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Frontal chrome is to the automotive market what white teeth are to the entertainment industry, a sign of quality and style. However, both can be irritating to the onlooker if they are overdone.
The new Nissan Altima is a case in point. A swathe of shiny metal up front would not look out of place on a fifties Yank tank but in the 21st century we search for something a little more subtle to show off the pedigree of a car.
Wide horizontal chrome slats dominate the radiator intake, a large Nissan badge announcing the car's arrival. Further chrome embellishments include door handles and side window surrounds.
To be fair, the new mid-size sedan is smack bang up to date with its coupe-style aerodynamic profile – giving a co-efficient of friction of 0.30 – and, in the case of our test vehicle, 18-inch twin-spoke alloy wheels. LED tail lights put their modern-day stamp on the vehicle.
The Nissan Altima is available in four model grades - ST, ST-L and Ti, powered by a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and the range-topping Ti-S with a 3.5-litre V6 under the bonnet.
Prices start at $29,990, with an estimated driveaway figure of $33,513, for the entry-level ST, while the Ti-S rounds out the range at $45,390 ($50,784), the latter the test car in which we have spent the last week.
The car carries a number of state-of-the-art technologies including Active Understeer Control which incorporates intelligent control and instant-response braking on the inside front wheel during cornering, bringing vehicle dynamic and traction control into action, hence eliminating understeer.
Almost undetectable to the driver when it operates, Nissan is quick to point out the system is designed primarily for everyday operation as opposed to during evasive manoeuvres in an emergency.
Steering draws on an electronic hydraulic power-assisted system that feeds a smooth feel back to the driver, while producing fuel economy by using electric power rather than drawing it from the engine.
Safety systems we have come to expect in expensive premium models are included in the Ti and Ti-S Altimas, with Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning and Moving Object Detection topping the list.
Nissan would like us to think riding in an Altima is out of this world. That's why the Japanese automobile maker called on US space agency NASA to come up with the most comfortable seats. According to NASA, the least tiring seats are those that come closest to a "neutral posture", a relaxed position the human body takes in a weightless environment.
Using a new seat shape that provides continuous support from the pelvis to the chest, the "zero-gravity" inspired front seats help reduce muscular and spinal loads and improve blood flow, thereby helping reduce fatigue over long periods behind the wheel. Seat surface perforations provide increased ventilation, breathability and comfort. They do the job. There's room for occupants to spread out all round and the nearly 500 litres of boot space swallows even the most bulky items.
Satellite navigation and rear view camera make use of a colour seven-inch display screen, parking sensors protect front and rear, a premium Bose audio system has nine speakers and Bluetooth audio streaming and NissanConnect smartphone are integrated.
The Ti steps up with Nissan's Intelligent Technology Suite, mentioned above, around View Monitor, Xenon headlights with auto levelling, driver's seat with two memory settings, door mirrors with memory function, automatic day/night rear vision mirror, power rear sunshade and rear privacy glass.
However, saving the best 'til last, the Altima Ti-S scores a responsive, smooth-running 3.5-litre V6 engine. It's a gem. Coupled with a first-rate continuously variable transmission, the combination makes the best of peak power of 183 kW and 312 Nm of torque.
Nissan puts fuel (91RON) consumption at 9.3 litres per 100km on the combined urban / highway cycle with a carbon dioxide output of 216g per kilometre. On test, the Ti-S came up with 13.6 litres per 100 kilometres around town and 6.3 on a motorway run.
The CVT auto has a fuel efficiency mode (Eco) which can be can selected by the driver, while those who want greater responsiveness can choose sport mode. The V6-powered Ti-S goes a step further with manual (M) mode incorporating steering-wheel mounted paddle shifts.
The Altima forms the basis of Nissan's return to the V8 Supercar Championship. Until the early 1990s, Nissan had considerable success from a number of models, the most notable the all-conquering 'Godzilla' GT-R. Nissan officially left local motor sport competition after winning the 1992 Bathurst 1000 - which resulted in the car being made illegal.
|ST||2.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$10,990 – 15,990||2014 Nissan Altima 2014 ST Pricing and Specs|
|ST-L||2.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$13,999 – 14,990||2014 Nissan Altima 2014 ST-L Pricing and Specs|
|Ti||2.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$12,320 – 16,390||2014 Nissan Altima 2014 Ti Pricing and Specs|
|Ti-S||3.5L, ULP, CVT AUTO||$16,999 – 19,990||2014 Nissan Altima 2014 Ti-S Pricing and Specs|
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