Road Test: 2016 Nissan Altima 2.5 SR

Meet the mid-size sedan that's high on features but low on cost.

While I still get impressed by cars, it’s not often I’m taken aback by an economy car that offers me way more than I thought it would. The 2016 Nissan Altima 2.5 SR surprised me from the get-go with a quiet cabin, satisfying driving dynamics, and a CVT transmission that didn’t make me want to go to the swap shop for a new one. Nissan’s new Altima makes it clear that in order to keep a foot in the economy car race, you need to step up your game at the most basic levels.

 

One of the most frustrating things for me as a car enthusiast is the CVT (continuously variable transmission). In every car equipped with one, they always seemed to be working too hard and not doing what I asked. However, with the 2.5 SR, Nissan has figured out a way to make the driving pleasurable without making the engine sound like it’s always at the limit. The 182 horsepower 4-cylinder even has respectable acceleration, thanks to the transmission.

While it does have faults (mechanical chatter at certain RPMs due to CVT and low engine speed), the car always stayed in the power band. And this is important because it wasn’t loud and obnoxious, which meant the inside stayed quiet and made for a polished ride.  

The interior may be no-frills, but that doesn’t mean it’s cheap. The Altima comes loaded with technology and features that some cars costing three times as much don’t offer as standard. You’re not going to mistake it for a luxury yacht, but you also won’t be disappointed in what it offers. The SR even comes with an 8-way power seat for the driver helps to get the right seating position for when you’re cranking up the power.  

The Altima SR’s specially designed sport suspension mated to their Active Understeer Control means the car behaves more like an AWD car, rather than the typical FWD car that pushes through a corner. Using the brakes from whichever side of the car is turning into, the system automatically counteracts the forces of nature, and in turn, gives you better handling. Not sure we actually felt the system working, but we admit understeer was not a major concern.

With very aggressive angles, you won’t be confusing the Altima with much else on the road. With a bit of 370Z in the front, there’s a menacing stance to the Altima—but it stops short of being overly dramatic or obscure. Light seems to hit it in all the right places, which distinguishes it from other economy sedans out there.

You’re truly getting a lot for the Altima SR with an MSRP of $24k: modern electronics, a comfortable place to commute in, and Nissan reliability. You don’t have to ask much of the Altima, but what it does give you is worth the entry cost.


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