Sedans, once the staple of the automotive market, have played second fiddle to pickup trucks and crossovers for several years now. Nissan’s lineup has played out like a microcosm of the larger market, with its popular Altima sedan slipping behind the Rogue small crossover, now the brand’s top seller.
Based on the Vmotion 2.0 concept revealed at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show, the all-new 2019 Nissan Altima made its official debut in production form at the New York Auto Show today. (Nissan)
Where some manufacturers have read the tea leaves as a sign to scale back on sedan production – the Dodge Dart is already gone and production of the Buick Verano, Chevrolet SS and Chrysler 200 sedans wrapped up at the end of 2017 – Nissan says it will refocus on its sedan customers with the redesigned 2019 Altima, which it introduced Wednesday at the New York International Auto Show.
“What we’re seeing is that people who aren’t defecting to crossovers are staying with sedans because they like the styling, they like the handling and they like the sedan image,” Derek Kramer, product planning manager for Nissan North America, said, adding that Nissan is giving sedan customers a new reason not to leave: for the first time, the Altima will be available with all-wheel drive.
Lower, Longer, Sharper
With the 2019 Altima, Nissan fields a lower, sleeker sedan showing off more of its sporty intent than ever before. (Nissan)
The new Altima carries forward Nissan’s V-motion 2.0 design language, applying a sportier stance Kramer says sedan customers prefer. New lower-profile engines made it possible for designers to lower the height of the hood, cowl and roof. Nissan stretched the car’s wheelbase by nearly 2 inches and its width by nearly an inch and cut the height by more than an inch, making the car appear lower than its predecessor. Despite the ground-hugging look, Kenneth Lee, the Altima’s design director, said ground clearance remains the same and front overhang has been reduced.
“We wanted to made a big statement with the front end,” he said of the new look. “The large grille contrasts with slim headlights so you can recognize it from far away.”
The grille and headlamps, which look like a more dynamic version of Audi’s big central grille-slim headlamps combo, incorporates V-motion’s chrome V and boomerang motif. Nissan sharpened body creases along the sides, adding motive force to the forward V, and enhanced the sportier look with optional 19-inch wheels. The elegant floating roof introduced earlier in the Murano crossover and Maxima sedan comes to the Altima for 2019, with everything pulled back toward a sharpened rear end Lee says was meant to guide airflow as it exits the car’s profile.
“The rear end looks like a slingshot being pulled back,” he said.
The motion theme carries over to the interior, with the “gliding wing” instrument panel making use of the car’s lower cowl to create more openness in the interior. Lee pointed out that at a time when many manufacturers seem to be selling cars with higher beltlines and smaller windows, his team sought to keep the windows large to give passengers more of a sense of the car’s interior volume. They also slimmed up the C-pillar to help bring a more open and airy feel to the cabin.
V-Motion’s Motive Force
For 2019, Nissan rolls out two brand new engines for the Altima while pairing them to a continuously variable transmission. (Nissan)
Nissan scrapped the engines from previous models, introducing its new 2.0-liter variable compression turbocharged 4-cylinder for the front-wheel drive SR and Platinum models. The novel engine can adjust its compression level between 8:1 and 14:1, depending upon whether conditions call for greater efficiency or better performance. Delivering 248 horsepower and 273 lb.-ft. of torque, the 2.0-liter engine boasts performance numbers similar to the 3.5-liter V6 it replaces (which was rated at 270 horsepower, 251 lb.-ft. of torque).
The compression ratio is changed automatically via electronically activated multi-link control arms that change the pistons’ positions on the fly. Variable compression 2.0-liter-equipped models get an instrument panel meter that keeps the driver apprised of the engine’s compression ratio. The engine also comes with two types of fuel injectors per cylinder–multi-point and direct injection–using them in conjunction to optimize power and efficiency.
The 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine is more compact and more powerful for 2019, gaining 9-horsepower and 3 lb.-ft. of torque over the outgoing 2.5 for a rating of 188 horsepower and 180 lb.-ft. of torque. It uses direct gasoline injection to boost performance and efficiency while reducing emissions.
Both engines are backed up by Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission, which keeps engine rpms at their optimum point depending upon driving conditions. The SR trim level comes with paddle shifters for simulated manual shifting, since CVTs don’t actually “shift.”
The Altima’s optional Intelligent AWD system operates like most on the market – the front wheels get all the power most of the time. When the computer senses traction loss up front, can transfer torque to the rear wheels for a 50:50 split. Nissan reinforced the Altima’s suspension to improve handling, added more responsive monotube shock absorbers to the car’s rear end and refined suspension geometry to improve steering feedback. The steering gear has been upgraded to a dual-pinion electric unit. The SR trim level benefits from sportier suspension tuning.
More Technology Ahead
Nissan gives its all-new Altima the whole suite of advanced safety features, including its brand of ProPilot semi-autonomous technology. (Nissan)
The new Altima comes standard with a fairly impressive list of advanced safety features, including automatic emergency braking, a forward collision warning system and a driver alertness warning system. Features like pedestrian detection, road sign recognition, adaptive cruise control, rear cross traffic alert, lane departure warning and intervention, blind spot warning and rear automatic emergency braking are available.
ProPilot Assist, Nissan’s bid in the semi-autonomous driving arena, will also be available on the 2019 Altima. The system – introduced on the 2018 Rogue – is anchored to the user by a bright blue button on the steering wheel, using cameras and sensors to keep the vehicle in it traffic lane. Unlike Cadillac’s more advanced SuperCruise, ProPilot is a hands-on driving experience, functioning more like a high-level cruise control than anything that could be considered autonomous.
New Altimas all come standard with NissanConnect, which features both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The infotainment system is centered around an 8-inch color touchscreen, and includes Bluetooth connectivity, hands-free text messaging and both Apple and Google’s versions of voice recognition. Compatibility with Apple Watch and Google Wear is optional, and includes auto start and stop and a valet alert.
As a cherry on top for the holdouts who still prefer buying American, Nissan likes to point out all new Altimas are assembled at Nissan’s plants in Canton, Mississippi and Smyrna, Tennessee. As sales among sedans continue to contract, Nissan may have a chance to boost the Altima’s standing among longtime competitors like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord. Only time, and fuel prices, will tell.
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