Sedans

2019 Nissan Altima adds AWD, variable-compression engine

An 8-inch infotainment screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is standard.

Nissan

Nissan's sedan lineup offers plenty of sensibility, but when it came to tech, it was never toward the front of the pack. That's due to change with the introduction of the 2019 Nissan Altima, thanks to a few key introductions.

The Altima is much more handsome than before. It borrows some elements -- mostly in the lights and on the sides -- from the Vmotion 2.0 concept that debuted in Detroit in 2017. Nissan's company grille is still here, but it's been massaged to better blend with the rest of the body.

Compared to the outgoing Altima, the 2019 model is 1.1 inches lower, 1 inch longer and 0.9-inch wider. The wheelbase is 1.9 inches longer, too, which means shorter overhangs than before, which adds to the car's improved visual presence. LED headlights and fog lights are available if you like bright, fancy lights.

There is some Vmotion 2.0 concept in there, but much of it was diluted in the move to production. So it goes.

Nissan

The changes that matter most happen underneath the body panels. All-wheel drive is finally available as an option for any vehicle equipped with the new base engine, a 2.5-liter I4. This new I4 puts out 188 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque, and while the displacement is the same as before, about 80 percent of the engine features new or redesigned parts.

What you can't get with all-wheel drive, though, is the second implementation of Nissan's VC-Turbo engine. Debuting first on the Infiniti QX50, this engine can change its compression ratio on the fly, offering performance or fuel efficiency depending on the driver's needs. It puts out 248 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, and it's expected to deliver double-digit fuel economy improvements over the 3.5-liter V6 it replaces. Both engines have standard CVTs. The VC-Turbo engine is only available on the SR and Platinum trims.

The interior is no-nonsense, but it looks much more premium than before. You still get a healthy cluster of physical switches for both the infotainment system and the climate control, but the layering is nice and the "floating" screen doesn't get in the way. On first glance, I dig it.

In addition to its new looks, all 2019 Altimas receive the same standard infotainment system, packing an 8.0-inch touchscreen with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. You can trick it out with NissanConnect's connected services, which includes over-the-air updates and remote vehicle unlocking and starting.

If safety is what you're after, you'll be happy to know that automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning and a driver alertness monitor are all standard. Optional equipment includes a 360-degree camera system and traffic sign recognition. ProPilot Assist, which is capable of holding the vehicle in a single highway lane, is standard on SV, SL and Platinum trims. Those same trims also receive a new rear-facing autobrake as standard.

The 2019 Nissan Altima is available in five trims -- S, SR, SV, SL and Platinum -- and it goes on sale in the fall. Pricing will be announced closer to its release.