The Burlapp Altima test drive (When it’s Burlapp, you know it’s right)

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First, let me, again, apologize for the quality of the pictures.
I know they are crap.
But my camera was still on its way when I took these (with my phone).
The car does look much better inside and out.

The model I drove was the 2.5 Liter S with CVT.

Let’s start with how it drives. For a change.

First, you just push a button to start. A better and simpler solution than the weird keyless “key” in the Passat. But still.
I never thought using a regular key was such a chore…
The engine is also smoother than the 2.0 Turbo from the Passat. And much, much better than the same engine in the Audi A4 I drove a few days before.
It is not as perfect as the Nissan V6 (or most other V6 engines for that matter), but it is smooth a quiet.
And silent at idle or when cruising.
With no vibrations through the steering wheel. Unlike the A4.

I have to say the suspension is on the tough side. Not really hard, but not nearly as smooth and comfortable as the Passat or the Camry. The car does feel very solid and well built. The doors make a great solid sound when you close them.

The steering is on the numb side. It is just way too light and doesn’t match the “sporty” suspension.
It is not as bad as others (like the Maxima I drove last year, or the Jetta), but again, here the Passat is better.

The worse thing for me were the brakes. They do work very well, but they feel very abrupt. There is almost no response when you first put your foot down. Then all of a sudden, the car just stops. A weird feeling that never got better. And it makes it very hard to stop the car smoothly.

The engine has a lot of power, all the time. Right from the start.
No waiting.
It feels as fast as the more powerful Passat, without a Turbo. And it is always quieter.

I know many people hate CVTs.
I have a pretty open mind. I have driven good ones (Saturn Ion, believe it or not ) and horrible ones (Ford Freestyle).
And I think this is a great one.
Of course it is smooth, but it is also pretty responsive. Maybe some people will miss the feel of a gear or two kicking down when you need it, but I don’t.
Maybe because I never drive really hard. And I guess, for more power, you can still get the V6.

As far as the interior goes. I think it is a very nice place to be.
Most plastics have a soft touch (unlike the A4 where the top of the doors are actually covered in hard plastic).

But for many, it still have a generic Japanese sedan look. These people would prefer the Passat interior.
I have to say, I find the VW interior a bit more original and classy.
But the Altima cabin is still very nice.
The only cheap stuff I saw was the plastic on the console, hard and cheap looking. And the pocket bins under the door armrests.
That’s about it. The rest of the interior is as good as anything for the price.

The car is very roomy, front and back. The trunk is huge and very well finished.
The controls are really good looking at night.
The stereo sounds good and comes with an iPod jack.
The steering wheel felt just too skinny. Weird considering other Nissan models with really fat steering units.
But that could be fixed with leather.
The seats are very good. Just a bit wide for my frame. But maybe just right for most people.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed driving the Altima for a few days.
I averaged 24mpg in “spirited” driving. Mostly in the city, with maybe 10% to 15% ot freeway.

I tried to “watch it” and drove like an 80 year old man for a couple of hours and I got a bit over 25MPG just in the city.
Which I think is quite amazing for such a roomy car.

The only thing that would really bug me about the car are the super touchy brakes.
( I have heard it is a common problem).
I got used to the steering, and even the firm suspension.

I think the closest thing to it on the market is the Passat.
Which is at least $4000 more.
The VW is more original and I guess, does stand out a bit more. Plus, it is not Japanese. A plus for some people craving something different. ( I would still worry about the reliability and resale).

For the rest of us, this is a great and good looking sedan.
And you can even get Nissan V6 for a bit more money. One of the best engines money can buy. At any price.

I would also seriously consider the Hybrid.
Although, you’d have to figure if a gain of about 12mpg is worth it for the amount of driving you do…

The Altima I drove was priced at $ 20,900.

-Passat 2.0: $24,900
-Camry LE: $20,500
-Accord LX: $21,500
-Altima Hybrid:$25,600

As you can see, the Altima Hybrid isn’t much more than the basic Passat.
I wouldn’t think twice…

Conversation 16 comments

  1. Thanks Vince, as always, your efforts are much appreciated. I just wished you test drove the V6 model. I guess I understand the logic however, considering most of the ones on the road are 4 cyl.

    So what and when is the next test drive? I think these test drives are really informative.

  2. Maybe some people will miss the feel of a gear or two kicking down when you need it, but I don’t.

    We may be alone in this, but if the power comes when I want it, I don’t care how it gets there.

    Good review, Vince.

  3. Vince , once again , you have proven that you should have your own automobile magazine. You recognize the superiority of Nissan product, unlike many car magazines that rate toyota and hondas better because they line their pockets with advertising dollars. Regular car magazines are simply a business venture that some car companies control with $$$, but Vince delivers the TRUTH!Congratulations on a very accurate recognition of Nissan Quality and superiority and for your honesty…Cheers!

  4. What about the much praised Saturn Aura as a comparison. It is now offered in a 4cyl & 4cyl hybrid and the high value 3.5V6 is probably cheaper than some of these with 4 cyl.

  5. I already knew how good the V6 was. Having exerienced it in the Maxima and G35.
    But I was more curious about how good was the most popular 2.5 Liter.

    If you can, go for the V6.
    It is one of the best engine around.
    But beware of gas mileage.
    The 24MPG I got with the smaller engine would turn into 16 or 17MPG with the V6.
    I am not sure if it is worth it with prices approaching $4 a gallon around here…
    The 4 isn’t as creamy smooth, but it does have enough power for most people.

  6. Thanks, Vince! Good review.
    Seems the 4 cylinder engine was powerful enough as is the one in the Honda Accord (which I own).

    I wonder how many people actually bought V6 Altimas, Camrys, or Accords without testing the 4 cyl. versions of those cars at all.

    I think there are too many people out there who last drove a 4 in a Pinto, Vega, or other POS, and don’t know how quick and smooth the best 4 cylinder engines are today. They just bought the V6 and blew off the 4 because they assumed the 4 would be inadequate.

    With gas prices as they are, and with impressive smoothness and performance, I’m glad I chose the 4 cylinder engine for my car.

    My advice: Unless you’re frequently carrying heavy loads, try the 4 before you buy the V6–you’ll be surprised.

  7. the refinement of the 4 cyl. combined with the worlds greatest cvt is unmatched by anything that honda or toyota makes today.

  8. I’m glad they improved the Altima. I spent a lot of time in a last- generation 4cyl Altima, and it was a miserable experience. The engine strained badly with a half-full trunk and a passenger, the plastics were warped,frail and had a bad feel. Don’t even get me started on the Murano I just rented. But I am very impressed with what I’ve seen lately from Nissan. Particurlarly with the G series. Not Audi quality or even Aura quality. But in the same league now.

  9. Compared to the Camry…
    The Camry’s engine is quieter and seems more refined.
    The ride is much smoother.
    And the brakes feel much better/normal.
    But the interior, for my taste, is a bit better in the Nissan.
    And the Altima feels a bit more spirited .
    I really like the Altima, but I wouldn’t call it more refined than the Camry.

  10. Very good review. I own an 06 Altima 2.5 and I get about 24mpg city and 30 hwy. The 07 EPA est are 5mpg better than the previous gen. I wonder how many miles were on your tester, because Nissan recommends 1200 mile “break-in” period. I noticed my fuel econ got better even at 5-6k miles.

    After my customers test drive, I’ll have no problem showing them your review. Very good and it appears impartial.

    I’ll probably step up to the 07 V6 coupe when it arrives later this month. Thanks, Jess

  11. Vince,

    Don’t forget that camry engines are more economic, both the inline-4 and the v6.

    My 3.3l V6 2004 solara averages around 24MPG(80% city, 20% highway).
    On long freeways (I-5), it gets 29MPG consistently.

    the latest Toyota 3.5l V6 is even more impressive.

    I can’t imagine how good the mileage for inline-4 camry

  12. Vince,
    Great review. I’m glad you tested the 2.5 instead of the 3.5. Everyone always tests the bigger engine and then nobody knows what the smaller engined car can do.

  13. Vince, why does toyota not offer cvt like nissan does, on the whole lineup?????. they offer it on hybrid only. could it be that they are way behind in technology and reliability. Oh ya, why does toyota have so much less horsepower than the nissan altima, i remember my 1995 altima having 150 horsepower. that’s very close to the camry of today, 12 years later! one more thing, make an emergency manouver at 80 mph and see if you are still on the road in a camry, the altima will stay put! One more thing, toyota feels that push button start is fine in their top of the line premium model and Nissan has it on every single model as well as a full size spare that’s not found on the camry. The more you look Vince, the more toyota doesn’t even come close!!

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