Mar 172015

Space, power, refinement, and comfort are prime qualities expected of an “executive” level midsize sedan. For the longest time, the class has been dominated by the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, and only fairly recently has Mazda given serious competition with their sporty 6. Nissan used to have its own entry in the big-and-heavy Cefiro during the early to mid-00’s, and just a few years back tried to go for even larger with the yacht-like Teana. This time around, and as part of the renaissance going on with the consolidated Nissan that has combined its trucks and passenger cars into one entity, they are going for a more understated, yet even more refined entry with the Altima.

Those of you who remember the pickings for a midsize car back in the 90’s will recall that the Altima was the bigger brother of the Sentra. It had soapbox styling, a rather coarse 2.0-liter engine, and was a sort of neither-here-nor-there car like the Toyota Corona. You might still see a few running around these days, the bodies and mechanicals obviously having seen better days. It eventually gave way to the Cefiro, which made no apologies for its DOM-ish appeal.

The new Altima shares nothing with the old one save for the name, and gives prospective owners a peek at what it might be like to own an Infiniti.  It’s a shape characterized by soft curves and strategic edges to give it a timeless look; a classy presence that doesn’t scream “Money.” The interior is similarly understated with a black-and-beige cabin, plush leather, flowing curves and just a hint of chrome and faux wood. All the surfaces have a pleasant tactile feel, and all the buttons and dials have a silken movement that similarly hints of Nissan’s luxury marque.

With the 3.5SL, the first luxury you’ll really enjoy is an abundance of power and smoothness. A large displacement V6 seems unnecessary in this day and age of fuel efficiency concerns and daily gridlock, but that’s the thing about luxury: never having to compromise if you can help it. 266 glorious horses pull the Altima forward with just a slight dab of the accelerator, and the thrust keeps building well past the century mark as only a big V6 can. As drivetrains go, the Nissan six is one of the smoothest in the business with a very silky (and strong!) rev throughout the range and excellent off-the-line response, mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission. A car like this was principally made for the US market with its miles and miles of interstate, and on Metro Manila roads it honestly never gets to stretch its legs until you can take it to the NLEX or SCTEX-TPLEX. For city-bound folks, the more sensible option is the 2.5SV, which is cheaper by nearly 400k and still gets a decent 177hp engine and most of the other goodies.

The Altima’s ride might well be the best-in-class yet for comfort. The soft suspension easily soaks up bumps and road harshness with almost cloud-like ease but doesn’t go into the wallowy nature of the Teana. Understeer prevails in this car, and the car leans into turns quite noticeably, but the movements are predictable and it never feels all over the place. In a marked departure from the overboosted steering systems of its lesser siblings like the X-Trail and Sylphy, the Altima’s steering actually provides a modicum of feedback. Effort builds gradually as you speed up, and it doesn’t feel like you’re the Playstation controller of the other two. The driver’s seat is a superb place to be in if your priority is comfort over sportiness. The seat is wide and amply supported in the lumbar region, and it is 8-way power adjustable. Cockpit ergonomics are excellent with good sightlines all around, and easily reachable and decipherable controls and buttons. The wide door armrest and center console armrest enable the driver to really sit down and get comfortable in there for long drives.

Truth to tell, I suspect most Altima owners won’t care so much about the driving experience as they will about riding it. Being driven around by a chauffeur is a real luxury to have in our benighted streets, so the backseat is a prime concern for these types of owners.

Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

There is an undeniable abundance of room in the Altima, and you can sprawl out and really feel like a Boss back there. Sadly, it lacks the power rear sunshade of the Accord, or even a rear armrest controller for the stereo and A/C which the Honda has. So, the first thing you will want to do should you get an Altima is order really dark tint as the large windows are great for the view out but can really burn you up in summer. As for managing the stereo and climate, you will have to rely on old reliable voice commands to your driver. The stereo, by the way, is a really good 9-speaker Bose system, and the climate control is dual-zone as expected. The front seats also get heaters, but the backseat does not. There’s also a rear A/C vent. As it is, the backseat’s lack of toys is made up for by plush cushioning, the truly pliant leather, and of course that ethereal ride quality that will lull anyone to sleep within a few minutes of silent riding.

It’s also worth nothing that the trunk is positively cavernous: 15.3 cubic feet in a space that is both wide, deep, and long to accommodate perhaps two golf bags or several large suitcases. For the Altima 3.5SL’s 2.030M asking price, it is also equipped with the standard coterie of safety and modcons expected in this class: Xenon headlamps; paddle shifters; automatic climate control; front, side and curtain headlamps; smart key with pushbutton engine ignition; and ABS and stability control, to name a few.

Executives looking for a luxurious yet understated ride that gives up nothing in power or space, and very little in creature comforts, would do well to consider Nissan’s pseudo-Infiniti.

 Leave a Reply