- What’s Best: Standard all-wheel-drive starting at under 30 grand.
- What’s Worst: Engine and CVT transmission reach their limit under some circumstances.
- What’s Interesting: Unlike some other automakers, Nissan is committed to keep building sedans.
SANTA BARBARA, CA: Just in time for the snow to fly, Nissan’s all-new 2019 Altima sedan will begin arriving in Canadian showrooms this December with standard all-wheel-drive.
And except for the base model, Nissan is also making its innovative ProPilot Assist semi-autonomous driving technology standard as well.
While the industry, including Nissan, keeps moving towards trucks and SUV/CUVs, autowriters attending the Canadian media launch of the new Altima were told sedans still have a big place within the brand.
In fact, more money has been spent on the platform architecture Altima shares than any in Nissan’s history.
While front-drive is also available in the U.S., Nissan says the decision to go AWD only seemed natural, making it also the first AWD sedan in Nissan Canadian history.
When comes to pricing, the base S starts at $27,998 followed by the mid-trim SV ($31,498), the range-topping Platinum ($34,998), and for a very limited time, there will be the Edition One with special trim of which only 250 will be imported into Canada at $35,998.
All models will be powered by a 2.5-litre, direct injection twin-cam inline four-cylinder producing 182 hp and 178 lb/ft of torque mated to Nissan’s proven Xtronic CVT transmission.
Among the long list of standard equipment are: Intelligent Driver Alertness; rear door open alert; remote engine start; heated front seat; NissanConnect with eight-inch touchscreen; Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; Bluetooth and four USB ports (two in front, two in back).
ProPilot Assist is found on the SV trim and above that aims to help drivers stay alert and centered in the lane and navigate stop-and-go traffic, maintain a set vehicle speed and hold a set distance from the vehicle ahead.
The system uses a forward-facing camera, forward-facing radar, sensors and an electronic control module to help the driver stay centered in the driving lane and to maintain vehicle speed as set by the driver.
Thus it helps keep a gap to the preceding vehicle if the vehicle speed drops below the driver-set speed. It also can slow the vehicle to a complete stop and hold the vehicle during adverse traffic jam conditions.
The AWD system varies grip from 100 per cent to the front wheels for best fuel economy, to 50:50 front-to-rear for best launch traction and 30:70 front-to-rear for best cornering grip.
For improved ride and handling, the Integrated Dynamics Module (IDM) technology borrowed from the Maxima, Nissan’s flagship sedan, empowers the Altima with Intelligent Ride Control, Intelligent Trace Control and Vehicle Dynamics Control.
For the new, sixth generation Altima, the styling is more edgy and is longer, lower and wider with a drag coefficient of just 0.26.
The most noticeable exterior change is the Nissan signature V-Motion grille which pushes the V-bars to the outside of the grille face, which in turn, imparts a much larger and Euro-like look.
I tried to trick the Nissan stylists, who were present at the launch, to admit this is the new face of Nissan, but after some nervous smiles I got a “we don’t discuss future products.”
Altima is considered a mid-size sedan and, to tell you the truth, it approaches full-size in flesh.
Inside, the signature “gliding wing” instrument panel has a pronounced near luxury look and feel with horizontal lines to give the cabin a wider feel.
The route for the Altima first drive was a familiar one to me, comprising highways and byways around Santa Barbara and North Malibu, CA.
The 2.5-litre engine in the Altima boasts 80 percent new parts and revs freely and runs quietly even at highway speeds.
The handling on canyon roads that twist down to the Pacific Coast Highway can be tricky especially as you tend to pick up speed descending.
This is where the trace control came in nicely, using inside wheel braking to make crisper entries and exits.
I was driving a Platinum model which, at 926 kg (2,042 lb), looked heavier than it was. So in all but under full load going uphill, the CVT was seamless, but the combination did labour on steep climbs.
The main LCD instrument panel was big and informative and the steering wheel mounted controls for phones and cruise control/ProPilot were intuitive to the point I could sense where they were and use them without looking down after a few hours driving.
If you’ve been thinking the sedan is dead, a day with the 2019 Nissan Altima just might change your mind.