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2007 Nissan Altima 2.5SL Review

2007 Nissan Altima 2.5SL Review

Nissan has re-invented the Altima for the second time in its four generations.

The Nissan Altima has been totally redesigned for 2007. It offers more performance, comfort, safety, economy, and better looks than last year’s model.

It looks more like the Maxima now. It’s a couple of inches shorter on the outside, but has more room on the inside, including a spacious trunk.

Fold-down rear seats allow the trunk to expand into the cabin for carrying big long things.

The object of the redesign was to bring the feel and power of a luxury car to this everyman’s midsize sedan, and Nissan has succeeded, at least with the Altima model that has the V6 engine and all the options, including plush leather.

There are still models with a four-cylinder engine, which offer good power and get 26 city and 34 highway miles per gallon.

Standard equipment on the 2.5 includes cloth seats, 16-inch steel wheels, 60/40 split fold-down rear seats, power windows, power door locks, cruise control, halogen headlamps, electric power steering, AM/FM/CD with four speakers, vehicle information display, and intelligent key with push-button starting. Air conditioning does not come standard.

The 2.5S adds air conditioning, a six-speaker sound system, remote keyless entry, power sideview mirrors, and speed-sensitive intermittent wipers, among other smaller things.

The 2.5SL uses the continuously variable transmission, and adds leather interior with heated front seats and power driver’s seat, moonroof, alloy wheels, dual-zone temp controls and rear air conditioning vents, among other smaller things.

In redesigning the Altima, Nissan engineers were assigned to create more cabin space, and given one inch less to work with, on account of the reduction in wheelbase. They met their goal by stretching the distance between A-pillar and C-pillar, thus shortening the cowl and deck. There are 1.7 inches less legroom in front, but 3.1 inches more in the rear, and that’s a lot; however, 0.8 inches of rear headroom has been lost. Trunk space has grown from 15.6 cubic feet to 17.9.

The seats are relatively large. They also have power lumbar support and elevate higher, something that most cars do nowadays, as people need a better view of the road, with all the SUVs out there blocking visibility.

The suspension has been redesigned on the new rigid chassis, and it passed this difficult test with flying colors. It’s quite firm; there’s no swaying in the switchback turns, so the steering stays true. And it wasn’t harsh over the jagged parts of the road. It took some good punches from potholes, without flinching.

The electric power steering, speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion, works well, and because it uses less power than hydraulic, it improves gas mileage by a touch. The Altima 3.5SL doesn’t quite feel like a sports sedan, but the handling is fairly nimble.

But the real engineering breakthrough might be with the CVT, or continuously variable transmission. This is the fourth generation of this transmission design, which doesn’t have the separate gears of a standard automatic transmission, and Nissan has been a standout in this technology. The Sentra’s CVT, for example, has just two ranges. But the CVT in the Altima has a manual mode, which, in effect, makes the transmission a six-speed.

We love it because it’s true to us. It’s totally responsive and obedient. It did things that the manual mode in some expensive cars (Mercedes and BMW, to name two) have apparently never dreamed of. It listened to the driver. We challenged it by upshifting all the way up to sixth gear at no more than 30 miles per hour, then downshifting back down, and it made every shift instead of ignoring them, unlikely as they would have been under regular driving conditions.