Sedans

Nissan Altima to get a grip with all-wheel drive

The next-generation sedan takes to the stage in New York next month, and it sounds like it'll be packing a surprise.

Nissan

Earlier this month, Nissan confirmed plans to debut its next-generation Altima sedan at the New York Auto Show in March, but other than verifying the date -- March 28 -- company officials haven't said much about what to expect from the new midsize family car.

At least not intentionally.

During a recording of Autoline After Hours, a weekly auto industry-focused internet show, Nissan's Christopher Reed alluded to the sixth-generation Altima receiving an important new feature in its arsenal: all-wheel drive. Reed, who is vice president of components engineering at Nissan Technical Center North America, was actually on Thursday's show to talk about the 2018 Leaf EV.

A member of Autoline's audience had written in to ask Reed if the Leaf would ever receive AWD, and he responded by saying: 

"We know that in the future... especially in the North, people like all-wheel-drive cars, right? And we're talking about coming out with all-wheel drive on the Altima and that kind of stuff, so we're doing some new things there."

Reed's remark corroborates long-held rumors that the sedan will get the grips-at-all-corners technology. When reached by Roadshow, a spokesman would only say, "Nissan will announce full details of the 2019 all-new Altima at the New York International Auto Show, until then, no, we have no further information to share at this time."

Imbuing the next Altima with all-wheel drive seems to make a lot of sense. After all, more and more buyers are leaving traditional sedans for crossover SUVs, often in part because most models offer the foul weather-friendly technology. Indeed, Nissan's best-selling new vehicle is now the Rogue -- the Altima has relinquished the brand's sales crown.

If the 2019 Altima does gain AWD, it probably won't be standard equipment, and it definitely won't be alone in its segment -- the Subaru Legacy and Ford Fusion already offer it. However, the Altima will be the highest-volume mainstream sedan to offer the technology -- Honda's latest Accord and Toyota's Camry are exclusively front-wheel drive, and the same goes for popular models like the Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima.

Along with available AWD and a host of new safety and convenience features, we're expecting for the new Altima to gain markedly more aggressive styling, likely influenced by Nissan's Vmotion 2.0 concept (shown above), a show car that debuted at the 2017 Detroit Auto Show.

We'll know much more on March 28, when the new Altima debuts in New York at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center.