 doesn't come into play until the SV trim, where it's standard. With the huge move toward standard safety technology in the industry, I would have thought more than autonomous emergency braking would be standard. But it isn't. It isn't even available as an option before the SV trim.
For 2019, Altima will have six trims, with Edition One making a limited-run first-year appearance. Trims and pricing are as follows:
- S: $24,645
- SR: $25,995 / $30,145 (with 2.0L engine)
- SV: $28,825
- SL: $30,735
- Platinum: $32,675 / $35,675 (with 2.0L engine)
- Edition One: $36,645 (2.0L only)
The all-new Altima went on sale in October and is in dealers now.
The Bottom Line:
I liked but didn't love the Altima. Nissan has made some huge improvements in this midsize sedan, but so has its competitors. Toyota Camry ($24,765), Honda Accord ($24,465) and Hyundai Sonata ($22,935) were all recently redesigned. They all have more standard safety equipment and have nicer exterior styling.
On the plus side, Altima is priced competitively and has AWD - something none of its primary competitors offer. It's also comfortable for long drives and has nice interior quietness.
Nissan has done a really nice job with Altima, and current Nissan owners will be pleased with the changes. The question is: Are the changes nice enough?
Editor's Note: Driving impressions in this "First Look" review are from an invitation-only automaker launch event that allowed special access to the vehicle and executives. Nissan covered our accommodations, meals and transportation costs.