The big news for Cana­di­ans is this com­pletely re­designed sedan now comes with stan­dard AWD.

Calgary Sun - Autonet - - NEWS - COSTA MOUZOURIS

SANTA BAR­BARA, Calif. – It’s no se­cret car­mak­ers are slowly aban­don­ing tra­di­tional cars in favour of crossovers and SUVs; Ford will soon be nix­ing them com­pletely, aside from the Mus­tang.

How­ever, Nis­san still be­lieves there is a cus­tomer who wants a fam­ily friendly ve­hi­cle that sits low and is not styled like a light truck.

“Nis­san is not walk­ing away from sedans,” says Scott Pak, Nis­san Canada’s se­nior prod­uct plan­ning man­ager. The com­pany has re­in­forced this be­lief with a com­pletely re­designed Al­tima for 2019.

This sixth-gen­er­a­tion Al­tima is 2.5 cen­time­tres longer, 2.8 cm lower, tracks 2.0 cm wider and has a 4.8cm longer wheel­base. The re­sult of its larger size is more head, leg and shoul­der room for front oc­cu­pants, and more leg and shoul­der room in the rear, though trunk vol­ume re­mains the same at 436 litres.

The chas­sis is more rigid, yet the in­creased use of high-strength steel has light­ened it by al­most 19 kilo­grams. Vis­ually, the big­gest change is at the front, where you’ll find a wider hood, less bul­bous fend­ers, and the ab­sence of a bumper cover — the front grille ex­tends al­most to the bot­tom of the fas­cia.

Among the big me­chan­i­cal changes is an all-new 2.5-L four-cylin­der en­gine. It now fea­tures di­rect in­jec­tion, which prompted a boost in com­pres­sion ra­tio from 9.6 to 12.0:1. De­spite the higher com­pres­sion, the Al­tima runs on reg­u­lar fuel.

Out­put is only marginally higher than be­fore, up three horse­power to 182, and up a sin­gle pound-foot of torque, to 178. De­spite all the en­gine up­grades and the stan­dard CVT, fuel con­sump­tion has gone up slightly to 7.9 L/100 kilo­me­tres com­bined, from 7.5. But there’s a good rea­son for that: the Al­tima gets stan­dard all­wheel drive.

It’s the first time Nis­san has ever of­fered AWD on a sedan in North Amer­ica, and in Canada it will be stan­dard across the trim lev­els. Nis­san’s In­tel­li­gent AWD sys­tem fea­tures on-de­mand torque dis­tri­bu­tion, which can vary from full torque at the front wheels for im­proved fuel ef­fi­ciency, to 50/50 front/rear for bal­anced han­dling. The sys­tem works au­to­mat­i­cally and does not rely on drive modes, as there are none.

The main ex­tras on the SV in­clude dual-zone cli­mate con­trol, a heated steer­ing wheel, a moon­roof, LED head­lights and fog lamps, and 17-inch alu­minum wheels, among a few other items. The Pre­mium adds leather seats, a Bose sound sys­tem, in­te­rior ac­cent light­ing, rear mov­ing-ob­ject de­tec­tion, Nis­sanCon­nect with nav­i­ga­tion, and 19-inch wheels.

Nis­san’s Safety Shield 360 is stan­dard on the SV and Pre­mium. It adds pedes­trian de­tec­tion with au­to­matic for­ward emer­gency brak­ing, au­to­matic high-beams, lane-de­par­ture warn­ing, blind-spot mon­i­tor­ing and rear cross-traf­fic alert. The top two trims also in­clude ProPilot, Nis­san’s semi-au­ton­o­mous driver-as­sist suite, with lane-keep as­sist, adap­tive cruise con­trol, rear au­to­matic brak­ing and driver alert­ness warn­ing. On the Plat­inum, it also in­cludes cam­era-op­er­ated traf­fic-sign recog­ni­tion, which dis­plays the speed limit even if it is tem­po­rary, such as in a con­struc­tion zone.

The in­te­rior is well ap­pointed, roomy and com­fort­able. There’s am­ple legroom in the rear for full-sized adults, even with the front seats ad­justed for a six-foot-tall driver. Two of the four USB charg­ing ports are avail­able for rear pas­sen­gers. Sit­ting promi­nently atop the dash­board is a new eight­inch touch screen, which is stan­dard across all trims.

A test drive in an Al­tima Pre­mium re­veals the new en­gine is qui­eter than on the out­go­ing model, and it feels more ath­letic off the start, de­spite boast­ing a sim­i­lar out­put. Pass­ing power is more than ad­e­quate, how­ever it’s hard to avoid the usual CVT-in­duced, high-revving ca­coph­ony when step­ping hard on the gas.

The new Al­tima gets dual-pin­ion elec­tric power steer­ing, feel­ing more pre­cise and giv­ing bet­ter feed­back than on the out­go­ing model. The sus­pen­sion is pleas­antly firm yet com­pli­ant, and the car cor­ners with min­i­mal body roll. The lane­keep as­sist, which is part of ProPilot, is ef­fec­tive yet not in­tru­sive.

Pric­ing for the 2019 Al­tima starts at $27,998, which is an in­crease of $1,700 over the out­go­ing model, though that in­cludes the ad­di­tion of Ap­ple CarPlay, An­droid Auto, and, of course, all-wheel drive. Pric­ing goes up to $34,998 for the Plat­inum, and the vol­ume-lead­ing SV slots in the mid­dle at $31,498.

An Edi­tion One model, lim­ited to 250 units and equipped with a rear spoiler, ground light­ing, unique 19-inch wheels and a few other cos­metic touches, will also be avail­able for $1,000 more than the Pre­mium.

Since sedans are fall­ing out of favour with many driv­ers, Nis­san had to up the ante in the Al­tima to com­pete with the in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar SUVs and crossovers.

Mak­ing it a bit big­ger and more com­fort­able cer­tainly helps, but the big­gest weapon it has in its arse­nal is the ad­di­tion of all-wheel drive. That alone should be enough to sway at least a few buy­ers who are on the fence.

2019 Nis­san Al­tima.


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