2019 Nissan Altima: VC-Turbo Arrival
New Generation, New Goals
Innovation and radical changes are buzzwords usually reserved for supercars. Not mid-sized family sedans. But Nissan is different. For this Japanese automaker the Altima is a mass-market best-seller. And their 6th generation release brings a number of calculated risks uncharacteristic for a morning commuter. These risks come in the form of a new engine, new drivetrain, and bold claims in how we approach modern sedans. It's good to see Nissan back on the saddle.
Standing 56.7-inches tall, 72.9-inches wide, and 192.9-inches long the 2019 Nissan Altima is more stout and focused than ever before. Compared to the previous model the new Altima is 1.1-inches shorter, 0.9-inches wider, and 1.0-inch longer with a wheelbase stretched by 1.9-inches overall. As a result, its front and rear overhang is reduced. Going along with its molded dimensions is its redesigned fascia. Its front valance now sports a larger version of Nissan's V-motion centerpiece grille flanked by LED headlights and fog lights (SR trim and above).
On the side, black plastic wraps around the base of the C-pillar to give it a floating appearance, and the rear end shows no discernable features whatsoever. Standard wheels are 16-inch steels for S trim or 17-inch alloys on SV and SL. SR and Platinum trims use 19-inch alloys, the largest wheels ever used on an Altima. All trims use Hankook Kinergy GT all-season tires. Nissan says the new body has a drag coefficient of 0.26, just a smidge higher than the previous generation Toyota Prius.
2019 Altimas come with two engine options. The first engine is a standard PR25DD 2.5-liter normally aspirated inline-four. It produces 188 horsepower @ 6,000 rpm and 180 lb-ft of torque @ 3,600 rpm. 80% of its parts has been modified since its last iteration, thus granting it increased power and efficiency. Engine changes include an integrated exhaust manifold, 12:1 compression, direct injection, variable displacement oil pump, electronically controlled intake valve timing, and cooled exhaust gas recirculation. Nissan claims the new 2.5 is quieter and produces less vibrations due to its lower mounting position and integrated exhaust manifold. 2.5-liter engines are always paired with an Xtronic CVT.
The second engine is, as seen in the title, Nissan's KR20DDET 2.0-liter turbocharged variable compression ratio inline-four (VC-Turbo). See this video to learn how it works. The engine, first seen in the Infiniti QX50, is only available on SR or Platinum trims, and can only be used in front wheel drive. It produces 248 horsepower @ 5,600 rpm and 273 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm. A 22 horsepower reduction compared to the 3.5-liter V-6 it's replacing. Nissan is confident the loss in power is more than made for in the VC-Turbo's smaller size and uprated fuel economy.
All Wheel Drivetrains
According to Nissan, lack of all-wheel-drive is why some customers decide to go with a small SUV or crossover instead of a sedan. That's why Nissan is offering all wheel drive on the Altima for the first time. It's available on all trims with a 2.5-liter engine and features active torque vectoring from 100% front to 50/50 front/rear split. Optioning the car with AWD also adds brake vectoring, allowing the Altima to brake individual wheels for driving on unsmooth terrain and non-flat roads.
Suspension and steering changes were made to give the Altima a more sporty sensation. These changes include (Honda Civic style) dual-pinion speed-sensitive electric steering, monotube rear shocks, suspension reinforcements, and adjustments to suspension geometry. Front suspension uses struts with coil springs while rear suspension uses multi-links. Altima SR models receive sport-tuned suspension though what that constitutes is vague.
Inside, the Altima is clad in what Nissan calls "Near-luxury" premium materials. More specifically, high-contrast plastic, chrome, and fake-wood that feels less cheap than before. The main attraction is its standard 8-inch NissanConnect touchscreen which includes Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, Siri Eyes Free, Google Assistant voice recognition, Bluetooth, and remote connectivity through a NissanConnect app on an Apple Watch or Android Wear device. Remotely connecting to the car also enables controls with Amazon Alexa Skill. Navigation, traffic updates, and active noise cancellation are optional extras. SL and Platinum trims enjoy an upgraded 9-speaker Bose sound system.
More standard luxuries include 7-inch multi-information display, push-start, back-up camera, paddle shifters, USB Type-C port, split-folding rear seats, 8-way power front seat adjustment, and redesigned "Zero gravity" front cushions. Nissan says the new seats are inspired by NASA and promote a neutral seating posture that's greatly improved over traditional seating. Cloth upholstery is used for S and SV trim while leather is used on SR, SL, and Platinum. Seat heating, heated steering wheel, heated side mirrors, dual-zone climate control, power moonroof, and HomeLink features will need to be optioned up.
All Altimas are equipped with a front-facing camera, radar, and set of sensors that give drivers some automated assistance, but to truly unleash its potential you'll need to order a higher trim. Base models have automatic emergency braking, forward warning, and driver alert warnings, but going up to SR adds rear cross traffic alert and blind spot warning. SV, SL and Platinum trims gain access to Nissan ProPILOT assist which adds a large suite of hands-on semi-automated driving features like full-speed adaptive cruise control, steering assist, lane departure warning, lane intervention, rear automatic braking, and traffic sign recognition. Platinum models have an exclusive upgrade to a surround-view monitor.
Pricing for the 2019 Nissan Altima to be announced soon. Exclusive Altima SR VC-Turbo and Altima Platinum VT-Turbo order reservations will be available Summer 2018. Full deliveries are expected Fall 2018.