Review 3 of 317|
from Larry Miller Nissan
Year / Model Reviewed:
2008 Altima 2.5L 4 dr sedan
Smart, sleek body style, equal to or better than Toyota Camry, Honda Accord.
Great performance (better than Camry), considering just a four-cylinder power plant. Great on gas while providing surprisingly zippy performance (32 MPG highway).
High dependability and safety ratings, on par with the top-three midsize sedans in this price range.
Superior handling on highway, owing to a more rigid suspension. Pass with ease at 90 MPH, with no noticeable sway or “softness” when zipping back into your lane.
Unique CTV (continuously variable transmission) exhibits no lag between gears (because there are no conventional “gears”) for more efficient acceleration.
You will notice a somewhat firmer ride than what the softer suspension of the Camry provides. Hit a speed bump a little on the fast side, and you will feel a slight jolt. But you can’t have everything without giving up something. I prefer the security of superior cornering at highways speeds, for the added safety factor alone. Moreover, the Altima’s stiffer suspension provides a “sportier” feel. It’s just flat fun to drive!
I haven’t checked out the current model Nissan Altima, but the 2008 lacked in offering individual extras outside of a six or seven-hundred-dollar leap in the form of “packages.” For example, the buyer could not add just the high-end Dolby sound, or just power seats, or just a sun roof, without these items being incorporated into a more expensive package. In our case, however, we didn’t miss these extras, as the stock sound system was of high-enough quality (and I’m picky in this area), a sun roof opens up potential for future leakage during a rain storm, and do I really need power seats? The other power options, windows, steering, braking, door locks, cruise control, etc., were standard.
If you want “sexy” on a budget, you need not look further than our 2008 Nissan Altima 4-banger. Following a fairly comprehensive online research, we ended up with three finalists in this price range: Toyota Camry; Honda Accord; Nissan Altima.
My wife leaned toward the style and name recognition of the Camry but, after reading performance reports, along with visiting the showrooms, I found the dollar-for-dollar value of the Toyota equivalent to be somewhat lacking. I want it all. I want a car that not only zips down the road, with plenty of passing power in reserve, but is kind to me a the gas pump.
Comparing the Camry 2.5 liter, 165 HP 4 cyl to the Altima 2.5 liter, 175 HP 4 cyl was a no-brainer. While either base model provides an honest 32 MPG highway (the current model Altima boasts 33), the difference lies in the performance, thanks to the longer stroke in the Altima 4 cyl mill, combined with the simpler and more efficient Altima CVT (continuously variable transmission). You notice the muscle when you depress the accelerator, and feel the CVT catch up, quickly matching the engine RPM. There is no pause in shifting, as this unusual tranny contains no conventional “gears” to go through—which, to be fair, is a source of “complaint” to some drivers. Whether we grew up with a standard transmission, automatic, or both, we are somewhat addicted to the sensation of that however-so-slight pause in the “shifting” between gears.
This picayune little anomaly went unnoticed, however, the first time we took our fully-loaded Altima up the initial stretch of I-70, into the Front Range of the Rockies (just west of Denver). It is doubtful that you will find many steeper grades on any section of the Interstate highway system. From the on-ramp off I-470, to the first subsequent crest of I-70, just beyond the Lookout Mountain exit, you are driving a few-mile stretch that will relegate most 4-cylinders to the trucker’s lane.
But not so with our Altima. From the on-ramp, we effortlessly stepped up to 70 MPH. In fact, upon noting that our Lookout Mountain exit was coming up more quickly than I’d anticipated, I tromped on the gas pedal, to breeze by an SUV, which was cruising up the hill at about 75. We passed him at 90, then broke back to 70, to prevent over-flying the exit.
The urban soccer mom may not be so interested in the performance of her equivalent Toyota Camry, deferring to the undeniably softer suspension and the prestige of being a prudent owner of perhaps the most sensible and prestigious mid-size sedan in the world.
Yes, you will notice the difference, in the form of a more rigid ride with the Altima. But I willingly trade a softer ride for the ability to change lanes at 90 MHP on the Interstate, with virtual zero sway. To me, superior handling equates to greater safety.
Nearly three and a half years down the road from our initial purchase of this beautiful automobile, we are as happy with this ride as we were upon driving it out of the dealer’s lot. Despite the relentless rays of the Colorado sun, the jade-green finish still looks like new and the car still performs like a new. It has never seen the inside of a garage other than Greasemonkey, for routine oil changes.
Speaking of service (and potential repair issues), I would be less than honest to not share an initial concern with the future reliability of the unconventional “continuously variable transmission” (CVT). Unlike standard automatics, which have been available for many decades, this new breed is relatively new to the automotive market—out just a few years, to my knowledge.
But, you want to hear something that departs a little from the norm of the car-company mentality? Last year, Nissan Motors sent us an official letter from the factory, extending the initial power-train warranty on the CVT to ten years. And why did they do so? In so many words, Nissan reported that there were a number of skeptics who were somewhat wary of this radically different transmission. As a pledge of faith, this surprising ten-year warranty was offered to, essentially, “put their money where their mouth is.”
Wow. This is something that you do not see every day: an automobile manufacturer who actually provides an after-sales additional guarantee…and puts it in writing!?
In conclusion, my wife was grumbling under her breath a little, still somewhat steamed with my talking her off of the Camry, a few weeks after our purchase of the Nissan (her car). Kate could give a rat’s rear end as to such mundane factors as “performance,” a “CVT,” and highway-speeds “handling.” As far as she was concerned, she had set her sights on being a Camry owner, ever since her older sister in New England was a proud Toyota owner, back in the mid 80’s.
But, now, she snubs her now-snobbish nose at Camry owners, while goosing her Altima, just a little bit, to beat them off the line at the traffic light. [Is there a word for being proud and ashamed at the same time?
Similar Products Used:
Closest thing was a 2000 Prizm (which was a Toyota Corolla in disguise). The Prizm, as with the Corolla name, was a quality Japanese-built automobile, but "compact," as compared to "mid-size."
Very little comparison to the Nissan Altima, other than overall quality. The 4-cylinder Prism should had been just as peppy as the 4-cylinder Altima, considering the added weight handicap of the Altima.
But it did not. Not only did we feel a lack of acceleration in reserve with the Prizm/Corolla at highway speeds, the interior experience was noticeably cramped.
The Nissan Altima was actually more comparable to my erstwhile 1989 Ford Taurus (a full-size sedan). But, while the styling and comfort of that model year Taurus was par or above, it was virtually falling apart at under 100,000 miles--which is unacceptable by today's standards.