Nis­san Al­tima’s in­te­ri­ors fea­tures a large 8-inch in­fo­tain­ment touch­screen that an­chors the sleek, con­tem­po­rary in­stru­ment panel, says Larry Printz

The Gulf Today - Time Out - - CONTENTS / FOCUS -

Much has been made of the fact that many Amer­i­cans now drive some form of light truck. Sales of SUVs, crossovers and pick­ups are clos­ing in on 70 per cent of US new ve­hi­cle sales. Yes, we have be­come a na­tion of truck driv­ers. But that doesn’t mean that cars no longer mat­ter.

They do, ac­count­ing for 6 mil­lion units a year in sales in the United States, of which onethird are mid­size cars. (That’s 2 mil­lion units a year for the math ad­verse.)

This is why Nis­san re­designed the Al­tima for 2019 with all-new plat­form and two new en­gines with all-wheel drive or front-wheel drive. Given that the Subaru Le­gacy is the only other all-wheel drive mid­size sedan, Nis­san has a huge sell­ing ad­van­tage in North­ern climes. The $1,350 AWD op­tion is avail­able on all mod­els, which in­clude S, SR, SV, SL and Plat­inum trims.

how­ever, it’s only of­fered with the base en­gine, a di­rect in­jected 2.5-litre four-cylin­der rated at 188 horse­power. re­plac­ing the pre­vi­ous al­tima’s 270-horse­power 3.5-litre v-6 en­gine on up­per-level sr and plat­inum mod­els is the vc-turbo, the world’s irst pro­duc­tion vari­able com­pres­sion tur­bocharged en­gine.

the 248-horse­power 2.0-litre turbo charged en­gine has been un­der de­vel­op­ment for two decades. it’s trick? it con­tin­u­ously raises or low­ers the pis­tons’ reach, chang­ing from 8:1 for high per­for­mance to 14:1 for high fuel eficiency. but it’s only of­fered with front-wheel drive, not all-wheel drive. both en­gines mate to a con­tin­u­ously vari­able au­to­matic trans­mis­sion.

and it’s safe, thanks to stan­dard au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing, in­tel­li­gent for­ward col­li­sion warn­ing and in­tel­li­gent driver alert­ness. a safety shield 360 pack­age is op­tional and adds au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing with pedes­trian de­tec­tion, rear au­to­matic bra king, lane de­par­ture warn­ing, blind spot warn­ing, rear cross trafic alert and high beam as­sist.

on my re­cent drive in santa bar­bara, cal­i­for­nia, nis­san pro­vided sr and plat­inum mod­els for test­ing.

cer­tainly, the new vc-t en­gine pro­vides more thrills than its larger non-turbo sib­ling. power off the line is strong, and care is needed to avoid squeal­ing tyres.

the en­gine and trans­mis­sion seem well matched, with the trans­mis­sion do­ing its best im­per­son­ation of a con­ven­tional trans­mis­sion un­der hard ac­cel­er­a­tion, and de­liv­er­ing a fun ex­pe­ri­ence. how­ever, it re­quires premium fuel while re­turn­ing the low­est fuel econ­omy of any al­tima.

in con­trast, the base en­gine uses reg­u­lar un­leaded gaso­line and re­turns bet­ter fuel econ­omy. but power is merely ad­e­quate; it’s not nearly as en­ter­tain­ing. if you live in a hilly re­gion, you’ll ind the 2.5-litre chal­lenged by in­clines, es­pe­cially with the added weight of all-wheel drive. Nev­er­the­less, the trans­mis­sion feels more lin­ear than be­fore, lack­ing the rub­ber band­ing typ­i­cally found in CVTs.

Re­gard­less of model, com­fort and re­fine­ment are this car’s hall­marks. It’s ag­ile and pro­vides im­pres­sive grip, and a well­man­nered chas­sis. But it’s no sports sedan.

The pol­ished de­meanour can best be seen in the in­te­rior, where a large 8-inch in­fo­tain­ment touch­screen an­chors the sleek, con­tem­po­rary in­stru­ment panel. Ap­ple CarPlay and An­droid Auto are stan­dard, and the chip set used op­er­ates quickly. And techies take note: this might be the only car to of­fer two USB and two USB-C ports. Cabin trim qual­ity varies from trim to trim, with some ev­i­dence that ac­coun­tants have been at work, but over­all qual­ity is sat­is­fy­ing for the price. The cabin it­self is roomy both front and rear thanks to a two-inch longer wheel­base, an ex­tra inch in width and over­all length, although it’s one inch lower.

it’s wrapped in the finest in­ter­pre­ta­tion yet of nis­san’s cur­rent de­sign lan­guage. while still ag­gres­sive, there’s a reine­ment to its ap­pear­ance that makes it per­fect for mid­size sedan duty, danc­ing on the edge of mild and wild. it’s quite a sharp-look­ing ride.

but is it enough to make a cross­over shop­per give up their ride for an al­tima? most likely not; it’s merely an im­proved ver­sion of what has come be­fore. nev­er­the­less, the 2019 nis­san al­tima of­fers an im­pres­sively up­scale ap­pear­ance and fea­ture list at a pop­u­lar price. that was true of the irst al­tima in 1993, which looked much like a shrunken in­initi j30. six gen­er­a­tions on, the 2019 al­tima is bet­ter in ev­ery way. it’s clearly nis­san’s ul­ti­mate al­tima. per­haps it should have been called the al­ti­mate.

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