Nissan Altima

The Nissan Altima was rethought from bumper to bumper for 2014, and the result is a sedan combining the perfect blend of economy, sophistication and performance.

The body is not only more attractive, it is structurally stiffer than the car it replaced. It also features a multi-link rear suspension and Nissan's Active Understeer Control, which brakes the inside wheels in a turn to increase control, providing the Altima with a spirited driving experience.

In keeping with the rest of the Nissan lineup, the 2015 Altima is available in S, SV or SL trims, and each trim is available with either 2.5L or 3.5L power. The 2.5 delivers an impressive 38 mpg on the highway.

The 2.5L inline-4 offers 180 horsepower, while the 3.5L V6 produces 270 horsepower and 251 ft-lb of torque. Both engines feature variable valve timing and drive the front wheels through Nissan's Xtronic Continoustly Variable Transmission. In the 3.5, paddle shifters and manual shift mode offer precise driver control.

In 2.5 S guise, the Altima offers standards such as 16-inch steel wheels, power windows and locks, climate control, an AM/FM CD stereo with Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and streaming audio, a 6-way power adjustable driver's seat, keyless ignition and an advanced Drive-Assist Display, which puts important information in a prominent position amid the gauges to allow for better ease of use for the driver. With the 3.5L engine, in addition to the generous bump in power, S trim includes paddle shifters with manual mode and 18-inch aluminum wheels.

The 2.5 SV includes 17-inch alloy wheels, remote start, dual-zone automatic climate control, and a 5-inch color display with the latest version of NissanConnect, which provides drivers and passengers with access to select Google search features. The 3.5 SV adds a power moonroof, folding outside mirrors with LED turn signal indicators and fog lights, along with touchscreen navigation, lane departure warning and blind spot warning.

Finally, the Altima 2.5 SL adds leather-appointed seats, a heated steering wheel and Bose premium sound system, while the 3.5 SL adds xenon headlights as well as the technology features found in the 3.5 SV.

Several packages are available on the 2015 Altima. The Convenience Package for 2.5 SV offers the power moonroof, fog lights and special interior ambient lighting, while the Navigation Package for both SV models includes Nissan Navigation with a 7-inch touchscreen display and voice recognition, steering-wheel-mounted navigation controls, real-time traffic and weather and NissanConnect.

Safety is engineered into the 2015 Altima, and standard on every model are several airbags to protect front and rear passengers alike, 4-wheel anti-lock brakes with brake assist, stability and traction controls and a tire pressure monitoring system.

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Editors' First Take

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The days of half-hearted mid-life updates in America's midsize sedan wars are over. Following recent substantial refreshes to segment kingpins like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord , Nissan's 2016 Altima is arriving with its own healthy dose of upgrades. The automaker is calling the change one of its most extensive mid-cycle alterations in its history, with styling revisions inside and out, fuel economy improvements, chassis tweaks and the addition of a sportier SR model. With the Altima being Nissan's perennial best-selling model, the stakes to stay relevant could hardly be higher.

Nissan's eye-catching "Energetic Flow" design language (already on display on its Murano crossover and Maxima sedan) has been grafted onto the Altima with good results -- everything from the A-pillar forward is new, including a V-Motion grille, boomerang headlights, fenders, bumper and hood. Out back, the light housings, bumpers and trunk lid are redesigned, as are the model's wheel designs. Combined, these changes help give this family sedan some much-needed visual punch compared to its drab predecessor, a design that was comfortably at home in rental fleets.

Another upshot to the Altima's sleeker appearance is that it's also slipperier through the air. Credit goes to those redesigned fascias, additional underbody covers and active grille shutters (on four-cylinder models), all of which help improve the Altima's coefficient of drag from 0.29 to 0.26. Interestingly, the latter figure now matches that of Nissan's GT-R supercar. (File that nugget away in case you find yourself trying to one-up the other parents at your kid's soccer game.)

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