Tech and options
Nothing about the Altima's cabin encouraged driving enjoyment either--at least not in our low-trim tester. The Intelligent Key transponder push-button entry and start is probably the most gee-whiz tech feature on the standard 2.5 S. Other standard cabin tech niceties include a single-slot CD player with AM/FM tuning and an analog auxiliary input. Audio is piped in through a six-speaker stereo system that is mostly inoffensive and neutral in its reproduction of music, but gets oddly and unpleasantly boomy when asked to reproduce certain lower frequencies at moderate volumes, despite its lacking a subwoofer.
Our tester was equipped with a $1,350 Convenience package that adds an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat, but it doesn't have memory for its positions. With this package you also get automatic on/off headlamps, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and Bluetooth hands-free calling. A set of 16-inch alloy wheels with matching tires is also included in the Convenience package, but we're not sure what's so convenient about them.
On top of that, we were also treated to a $1,150 Convenience Plus package that adds a power sliding moonroof, dual-zone automated climate controls, and turn signals in the side mirrors. Toss in $140 splash guards, $180 floor and trunk mats, $170 aluminum kick plates, and a $760 destination fee to reach our as-tested price of $26,320.
That's where whoever spec'd our Altima 2.5 S stopped, but you can continue to layer on the gadgets with a $990 Bose premium audio system with nine speakers, USB/iPod connectivity, and XM Satellite Radio. The system also features a 4.3-inch color screen that doubles as a display for the rearview camera added in this package. $1,540 more bumps you to the 2.5 SL trim level where, among other things, the seats are swathed in leather, your bottom is warmed by heating elements, and your feet are bathed in ambient mood lighting. There are also a decklid spoiler and fog lights available for $370 and $310, respectively, before you get to the $1,780 technology package where you finally get a 6.5-inch touch-screen navigation system with XM NavTraffic and weather, Bluetooth audio streaming, and in-dash DVD video playback.
Of course, because of the way Nissan has organized its packaging, you have to add all of these packages in the order that I've described them. So if you just want navigation, you'll have to first add the Convenience, Convenience Plus, Premium Audio, and SL packages, as well as the spoiler and fog lights, which brings you to a CNET-style price tag of $31,310.
Now, $31,310 is no small chunk of change. For that price, you could load up a more powerful and equally fuel-efficient Honda Accord EX-L with Navigation. You could even upgrade to the EX-L V-6 model if you decided to save a few hundred bucks and skip the fog lamps, mood lighting, spoiler, and metal kick plates. Of course, you'd have to deal with Honda's ancient navigation system. Additionally, a 2012 Toyota Camry should also find itself within slapping range of the Altima's price point, but details on that vehicle are still being sorted out.
Competing models aside, the 2012 Nissan Altima is a decent ride for the dough. Its 2.5-liter QR-series engine is about 10 years old, but it has been updated constantly over that period with modern tech. So although it and the Altima platform are starting to show their age, the vehicle as a whole still feels relatively fresh. Likewise, if you've any interest at all in feeling what a properly set-up CVT feels like, you'll want to take a spin in the Altima, because that's one of this vehicle's strongest points. Nissan has done a great job of setting up the ratios and programming the logic into this transmission to make acceleration smooth and seamless.
|Model||2012 Nissan Altima|
|Power train||2.5-liter, CVT, FWD|
|EPA fuel economy||23 city, 32 highway mpg|
|Observed fuel economy||29.1 mpg|
|Navigation||available HDD-based navigation with XM traffic and weather|
|Bluetooth phone support||basic voice command, phone book sync, audio streaming available|
|Disc player||single-slot CD|
|MP3 player support||analog 3.5mm auxiliary input, optional USB/iPod connection|
|Other digital audio||optional XM Satellite Radio|
|Audio system||6-speaker basic, optional 9-speaker Bose|
|Driver aids||none, optional rearview camera|
|Price as tested||$26,320|