The Truth About Cars » Altima The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Mon, 28 Jul 2014 17:04:35 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » Altima The Pitstop Sat, 29 Jun 2013 14:28:03 +0000 Picture courtesy Team Skullcandy

This isn’t quite in time for Father’s Day, mostly because it took me a little bit of time to get permission to use the photos, but these photos of club racer Mark Domo and his son Tyler working the pitlane at the recent Grand-Am Continental Challenge are timeless examples of how motorsports bring generations of men together.

 courtesy Team Skullcandy

Mark wrote to me that he and his son

… were given the honor of being part of the pit crew for the Grand Am races at MidOhio Sports Course.

It was a great opportunity to spend time with my son and to share some of my passion. It was my son’s first exposure to a race of this magnitude. While my boys accompany me to club racing events, neither of my boys had ever been to a pro racing event like this. We had Tyler help us with miscellaneous tasks in the paddock and had him operate the “lollipop” which makes the pit space more visible as the car pulls into pit row.

Courtesy Team Skullcandy

Courtesy Team Skullcandy

Courtesy Team Skullcandy

Courtesy Team Skullcandy

I can’t wait until my son’s old enough to work a pitlane with me… and by “work a pitlane with me” I mean “do tire changes during NASA enduros and help me from my wheelchair to the race car.”

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New or Used? : The Blasphemy Of Accountancy Edition Tue, 30 Apr 2013 10:00:16 +0000

TTAC commentator Gannett writes:

This has now become an important question around our house: what’s the best/cheapest (not necessarily the same thing) way to drive 25,000 miles a year?

My wife commutes about 90 miles a day round-trip.  She has been driving a ’98 Crown Vic P71, but that’s getting to be about done.  I want to get her something newer. So I start looking around, and there’re a lot of choices.  But then I start running the numbers in my head.  25k miles a year.  That’s 100k miles every 4 years.  Holy crap.  By the time whatever-it-is is paid for it may be mostly used up.  Not good.

So now I’m in a quandary as to basic approach, and would appreciate the advice of you and the commenters.  Not about which car to buy, but what the buy/sell strategy should be.  Do we:

1)  Buy new or near-new and trade in 1/2/3/4/5 years (not fond of this as I hate initial depreciation, but I’ll listen).

2)  Buy an off-lease and trade in 1/2/3/4 years?

3)  Buy something 1/2/3/4/5 years old and run it into the ground?

4)  Buy something 1/2/3/4/5 years old and just keep it for one year?

5)  ??

Does the question make sense?  I’m trying to figure where in the vehicle’s lifetime to buy, and where to sell, to try and keep the capital cost per 25k miles, including depreciation, the lowest, but still keep reliability, etc., high.  Fuel prices are not really under consideration – there you pay for the comfort/performance you want.  I would probably want the sell-it mileage to not be more than 150k for reliability’s sake.

We’ve never dealt with this sort of annual mileage before (we moved out to “the country”) so this is unfamiliar territory.  I know other folks have this situation.  What to do?

Steve Says:

The smartest thing to do is expand your mileage expectations a bit.

Most cars these days with proper care will easily last over 200k, and a police interceptor like the one you have is often durable enough to get past the 300k mark. I have financed a lot of former police cars over the years and from my experiences, it’s easy to figure out why taxi companies use them in spite of the gas penalty.

They just don’t wear out and they take abuse better than nearly anything else out there. Even the new police cars don’t measure up to the Vic.

If you want to have a worry-free ownership then find a good independent mechanic and don’t cheap out on parts.

It’s that simple when it comes to these models.

If you’re still looking for a relative point where the depreciation is minimal and the longevity is respectable, I would say a 9 to 11 year old vehicle would be the ‘average’ sweet spot.

A rust free climate is a big help when buying the older aged vehicle. I bought two 03 models recently, an 03 Impala and an 04 Volvo XC70, and both of them will likely sell for about 15% of their new car price and I would roughly estimate that they have about 35% of their service life left.

But they are also both a bit over 150k. Five years ago the 8 year old vehicle with 100k miles was the sweet spot. Now for the same money, it’s somewhere around the 10 year mark with a spread between 135k and 165k on the mileage.

Sajeev Says:

I don’t believe people own a car perfectly suited to their pocketbooks, short term or long term.  Too simplistic. But this isn’t about owning a Camry and lusting for a Ferrari; this feeling is far, FAR more mundane.  The lure of newer Panther Love (5 year old Town Car vs. a beat up P71) or any scenario that surprises and delights is stronger than a strict budget for the next 8+ years of use.

Your eye will wander and you’ll think, “I coulda had this instead and not pay much more for it!” If we recommend a Corolla to replace the Crown Vic and you hate the seats after 6 months, will you keep it for long? Not likely. 

To avoid future email saying, “thanks for the advice guys but it was wrong, now I need a new car” I’m asking you to narrow down the parameters. The intangibles. The things that make us human beings, not robots! Get something you’ll actually like for this time period.  A car that, flaws intact, will still be interesting enough to avoid the lure of newer metal.  Panthers are good at that…if you actually like Panthers.

My gut is telling me to recommend a 2-3 year old Camry, Fusion, Accord, Altima or just about any other mainstream family sedan with a proven track record for reliability and (somewhat) low cost of ownership after 100,000 miles.  The Camry is kinda numb and isolating, so maybe that’s the best for someone who likes the ride of a Panther.  Again, if you actually like the ride of the Panther.

Catch my drift? Don’t even bother running the numbers until personal preferences are matched to test drives. 

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Trackday Diaries: Continuously Variable Emotion. Wed, 06 Feb 2013 10:10:43 +0000

There is a level of distracted driving that exists far above that enjoyed by the texting teen or harried housewife haranguing her husband via shattered-screen iPhone 4. It is the level where one’s mind is in the grip of an idea so compelling, so overwhelming, that the task of driving the car has to be handed off to the not-quite-conscious mind, the dream state of anxiety and anticipation and frustration that caused me to accidentally steer my thirty-seven-thousand-tired-mile rental Altima to Lexington (via Route 75) when I had every intention of traveling to Louisville (via Route 71). Every three minutes and twenty-seven seconds, my right hand reached out to my iPod and reset it to play The Stylistics again. Fifty times, maybe, I listened to the song, driving in the wrong direction, animated by the single thought:

I will see her tonight.

Betcha, by golly, wow.

Seven months ago, I said my final goodbyes to the female hurricane I know as Drama McHourglass. On a fluffy bed high above some city we performed the old rituals of seduction and resistance then dressed and shared a chaste embrace beyond the bedroom’s sliding doors. She had given me the choice: choose her and forsake all others, or let her go forever. My pragmatic mind chose the latter and I felt like Michael Henchard making his will as I whispered it to her among a iceberg field of big pillows strewn across the bed. To this, I put my name. Now be free.

Free she was. Free to date a remarkably handsome and significantly younger man in my absence, according to Facebook. They made quite the couple. In due deference to the aging-hipster reality distortion field surrounding their shared home of Franklin, TN, he painted and “made art” in a style best described in the old “original and good” damnation: the original parts were not good, the good parts were not original. I tracked the progress of his latest opening on his website, read his heartfelt but spasmodically misspelled professions of gratitude to Drama for rescuing his life as an artist and human being, and vividly imagined using a dull butter knife to skin his face in the most leisurely fashion imaginable. She called me regularly, usually at the worst possible times, saying things like “You destroyed my ability to love. I had to… degrade myself with him, to claim my body back for myself. From you.”

“What,” I sputtered, choking on my morning bagel, “do you mean by that?”

“You know what I mean by that,” she replied.

“No, I don’t. Take the two dolls and show the court what the bad man did to you.”

“More than you’ll ever do to me again.” The perils of dating intelligent women. They understand how to reach into your heart and squeeze each ventricle individually.

“I love you,” came my involuntary and desperate response.

“But not enough,” she replied, “to choose me.” I wanted to die. At least, I consoled myself, you’ll never have to see her again.

Naturally, a week later a client of mine mandated that I visit their facility all of, gosh, eleven miles from her house to fix a rather expensive and difficult problem. They were willing to spring for a rental car, and that’s how I found myself driving to Nashville in last year’s Altima by way of Lexington.

The Nissan Altima 2.5S is just the vehicle you need to dream-drive, for unconscious piloting, for the fugue state of independence. The exterior is perfectly forgettable, a slightly melted version of the previous Altima, yet another shadow of the original Skyline G35 displayed to the Plato’s Cave of the Nissan dealership and its slightly credit-challenged inhabitants. Higher-end Altimas have all sorts of awful-looking shiny-silver trim splattered across their dismal black interiors, but shorn of that costume jewelry the car has a sort of poverty-stricken pride in its appearance. It’s all the same grade of plastic, from radio knob to hooded center-vent cover, and it’s all bad, but it’s not so bad as to keep you awake.

The seats are short in the thigh, resistant to rental wear, unpleasant in the short encounter but serviceable for the 425-mile trudge. For some reason, my Altima had keyless entry as its possibly sole option. Unlike the “Kessy” systems in my cultivated Phaetons and sporty S5, the Altima requires a press of the rubber door button both to lock and unlock. It’s depressing and cheap-feeling to operate. There isn’t much surprise and delight in the 2.5S, unless one considers how surprising it is that there’s nothing at all delightful about a car that was originally marketed as the enthusiast alternative to the Camry.

Yet with a couple left-foot approaches to off-ramps as I escaped Columbus, Ohio and headed southward, some of the Nissan’s underlying character was able to peek through the dismal interior and Fiat-124-esque ergonomics. The car handles pretty well and BMW could do worse than to transfer the Altima’s basic steering feel to their latest barge of a Funfer. The trip computer reported a steady twenty-eight miles per gallon. Not bad for such a big car with such a tiny engine. I plugged in the iPod through the crackly 1/8th-inch input jack and slept to dream on the long featureless freeway.

By the time I realized oh, God damn it, I’m in Lexington and need to go the other way, the Altima and I had come to be friends. It’s quieter than an Accord of similar vintage, for sure. Some cars are tiring to drive and this isn’t. All good points. Then I saw an iffy merge situation ahead of me; the traffic runs at 85mph down south of Lexington and some grandmother in a Sienna was about to enter the freeway in a manner designed to make that speed impossible for everyone around. Time to floor it and ditch the situation.

Eff me if the Altima didn’t pick up and scoot into triple digits with alacrity. It took me a minute of staring at the tach, which was perfectly fixed at the car’s horsepower peak while said car continued to accelerate, to remember: oh yeah, this has a CVT. The hated and dreaded transmission. The soul-sucking appliance twister that one of my favorite online auto writers, Damon Lavrinc, likened to herpes in an article last year.

No, this isn’t herpes. Herpes is bad news, and the CVT is good news. Over the thousand-plus miles to come in my time with Mr. 2.5S, I tried to put the CVT into all sorts of bad conditions. I Morse-code-pumped the accelerator on steep grades. I brake-torqued it from lights. I would lull it into low-rev complacency then jam the throttle into the cheap-carpet firewall like John Bonham kick-drumming a warning of a levee’s imminent collapse. Sometimes I would hit both pedals at the same time for no reason.

Still. Through all that. Couldn’t ruffle it. The CVT just kept working, kept delivering the most power available and ruthlessly optimizing for economy. I tried the manual-shift mode briefly then laughed at myself for even bothering to do it. Why bother, when the CVT knows best? It doesn’t jerk the driver around, it doesn’t punish him the way the Malibu’s stupid six-speed loves to do with unhappy low-speed shifts and inappropriate grade-logic gear choice. It simply works. While I can understand the reasons why a driver might want a manual transmission instead, I don’t see why somebody would get all excited about, say, Toyota’s Camry automatic over this stepless, efficient choice. It does the right thing far more often than any of its geared competitors can.

If only I could claim the same virtue. That evening, Drama came to my hotel room earlier than she said she would. I saw her peeking through the peephole in reverse and I let her hide outside the door while I played Natalie Merchant’s “My Skin” on a Martin 000-15M. When I was good and ready, I played her game and opened the door so she could surprise me in the act of being needy. She trembled in my arms, cried on the threshold, and collapsed on the bed. Her ensemble was stolen equally from the stylebooks of librarians and burlesque dancers and it showed way too much of her spectacular legs.

We lay next to each other and dreamed wide awake, staring empty-eyed at the blank ceiling. “Do you love him?” I asked.


“Do you love me?”


I caught the next question in my throat, because I was afraid the answer would be that she loved him more, but I was terrified of the possibility that it wouldn’t. I wanted alternately to scream with joy because she was with me and throw up from the sheer misery of knowing she’d be back in bed with that half-assed painter before the sun rose. My mind and heart thrashed. I prayed for a continuously variable emotion, a placid face to meet the faces that I would meet, a flat torque curve of affect to hide the cowardice and sickness in my heart, a toroidal transmission between the high-rpm beat in my chest and the places where our bodies met beneath the sheets.

Our eyes met and she said, “You’re as over me… as you’re ever going to be. I need to leave. It’s three in the morning.” Indeed it was. And though we saw each other again in the nights and days that followed, by the time I pointed the Nissan back towards Louisville I mostly loved her at a distance, isolated by the mechanism I’d placed between me and her, the relentless rationality that denies love and says this: move forward, engage drive, smooth from the light, empty of revs and dreaming in the space between here and home.

“How’d you like the car?” the rental agent inquired.

“Honestly,” I lied, “I don’t remember the trip.”

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Review: 2013 Nissan Altima SL 3.5 (Video) Sun, 30 Dec 2012 14:32:03 +0000

The “family sedan” may not be very exciting, but without midsized sales auto makers would be in a pickle. Ponder this: the five best-selling midsized sedans in America accounted for 1.3 million of the 12.8 million vehicles sold in 2011. With numbers like that, it’s important to get your mass-market people mover right. This means competitive fuel economy, a low base price and swipe as much tech from your luxury brand as possible. Either that or just wear a Nissan badge on the front. Say what? The last generation Altima was the second best-selling car despite being long in the tooth and filled with Chrysler quality plastics. That made me ask an important question: Is the fifth-generation Altima any good, or is it selling well (now in third place thanks to the new Accord and Nissan’s model change over) just because it has a Nissan logo on the front?


Click here to view the embedded video.


A design that doesn’t alienate the customer you expect to return and buy their second or third car is critical. Just ask Ford how that bubble-Taurus redesign went in 1996. Still, midsize sedan shoppers demand some style so Nissan’s design team jammed a bit of Maxima, a pinch of Infiniti M and a “whole-lotta” Versa into a sausage press and cut the Altima off at 191.5 inches. This makes the new Altima longer than a Camry, a hair longer than a Maxima and essentially the same size as the Accord and Fusion. Nobody will confuse the Altima with an Aston Martin, nor will they think their neighbor is driving a budget Bentley. Instead the slab-sided Altima delivers clean lines and elegant good looks. Think of it as the Midwestern farm girl to the Fusion’s Los Angeles call girl.


Before we hop in, let’s have a moment of midsized honesty. The last gen Altima, much like the former Sentra, was a plastic penalty box on the inside that belonged in a Hertz garage, not mine. It appears Nissan took the criticism to heart and made such a drastic improvement to the Altima’s interior I suspect Infiniti’s interior decorators lent a hand. Yes, the interior design is somewhat bland, but nobody’s $20,000-$30,000 is very exciting and that’s just how midsized shoppers like it. In sharp contrast to the Fusion’s Germanic black-on-black-on-black interior, our Altima was covered in acres of light beige leather, pleather and soft-touch plastics. The lighter materials make the cabin look  larger and warmer than the numbers indicate with headroom and legroom falling in line with the competition. Some reviews I have seen complain about the cabin’s materials but I’m honestly not clear why. The Altima’s plastics and pleather are better than those in the Camry and Passat and equal to or better than the new Fusion and Accord. Fear not TTAC faithful, there is a low point in the interior: only the SV and SL models eschew the rubbery-plastic tiller for leather wrapping.

Since our tester was the top-of-the-line SL, the cockpit featured a heated tilt/telescopic steering wheel, an 8-way power driver’s seat and manually adjustable lumbar support. Shoppers that chose the 3.5L V6 will be treated to a pair of the best looking and best feeling magnesium paddle shifters this side of a BMW M6. Seriously. There’s just one problem: paddle shifters on a car with a CVT make as much sense as a parking brake on a french poodle. (Yet for some reason I found myself caressing their magnesium goodness non-stop when I was behind the wheel.) Like the most entries in this segment, the front passenger seat remains manually adjustable regardless of trim level and upholstery. Thanks to Nissan’s “Zero Gravity” seat design, the front seats proved comfortable and didn’t’ aggravate my temperamental knee during a 2 hour road trip. Since manufacturers “march to their own drummer” when measuring legroom, take your family to the dealer and jam them all in the car before making a purchase.


While others are downsizing from V6s to turbo fours in search of improved MPG numbers, Nissan stuck to their I4/V6 lineup. The base Altima is four-cylinder only while the S, SV and SL models are available with either engine. In addition to the extra cylinders, V6 shoppers get wider tires and  shift paddles.

The 2.5L four cylinder mill is good for 182HP at 6,000RPM and 180lb-ft of twist at 4,000RPM while the 3.5L V6 (VQ35DE) turns up the dial to 270HP at 6,000RPM and 258lb0-ft at 4,400RPM. Both engines send the power to the front wheels via a revised Nissan Xtronic CVT with tweaks to reduce friction, improve acceleration, and reduce the “rubber-band” feeling that journalists whine about.

Our tester was a V6 SL which does battle with the Camry and Accord V6 and the 2.0L direct-injection turbos from Ford, Hyundai and Kia. Although V6 sales have dwindled to around 10% of Altima sales, 10% of the second best-selling sedan is a big number. Compared to the competition’s 2.0L turbos, Nissan’s V6 has a torque disadvantage. To combat this, the Altima was put on a diet now tipping the scales at a svelte 3,178/3,335lbs (I4/V6).

Infotainment, Gadgets & Pricing

To improve inventory turnover, Nissan followed VW’s lead and cut back on options. The 2.5L engine starts with the rental-car-chic base model for $21,760 (sans destination). Want options? Sorry, other than color choices there are no options on base and S models. Stepping up to the $22,860 S gets you auto headlamps, keyless entry/go, 6-way power driver’s seat, pollen filter, cruise control and two more speakers (six total). The $24,460 SV is the first model to get some USB/iDevice love, 5″ LCD radio, leather tiller, satellite radio, Pandora integration, backup camera and the ability to check options boxes. The $27,660 SL model adds leather, fog-lights, 8-way driver’s seat, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, and nine Bose speakers. Thankfully 2013 brings standard Bluetooth phone integration with Bluetooth audio streaming and an AUX input jack to even the rental-car destined base model.

The 3.5 S is $2,900 more than the 2.5S and in addition to the V6 adds the shift paddles and wider tires. Adding the 3.5 to the SV will set you back $3,800 due to the bundling of a moonroof and a few other items that are optional in the 2.5. The 3.4 premium on the SL model is $2,900 and in addition to the wider rubber Nissan tosses in Xenon headlamps. If HIDs are your thing, this is the only way to get them.

For $595 on the SV you can add Nissan’s new 7-inch touchscreen nav system dubbed “Nissan Connect.” The system looks like an improved version of their former “Low Cost Navigation” system in the Versa. In addition to a larger display, Nissan polished the UI, added Pandora, Google-send-to-car, faster processing, voice commands and XM NavTraffic/NavWeather. The system won’t voice command your iDevice or climate control like SYNC, but that’s a small price to pay for a responsive system that doesn’t crash, is easy to use and incredibly well priced. While I still have a love for MyFord Touch that dare not speak its name, Nissan Connect is now one of my favorite infotainment systems. Note to Nissan: put this in the S model as well. SL shoppers beware, Nissan Connect will cost you $1090 because it is bundled with blind spot warning, lane departure warning and moving object detection.

There is one more reason to get Nissan Connect: the plastic surrounding the base and 5″ display audio systems scratches easily. Our nav-free tester looked like someone had run a Brillo Pad across the front and just running my finger across the plastic (not my fingernail) caused fine scratches. This is a pity, but not a problem exclusive to the Altima, the new Accord and Camry suffer from this as well.


The crash diet and CVT pay dividends at the pump.  The Altima 2.5 manages 27/38/31 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) and does so without direct injection, start/stop, batteries or aero packages. What about that V6? Nissan’s focus on weight has made the Altima 3.5 lighter than the Accord V6 and Fusion 2.0 Ecoboost by over 200lbs. In our 3.5 SL I averaged an impressive 27.6MPG over a week of mixed driving. This is notably above the 25MPG combined EPA score despite my commute and the 2,200ft mountain pass I cross twice a day. You can thank the light curb weight and CVT for that. The Accord V6 matches the Altima’s combined EPA number and the Fusion trumps it by one MPG on paper. In the real world, the Altima beat both by 4MPG. My average was so surprising I dropped by a dealer to try another one. The result was the same. I took to the pumps to “pump-drive-pump-calculate-pump-drive-pump-calculate.” The results came within 1MPG of the car computer.

Nissan’s new CVT has dulled the “rubber band” feeling earlier CVTs inflicted upon drivers. This version also “downshifts” faster, although it still takes longer to get from the highest ratio to a “passing” ratio than a conventional 6-speed automatic when accelerating from 50-70 MPH. Aside from economy, the other benefit of a CVT is that it can keep the engine at an optimum RPM for maximum acceleration and drama-free hill climbing. Despite being down on torque compared to the turbo competition and having a less advantageous torque curve, CVT helped the Altima to scoot to 60MPH in an impressive 5.5 seconds (traction control disabled).

As much as I like CVTs, they are not the dynamic choice for “gear holding”. Sure Nissan has those sexy paddles on the Altima, and they have programmed the CVT to imitate a 7-speed automatic. Unfortunately the transmission’s “shifts” are slow and mushy, feeling  more like a worn out Hydramatic than a modern 7-speed. When you’re on your favorite back-country road, take my advice: caress those sexy paddles, but whatever you do, don’t pull them.

When the road curves, a light chassis will only get you so far, thankfully Nissan tuned the Altima’s suspension to be compliant but surprisingly agile. Adding to the fun-factor, all V6 models are shod with 235/45R18 rubber, notably wider than the V6 Camry’s standard 215 or optional 225 tires. The suspension, curb weight and tires combine to give the Altima a slightly higher road holding score than the Fusion 2.0 Ecoboost we got our hands on, but numbers aren’t everything. The Fusion’s steering may be numb, but it manages more feeling than the Altima and even I have to admit the CVT sucks the fun out of aggressive driving. If that matters to you, drive past the Nissan dealer and pick up a Fusion 2.0T with or without AWD.

Brand reputation is one of the largest factors when it comes time for a shopper to drop 25-30 grand on their family sedan. It’s the reason the old Altima sold as well as it did, and as far as I can see, it’s the only reason the Camry sells in record numbers. Rather than selling on reputation alone however, Nissan has proved they can build a sedan worthy of its lofty sales goals.

Some may call this a cop-out, but in my book the Accord, Fusion and Altima tie for first place in my mind. Here’s why: each of this trio plays to a different audience. The Fusion is gorgeous, more dynamic than the Altima but has stumbled with the 1.6L Ecoboost quality issues. The Accord is a traditional choice with a solid reputation and greater visibility thanks to an enormous greenhouse. Meanwhile the new Altima is a stylish elegant sedan with a powerful and seriously efficient V6. If I were dropping my own money on a sedan in this category I would have a hard time choosing between the Altima 3.5 SL and a Fusion 2.0 Ecoboost.

 Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.6 Seconds ( 3.2 with traction control)

0-60: 5.5 Seconds ( 6.2 with traction control)

1/4 Mile: 13.9 Seconds @ 104 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 27.6 MPG over 670 Miles

2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Exterior, front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima SL, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Exterior, rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Exterior, rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Cargo Area, trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, steering wheel, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, paddle shifters, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, paddle shifters, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, paddle shifters, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, Infotainment, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, center console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, front cabin, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, rear seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL, Interior, glove boxc, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL Monroney 2013 Nissan Altima Sedan, Infotainment, Nissan Connect System, Picture Courtesy of Nissan Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail


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Review: 2013 Ford Fusion SE 1.6L Ecoboost (Video) Sat, 22 Dec 2012 14:00:08 +0000

The 2013 Fusion is a critical car for Ford. Despite the rise of the Koreans, an Americanized Passat, refreshed GM and Chrysler products and a dip in Fusion sales between the 2012 and the all-new 2013 model, the Ford is still the fourth-best-selling mid-size sedan in America. Michael was invited to a regional Ford event in September where he revealed his opinions, but what most readers seem to recall is Derek’s proclamation that the 2013 Fusion is a “gamechanger.” To answer the question once and for all, Ford tosses us the keys to the volume-selling SE model with Ford’s recall-beleaguered 1.6L Ecoboost engine for a week.

Click here to view the embedded video.


No, this isn’t Aston Martin’s new mid-size four-door entry, although you could be forgiven for making the mistake. The new design is as shocking and striking as the old Fusion was bland and boring. Making your mass-market car over-styled is risky, but despite the Fusion’s rump being less daring than its schnoz, it manages to avoid looking cartoonish like the Sonata. The Aston mini-me styling is refreshing in a segment where “restrained” and “slab sided” are the mantra of the day. The new Accord is elegant for sure, but the large green house screams family sedan. The current Camry attempts to meld an edgy nose with refrigerator flat door panels. Even the stylish (in comparison) Altima looks far less exciting. Styling is subjective and I usually avoid commenting on design directly, but the 2013 Fusion is an exception. This Ford is quite simply the best looking sedan in America under $50,000.


What do the 2013 Fusion and the unloved 1995 Contour have in common? They are both Ford Mondeo world cars. (Thankfully that’s all they have in common.) After years of designing one sedan for America and one for the rest of the world, the company’s “One Ford” strategy put the Mondeo and Fusion back into the same breeding program. I’m not sure what Europe gets out of the cross-breed, but Americans will benefit from a level of refinement, parts quality and European design hitherto unknown to the Blue Oval on our shores. On the flip side this also means the Fusion’s interior is a study in black with most of the interior looking like it was carved out of a single piece of black plastic. Opting for the tan cloth or leather interior won’t avoid the black dashboard, but it does make the interior look warmer. Sadly this color option is limited to the Fusion S and SE only as the Titanium trim comes only in black.

Our Fusion tester impressed with buttons and parts-bin parts that felt more premium than the competition thanks especially to an all-new steering wheel. While the new tiller doesn’t get soft split-grain leather like the new Accord, Ford’s new button arrangements are easier to use, easier to reach and feel better built than the wheel in the C-MAX and Escape. Speaking of buttons and controls, our Fusion tester showed no signs of fine scratching on the control surfaces, a problem that the Altima, Accord and Camry all suffer from, despite having far more miles on the odometer than the Japanese trio we tested.

Front seat comfort is excellent although a step behind the 2013 Honda Accord which has the most comfortable seats in the segment. Unlike some of the competition, Ford’s tilt/telescoping steering wheel provides a large range of motion making it easy to accommodate drivers of different heights. The Fusion’s driver’s seat is 10-way powered in the SE and Titanium models and sports an optional three-position memory system (standard on Titanium) to speed driver swaps (or keep your better half from complaining). As you would expect, the passenger doesn’t get the same kind of seat-love with your choice of manual or 4-way power adjusting.

Rear seats are as low to the ground as any in this segment and far less bolstered than the front thrones. In a family sedan this is more a feature than a problem since it makes the middle seat a more pleasant place to spend your time. Despite the sloping profile I was able to fit my six-foot frame into the middle seat without issue, although the 2013 Accord offers noticeably more room in the rear. Because of the differing ways that manufacturers measure rear seat leg room, I recommend you take your whole family with you shopping, stuff them all in the car and see how comfortable everyone is at the same time. Want to know more about the seating and cargo room? Check out the video review.

Infotainment & Gadgets

All models come with the basic SYNC system which offers USB/iDevice and Bluetooth phone integration. As you would expect, power windows and door locks and a perimeter alarm are standard, but few will be buying the base S model since there are zero options. This makes the $23,700 SE model your real starting point with standard XM satellite ratio, six speakers, a power driver’s seat, auto headlamps, body-colored mirrors and the keyless entry keypad that’s been a Ford hallmark for ages.

We also need to talk about My Ford Touch, because if you want to check pretty much any other option box on the Fusion, MyFord Touch needs to be selected first. Want dual-zone climate control, a backup cam, blind spot monitoring, auto headlights, rain-sensing wipers, a 120V outlet, cross traffic alert, etc? The $1,000 MFT option (standard on Titanium) includes the 8-inch control screen in the dash, two 4.2-inch LCDs in the gauge cluster, dual-zone climate control and the backup camera. When MFT landed in 2010, the software had more bugs than a bag of 5-year-old flour. Thankfully, this latest version of MFT is more responsive and less problem prone. The competition has caught up however, with the Altima, Toyota and Honda systems delivering excellent USB/iDevice integration and basic voice commands without the lag and occasional software hiccups. Despite the system’s still-present flaws, MFT is still the sexiest system in this segment and the only one that brings the partial LCD disco-dash to the table. If you want the best in factory entertainment, you should know the 12-speaker Sony branded audio system is only available in the more expensive Titanium.

Automotive gadget dissemination follows a predictable path. The snazziest gadgets, safety features and entertainment concepts are first released by the big players in the luxury segment like BMW, Audi and Mercedes in their most expensive models. The next stop on the technology train is inevitable the mass-market sedan. It therefore shouldn’t surprise you that the Fusion can be had with an impressive list of options from an automated-parking system to adaptive cruise control and an innovative lane departure prevention system. Unlike most of the LDP systems up to this point, the Ford system doesn’t apply the brakes to one side of the car to get you back on track – it simply turns the steering wheel. The system is both slightly creepy and very effective. With the ability to apply more force to keep you in the lane than competing systems, the steering input feels more like a hand on the wheel than a gentle suggestion. If safety is your shtick, it’s worth noting that the Fusion and Accord scored well in the new IIHS small-overlap test while the top-selling Camry and Prius V “are the worst performers of the midsize group.” according to the IIHS.

As options lists go, the Fusion has more gadgets on offer than any of the competition – but it comes at a cost. The Fusion tops out at a fully-loaded AWD price of $38,170, $4,760 more than the most expensive Camry, $3,693 more than the Accord, and $5,730 more than a top-level Altima. As you would expect in such a cut-throat segment, comparing apples-to-apple,s the Fusion is priced very close to its top three competitors.


Compared to the competition, the Fusion has an oddly extensive powertrain lineup. There are four different engines, three transmissions, two hybrid variants and FWD or AWD to choose from. The base 2.5L four-cylinder engine and 6-speed automatic are largely carried over from the previous Fusion and good for 175 horses and 175lb-ft of twist. This is the sole engine in the Fusion S and base engine in the Fusion SE. We’re told by Ford that most 2.5L Fusions will be headed to fleets.

Next up is the new to America (and thrice recalled) 1.6L turbo direct-injection Ecoboost engine available with or without start-stop technology and with your choice of 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic transmissions. Proving yet again that turbos are the replacement for displacement, the 1.6L mill produces more power (178HP) and more torque (184lb-ft) at lower RPMs than the 2.5L while delivering 2 more MPGs in the city and 3 more on the highway.

The sporty option is the 2.0L direct injection turbo which takes the place of a V6 in the Fusion SE and Titanium. With 240HP and 270lb-ft of plateau-like forced-induction torque, you’ll never miss those two cylinders. Should AWD be on your must-have list, be ready to shell out $32,200 because it’s available only on the Titanium. Before you complain about the cost of admission, keep in mind your only other mass-market mid-sized AWD option would be a Subaru. Last up is Ford’s redesigned 188HP hybrid system sporting a 2.0L Atkinson-cycle engine, a Ford-designed hybrid CVT transaxle and your choice of regular hybrid or plug-in battery packs. With this much variety appealing to different shoppers, check back with us when we get our hands on the 2.0L Ecoboost and hybrid models.


The Fusion impressed during the photo shoot and looked unstoppable on the printed spec sheet but none of that would matter if it felt like a wet noodle out on the road. Despite having a decidedly American-sized 112.2-inch wheelbase, it’s obvious Ford’s European division took the lead when it came to the chassis. The result is a ride that is incredibly composed, tight in the corners and as communicative as anything with electric power steering. The surprises continue when you shift your right foot over to find linear brake feel, absolutely no Taurus-like brake fade and short stopping distances.

In an interesting twist, the 6-speed manual is available in the 1.6L Ecoboost equipped SE for the same price as the automatic. As you would expect, this is the same 6-speed transmission found in the Fusion’s Euro twin and has a distinctively German engagement and overall feel. Clutch feel is top-notch as well comparing with the liked of the VW Passat and Jetta. In addition, rowing your own doesn’t have a feature penalty allowing you to still check the self-parking and lane departure prevention option boxes. Don’t get too excited, you can’t get the stick with the 2.0L turbo and AWD and if you opt for MyFord Touch you get a tiny digital tach that’s practically useless. For shame.

The 1.6L Ecoboost engine is fairly smooth and quiet on the outside and, thanks to a dedication to sound proofing, almost unnoticeable on the inside. What you will notice however is the broad torque curve of the diminutive four-banger when passing or hill climbing. During a short drive with the 2.5L engine I was constantly annoyed by the transmission’s up-shift happy nature, but despite the 1.6L’s tranny being programmed the same way it didn’t bug me as much. Why? Because all 184lb-ft are available at 2,500RPM and, thanks to the hair-dryer, 90% of that twist is available from 1,500-5,700RPM. This broad torque curve makes the 1.6L Ecoboost Fusion feel faster than it is with our run to 60 completing in 7.9 seconds, about 9/10ths off my gut estimate. This is considerably faster than the Passat and Malibu but not as fast as the Accord and Altima with their efficient CVTs.

Our tester came with the optional ($295) start/stop system which Ford claims is good for a 10% improvement in city driving and results in a 1MPG improvement in the Fusion’s EPA scores bringing the 1.6L SE up to 24/37/28 MPG (City/Highway/Combined). Ford touts the system as smoother than BMW’s 328 start/stop system and they are right. Of course the reason has as much to do with the smaller displacement as the positioning of the engine (transverse vs longitudinal). The way a transverse engine and the vehicle’s suspension interact when cranking is just different. If you live in a particularly hot climate, don’t expect start/stop to save you much as the engine has to stay running to power the A/C. Unlike our stint in the C-MAX, our Fusion beat the EPA combined score by half an MPG over nearly a thousand miles of mixed driving. With excellent fuel economy, dashing good looks, a quiet cabin, good driving dynamics and the longest option list this side of luxury sedan, the Fusion is not just a viable alternative to the competition, it truly is a game changer. The only problem is the pesky (and seemingly frequent) 1.6L engine recalls. Is that enough for me to take the Fusion off my list? Probably not, but I’d buy the hybrid or the 2.0L Ecoboost model anyway.

Ford provided the vehicle, one tank of gas and insurance for this review

0-30: 2.6 Seconds

0-60: 7.9 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 16 Seconds @ 88.5 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 28.5MPG over 960 miles


2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Side, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Wheels, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Side 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Rear 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Engine, 1.6L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Engine, 1.6L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Engine, 1.6L, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Engine, 1.6L Turbo, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Trunk, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Center Console, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Infotainment, MyFord Touch Controls, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Interior, Gauges, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes 2013 Ford Focus SE Ecoboost 1.6, Exterior, Front 3/4, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail ]]> 147
Review: 2013 Nissan Altima Fri, 25 May 2012 15:10:29 +0000

Eleven years ago, Nissan’s Altima became a major player in the midsize sedan segment on the basis of three things: bold styling, a roomy rear seat, and a stonkin’ 3.5-liter V6 engine good for 240 horsepower (the competition used 3.0L V6s that topped out at 200 horses). The 2007 model year redesign tamed the exterior, compacted the interior, and replaced the conventional automatic with a CVT.  Nissan shifted even more of them. With the redesigned 2013 Altima, Nissan will be happy if potential buyers learn only one thing about the car, its EPA rating of 38 MPG highway. No one else’s midsize sedan comes close without burning oil or discharging batteries. But you don’t want me to stop here, do you?

It costs over a hundred million dollars to procure new sets of stamping dies for a high volume model like the Altima. What did Nissan get for its massive outlay? The metal fab folks are very proud of the depth of the stampings for the new Altima—the trunk lid sets a new company record! Passersby failed to notice the new trunk lid. Or the rest of the new metal, for that matter. Look closely, though, and the exterior styling includes some interesting details, such as the way the headlights stand proud of the fenders when viewed from the rear. A swage line that takes off from an oversized grille then undulates outward as it moves rearward will dominate the body sides of many upcoming Nissans, but it doesn’t quite manage to integrate the curvaceous front clip with the relatively square body that follows it. One fussy detail lifted from the Maxima: wake-like depressions around the door handles. The relationship between the arrowhead headlight clusters and the emphatically circular front wheel well opening is, shall we say, unresolved. Of course, typical midsize sedan buyers won’t look closely, and so won’t notice these details any more than they will the trunk lid stamping. In person, the new Altima looks less special than it does in many of these exterior photos (all of which are of the big-rimmed V6). Hyundai and Ford are fielding more immediately eye-catching designs.

The 2002 Altima had one big weakness: an egregiously cheap interior. A 2005 refresh and 2007 redesign brought welcome upgrades, but left the cabin well short of best-in-class. The 2013 redesign elevates the interior another notch or two, most notably through a wider console and upgraded controls. Just opt for black; the tan clashes with the motley assortment of silverish trim pieces. Regardless of interior color the chunky silver metallic trim that frames the center stack should have been left in the Toyota it was lifted from. But is the IP soft to the touch? Partially. The face is cushy, the top is hard. An intelligent, cost-effective solution, but not nearly as artfully executed as in the Buick Verano. On the other hand, ergonomics are better than the current average, with easy to reach knobs for major functions.

Open the door and drop into one of the things that make this “the most innovative Altima ever”: NASA-inspired “zero gravity” front seats. With one notable exception, I found them very comfortable, with a substantial feel and a fit like a baseball glove. (My co-driver’s impressions were less positive. With seats, opinions are bound to vary.) The one exception: the headrests jut so far forward that I removed them and reinserted them backwards (a safety-compromising trick I first employed in a then-new 2004 Malibu). Nissan apparently doesn’t belong to the pillbox school of automotive design, so visibility is pretty good all around.

Those troubled by the de rigueur high deck can opt for the SL’s Tech Package. This package includes an innovative rearview camera that handles blind zone warning, lane departure warning, and motion detection in addition to washing and drying itself. The lane departure system was a bit slow to sound the alarm in some cases, a bit too quick in others, but who would have thought they could provide all of these features via a single rear-facing camera? You no longer have to be rich to be beeped at every few seconds, just a touch sloppy behind the wheel.

Rear legroom and trunk volume aren’t best-in-segment, but they’re not too far off. As is often the case with sweeping coupe-ish rooflines, headroom is in shorter supply than legroom. People over 5-11 will become familiar with the headliner. Rear air vents are included with the SV and SL.

The 3.5-liter V6 is carried over, so its output remains 270 horsepower. The 2.5-liter four gets a modest bump from 175 to 182 horsepower. As with the exterior styling, Nissan has left costly turbocharging and direct injection to Ford and Hyundai. The continuously variable transmission (CVT) received much more attention. A thorough revamp reduced internal friction by 40 percent and widened the ratio spread (with the four) to 7:1, about even with an eight-speed automatic and enabling the engine to loaf at 1,450 rpm at 60 mph. Combine this with a 79-pound curb weight reduction (to a compact-like 3,108 pounds), and you get the highly touted 38 mpg EPA highway figure, and 27 in the city, way up from 32 and 23 with the 2012. The next-best Camry manages only 25 city / 35 highway. My right foot spent too much time near the floor to judge how achievable these figures will be in the real world.

Nissans claims that an independent tester got the four-cylinder Altima to sixty in 7.14 seconds. My butt-meter registered mid-to-high eights, and that with the all-too-typical big four commotion under the hood. If you want anything resembling pleasurable performance, you’ll fork over another two or three grand and take a fuel economy hit (to 22/31) to get the much more energetic V6. With the six you also get shift paddles through which you can force the CVT to mimic a quick-shifting seven-speed automatic. In general, though, I didn’t mind the operation of the mandatory CVT, especially not when paired with the V6. Floor the go pedal and the CVT gradually ramps the engine up its 6,000 rpm power peak, then holds it there. Very smooth, and with little if any of the dreaded “rubber band” effect that typified early CVTs.

Nissan claims that the 2013 Altima is “the most engaging product in the segment”. Perhaps, but then midsize sedans comprise a uniformly soporific segment. With this positioning (and perhaps cost) in mind, Nissan has fitted the 2013 car with electro-hydraulic rather than pure electric steering. The feel through the wheel is nevertheless light and well-insulated, and not as quick or as direct as that through the Maxima’s smaller diameter tiller. Last year the V6 was only available in sport-suspended SR trim. This year it’s offered as an S, SV, or SL, but not as an SR. There’s also no Sport Package. Perhaps Nissan felt the standard car behaved well enough without one? Throw the V6 sedan hard into a curve and it toes the line with moderate body roll and minimal plowing. The latter is allegedly curbed by brake-activated “active understeer control”, another of the features that (along with a uniquely jointed rear suspension lower H-arm) make this “the most innovative Altima ever”. This feature is intended to operate transparently. It did.

Suspension tuning is much the same with the four, but its higher profile tires quickly lapse into a mushy scrub. For cornering as much as straight line performance, the V6 with its 235/45VR18 performance tires is clearly the way to go. Yet, aware that the great majority of midsize sedan buyers care little for performance or handling, Nissan projects that only ten percent will go this way. The 2013 sedan’s ride is fairly smooth, well-damped, and quiet with either tire, a notable improvement over past Altimas and quite an achievement given the low curb weight. A 2013 Malibu is cushier and quieter, but it also weighs a quarter-ton more and handles like a parade float.

Eager to pass the Camry in sales, Nissan has trimmed the Altima’s price (when comparably equipped) by a couple hundred dollars. The base four starts at $22,280. An SL V6 with the $1,090 Tech Package lists for $31,950. I haven’t yet input the 2013 prices and features into TrueDelta’s price comparison tool, but a comparison of 2012s suggests that a Hyundai Sonata will continue to be about $1,500 less before adjusting for feature differences, and about $2,500 less afterwards. A Toyota Camry will continue to undercut the Altima by a few hundred dollars with the four and by over a thousand dollars with a loaded V6. This is comparing sticker prices; compare invoice prices and the Camry’s price advantage can grow to over $2,000.

The 2013 Nissan Altima isn’t cheap, and it doesn’t stand out from the crowd aside from offering the highest EPA numbers and (only on a fully loaded car) a multi-talented rearview camera. But even without these USPs and in its sixth year the current Altima has been outselling every other car except the recently redesigned Camry—and it hasn’t been far behind the Camry. If you were at Nissan, would you want to be the person whose “bold move” derailed the gravy train? If something has been working well, and especially if there’s no obvious reason why it has been working so well, you don’t futz with it. For the most part, Nissan hasn’t.

Nissan provided airfare to Nashville, a very nice hotel, regional cuisine, all we could drink (one writer for a major magazine missed the drive; when security entered his room at noon they found him passed out on the superlative bed still fully clothed), outstanding musical entertainment at the Loveless Cafe, a tour of the Jack Daniels distillery (skipped as I’d already seen too much alcohol, an error I won’t soon repeat), many friendly smiles, and insured, fueled automobiles.

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Altima front quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Altima front quarter silver, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Altima side, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Altima side silver, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Altima rear quarter, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Altima rear quarter red, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Altima interior black, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Altima instrument panel black, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Altima tan cloth interior, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Altima tan cloth IP, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Altima rear seat, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Altima trunk, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Altima V6 engine, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Altima exhaust header, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Altima rear suspension, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Altima view forward, photo courtesy Michael Karesh Altima headlight, photo courtesy Michael Karesh ]]> 90
New or Used: Wants, Needs and Bathwater Tue, 30 Aug 2011 18:14:28 +0000

Steven writes:

Sajeev and Steve,

I have a 2001 Volvo XC wagon, that has about 175 k on it, the car is in pretty good shape, had the tranny replaced before I got it, I have put about 4k in since Jan, the real problem is it gets about 22 MPG with 90% highway, all wheel drive and Turbo=bad gas mileage, I drive about 40,000 miles a year and betwen the gas and the upkeep I am getting killed, hence time for a new car.

This is what I want, good to great on gas,auto, 4dr or wagon  safe and comfy on the road, no suv, no RWD,( drive from NY to Boston year round, I am in sales so it needs to be somewhat presentable.  No americian cars, sorry no faith that they will hold up in the long run, and need some soul (hence no Camry) since I live in the car, budget anywhere from 15k to 30 k, I would perfer used but with prices this high not sure if it makes sense, I like Saabs, Audi,Acura, had a bunch of Accords but not since 2006. Lately have been very tempted by a 2011 VW Jetta TDI, great MPG but VW does not have a great rep. It seems VW TDI hold their value very well so that is why I am considering a 2011, love Saabs bc they do not hold their value so a great used buy ( had 2 in the past) I need some quick help from you and the board, before the volvo needs another $1500 in repairs/ maintance. thanks

Sajeev answers:

I’d definitely gravitate to a new vehicle, given your budget, career and high prices of lightly used vehicles. Which pushes me (you) to the mainstream sedans that you might hate. You need to test drive a bunch of them to see what really speaks to you: important for someone in your line of work.

Okay, so no Camry, but you should at least drive the SE model. Ditto any Ford Fusion, Chevy Malibu: I know, I know! The Accord is also worth a look, but I am gonna recommend two sweethearts in this class: the Hyundai Sonata (SE or Limited) and the Mazda 6. Both are rather cool for their class, and the Hyundai has a great warranty (with roadside assistance) for a road warrior.

Steve answers:

I wouldn’t throw out the Camry with the bathwater just yet. Last Tuesday I test drove all the new Camrys and found the Hybrid model to be the absolute embodiment of everything you likely want. Plenty of power and comfort. Exceptional fuel economy (43 city, 39 highway). Surprisingly tight handling and ‘healthy’ road feel in what is supposedly a traditional conservative car.

I would put that model near the top regardless of the bulbous marshmallow nature of the outgoing generation.

The rest of the results are pretty much in line with what Sajeev suggests. On the new side there is the Fusion, Sonata, 6, and Altima. On the used side it depends on whether you’re willing to consider any unpopular cars. Yes, SAABs are cheap now. So is the Infiniti G25 which is one of many near luxury sedans that fall through the cracks due mostly to ‘spec junkies’ wanting the more powerful model.

If you’re willing to consider a 1 to 2 year old CPO car that offers a fantastic warranty, I would opt for a step up. The C-Class, Audi A4, and Infiniti G25 would be on my list as well. Although to be frank, I would likely just go with the new Camry Hybrid if I had to drive all those miles in the pothole marred northeast. Good luck!


Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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New or Used: Fahrvergnügen Incarnate? Tue, 12 Jul 2011 17:33:06 +0000

Joana writes:

I am sure you get this all of the time…my apologies in advance. I am replacing my VW Passat 2003 GLS. It was fun to drive, but had its issues as we all know. No sludge thank goodness. Several leaks! I would like a car that is comparable in drivability, (I have a manual but will buy an auto this time), but better in reliability, and perhaps greener. Tell me what to buy please! I have read the reviews, but they are all over the place….I wish you had a favorites list! Thank you.

Sajeev answers:

Telling you what to buy is never a good idea, recommendations followed by ample amounts of test driving is the only way to go. Any of the following cars will be more durable/reliable and cheaper to fix than your current ride, so no worries there. And probably my favorite “sleeper” for a displaced Passat nut is the Toyota Camry SE, it’s quite a well sorted sedan in a place you’d never expect. Obviously the V6 is the best for acceleration but not for fuel economy, and no love for the LE or XLE’s suspension tuning.

The Mazda 6 is another perennial favorite ’round these parts, and its not impossible to have fun in a Ford Fusion “Sport” or maybe even the Nissan Altima. But, at the end of the day, the first car I’d drive for a Passat replacement would be a Sonata: SE Turbo, in this case. Aside from the sweet performance, stellar warranty and decent price, the Turbo SE Sonata has something very VW about it: arguably the best interior appointments in its class and maybe the most impressive style for any family sedan. And it could be Fahrvergnügen incarnate!

Steve answers:

Sajeev pretty much nailed it.

I will add that a well chosen set of tires can go a long way towards making this ride a keeper. I’ve had some plebian rides in my younger days (1990 Geo Prizm anyone?) that all of a sudden felt that much more crisp and sporty thanks to investing in top of the line tires. Most tires from the factory wear out in about 20k to 30k. So you may want to keep an eye out for what other owners of your model do to make their ride more of a driver’s car.

The Hyundai SE Turbo is a top consideration. I’m not much for the Mercedes-esque cocoon like design. But it is definitely a strong value in the midsized market. The Camry SE is a bit too large and stale for my tastes. The Mazda 6 is kinda caught in your cross hairs and the Subaru Legacy is another entry that fits the bill of a ‘sporty’ midsized vehicle. We can throw in the Fusion SE into this mix as well. All of these vehicles will make you happy.

You’re pretty much buying an ‘interior’ and ‘driving feel’ in this segment. The best? More than likely it’s the Sonata Turbo. Good luck!

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.

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Sales Chart: The “Big Six” Midsize Sedans In 2010 Fri, 02 Jul 2010 19:34:26 +0000

These six sedans are the fleshy part of the American car market. Big-name D-segment sedans sell like crazy, and pretty much made Honda and Toyota what they are today. Their dominance of this segment, often called “Camccord” after their two best-sellers, remains unchecked as each has spent three months on top of the chart. But there’s danger down below. Hyundai’s Sonata has been making steady progress all year (June excepted), and the Malibu has enjoyed more modest, but equally steady growth. Altima all but matched Camry in February, and gave Accord a scare in March. There’s still a tight pack of four nipping at the heels of the big dogs. Time to start coming up with a new nickname for the D-Segment?

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Review: 2010 Nissan Altima Coupe Mon, 08 Feb 2010 18:38:54 +0000

Until recently, if you wanted a semi-practical sport coupe for less than $30,000, and pony cars weren’t your thing, you had to get one based on a front-drive sedan. Chevrolet offered the Monte Carlo, Honda offered the Accord Coupe, Toyota offered the Solara, and two years ago Nissan introduced an Altima Coupe. The Nissan was the sportiest of the bunch owing to a dramatically shorter wheelbase and the company’s usual emphasis of handling over ride quality. Then, for the 2010 model year, Hyundai changed the rules of the game by tossing the rear-drive Genesis Coupe into the mix. Given this new addition, the question has to be asked: why would anyone still opt for the Nissan, when the Genesis is the same price?

Both the Altima and the Genesis crib from the G35/G37 Coupe, Nissan more legitimately than Hyundai since it owns Infiniti. The Altima Coupe is quite stylish from the rear quarter, with shades of Bentley in its more complex surfaces and no intentionally odd side window outline. But when viewed from the side or front quarter the car’s front-drive proportions take their toll. There’s simply too much visual mass ahead of the front wheel, which itself is too close to the passenger compartment. The door windows are framed. The 2010 SE’s 18-inch wheels and the tested car’s dark gray paint, with a bluish tinge, do make the best of the shape.

Inside both the Altima and Genesis put the business of driving—and cost—ahead of style and flash. The Genesis has a more flowing center stack, but the Altima makes do with much less faux aluminum trim. Saving the Nissan’s off-black interior from having the ambiance of a coal bin: red leather seats that look so good you wonder why so many companies offer only gray and beige. The women in my life (okay, a wife and a daughter) loved them. Hyundai offers orange-brown leather, which looks more luxurious but less sporty than the Nissan’s red. The 2010 Altima’s soft-touch IP and padded door panels are a definite step up from the shoddy hard plastic interiors of the first-gen V6 models—but then what isn’t? The primary instruments are attractive, designed to provide much of the appearance of those in a Lexus for much less money.

The good stuff inside the car ends here. All of the other readouts—including the new head unit’s LCD–suffer from Nissan’s inexplicable love for orange lighting. The look, feel, and layout of the various buttons and switches continues to lag the leaders by a substantial margin. For example, the trip computer would be much more useful if the buttons for it were on the steering wheel rather than requiring a reach around. And who thought it would look good to place rectangular temperature readouts within the round HVAC knobs? I suspect the bean counters. The seat heaters never get very warm, and the Bose audio system never sounded right no matter what adjustments I tried—one speaker or another always stuck out above the others rather than blending with them.

The front seats don’t feel quite as good as they look. They’re comfortable, but those in the Genesis Coupe are even more comfortable and provide better lateral support—the bolsters are spaced for larger people in the Altima. The view forward is open, while the view rearward is more constricted—which is where the new-for-2010 rearview camera pays off. Typical of a coupe, in back there’s not enough space for the heads or legs of adults. If you need to put adults in the back seat, then Nissan will sell you an Altima sedan. The Altima Coupe similarly gives up much of the sedan’s trunk space—there are only 8.2 cubic feet of it, and the opening is tight. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a smaller trunk in a car with a non-folding roof. Adding insult to injury, Nissan didn’t include a handle inside the lid, so you’ll dirty your fingers closing it.

Without question the V6 engine is the best part of the Altima Coupe. Variants of the VQ V6 have powered various Nissans and Infinitis since 1994, in 3.5-liter form for the past decade. In some applications the enlarged VQ sounds gruff at higher rpm. Not this one. I cannot recall the VQ ever feeling or sounding better than it does in this car. The V6 pulls very strongly from 3,500 rpm on up, and the sound it makes is downright addictive. Hyundai must find a way to make its V6 sound and feel more like this one. Sure, the larger Korean V6 kicks out better numbers, but subjectively it doesn’t come close.

In suburban driving I averaged 17 MPG partly because I could not keep my foot out of the throttle. How much better would it do driven gently? It’d be easier to find out how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. The 6-speed manual transmission’s shift lever is tall and its throws are on the long side when snicking clunking from gear to gear, but it’s still an easy choice over the CVT for any enthusiast.

Surprisingly, given the 258 pounds-feet the 3.5-liter engine produces, there’s very little torque steer. But before sounding the all clear, try shifting gears during full-throttle acceleration—the front wheels perform such a violent double-hop that I initially wondered if something was wrong with the car’s front suspension. Go easier on the throttle and there’s still a bit of the same unless you slow the shift and feather the clutch engagement. A quick check with owners confirmed that the 6-speed Altima V6 suffers from fairly severe wheel hop. The aftermarket offers a fix in the form of traction rods—not a common mod for a front-wheel-drive car. Another, not recommended fix: the CVT. Never has it been more necessary to eliminate “shift shock.” Did Nissan set up the suspension for the CVT, with the manual an afterthought?

The Altima’s handling is thoroughly predictable, even in snow, with minimal roll and minimal understeer…okay, you know the qualification is coming…for a front-wheel-drive car. This said, the steering doesn’t feel as quick or responsive as that in the Maxima. It’s dull in normal driving, but thankfully becomes communicative in hard turns. The Altima Coupe is one of those cars that feels best when driven aggressively. If the only competition were other front-wheel-drive coupes, it would compare well, if only because competitors with their larger dimensions feel even more like the sedans on which they are based. But the Genesis handles better, if still not remotely like a sports car, thanks to the additional chassis modulation afforded by rear-wheel-drive.

The Altima Coupe’s roll control comes at a high price—over all but the smoothest roads the ride varies between annoyingly jiggly and sadistically harsh. My wife likes to read in the car. She couldn’t read in this one. Even with its optional sport suspension the Genesis rides much better. With a ride this bad, the Altima Coupe should handle like a sports car. It doesn’t. Even if it did this price would be too high. Nissan needs to find a way to calm the suspension down.

And yet…I enjoyed driving the Altima Coupe more than I did the Genesis Coupe. It just feels so much more eager and alive, asking for and rewarding an aggressive driving style. Which makes it all the more a shame that the chassis punishes much more often than it rewards. An outstanding engine can compensate for a lot of minor shortcomings, but not this major one. The 2010 refresh ought to have done more to raise the rest of the car nearer the level of the engine.

Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance, and one tank of gas for this review

Michael Karesh owns and operates TrueDelta, an online provider of auto pricing and reliability data.

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