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First Drive: 2016 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL


Hello there and welcome to Basicville! Would you like your Green Tea Latte Iced or Hot? Because if you’re going to be basic, you might as well do it right. Accentually when it comes to choosing a midsize sedan for your family, it’s kind of hard not to be basic when there is a sea of dreary possibilities to choose from… so how can we make the refreshed Nissan Altima stand out from the others? We can’t! Not to say we won’t try though.

Since its launch in 2013 as a whole new car, Nissan has introduced a couple new design schemes to their line-up with the polarizing Murano and concept-to-reality Maxima. Now it’s time for the rest of the fleet to catch up, and thus we have the 2016 Altima. Besides some new headlights, taillights, and some minor cosmetic improvements – the biggest news to hit the Altima is the sportier SR trim, which is NOT our tester seen here (if we could use the rolling eye emoji, we would.) The SR provides a sportier pedigree and superficial stimulants when looking at your next car. It is available on both the 2.5 and the 3.5-liter engine.

In fact, we have is the 2.5-liter SL trim – it’s the highest trim available in the four cylinder engine and starts at $28,570. So why you ask would you choose the 182-horsepower 2.5-liter over the more powerful 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6? We think the 39 MPG highway might have something to do with it…

If MPG is what you’re after then you’ll have to make do with the drone of a CVT transmission as it winds up its rpms to pass 60 mph in a little after 8 seconds. But by doing that, you’ll hurt the fuel economy. Now 39 MPG is a pretty bold claim for this large of car and we were curious if that was truly the case – we decided to set out an 800 mile journey to see if 39 MPG could seriously be reached. Now our journey was about as interesting as this review, so if you are really curious about our journey you can read all about it in the Where’d We Go.

The fact is though, obtaining that kind of high number almost seems impossible and at first we were proving ourselves wrong – but as the miles racked up and the roads changed, the numbers started to fluctuate. At the end of our journey, we managed to squeeze out 34 mpg instead of the EPA rated 39. Still not bad for a 3300lb car. And because we still were able to reached such a high mpg rating, we managed to pull 600 miles from a single tank on regular fuel – that’s a lot of driving.

Opting for the 2.5L means you’re not looking for much in the terms of sport driving dynamics. The drive is mundane and unenthusiastic – and there is nothing wrong with that. It delivers what you’d expect from a midsize sedan – plushy ride, uncommunicative steering and enough body roll to give the kiddos a sick stomach on a twisty mountain road. Even with our 17-inch wheels featured here, the ride was comfortable and quiet – road noise was kept to a minimum and they do give a classy appearance against our optioned $395 Pearl White paint.

Color combination is a big deal when choosing your car – certain exterior colors can offset the interior quite well. But when you have a white car and mix it with a crème interior… that’s just not a contrast that’s appealing to any party. Especially when Nissan has introduced some new interior trims for 2016 – like this interesting wood – it just doesn’t work. Now that isn’t to say the Altima isn’t an enjoyable place to be – even for a marketing gimmick, the Zero Gravity seats are reasonable – the rear seats provide plenty of leg room – and tons of standard equipment is features like push-button start, automatic climate control, heated seats, blind spot monitoring and a premium BOSE audio system.

Technology has been added as well to bring the Altima more to industry standards – the $1700 Technology Packages adds in adaptive cruise control with antonymous forward collision braking and collision alert as well as a 7-inch touch screen display and Smartphone functionality.

In a basic world, the Altima still proves to be a semi-worthy competitor. After a few other options, it brings our tester to just over $32,500. We’d still prefer the smooth comforts of the 3.5L V-6 at that price – but here in the real world, where MPG’s is more appreciated than performance – it’s difficult to compete with the Altima’s numbers.

Price (As Tested):
2016 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL: $28,570
Destination: $835
Performance Specs:
2.5-liter Four Cylinder – 182 -horsepower/180lb-ft of torque – 0-60MPH: ±8.0 seconds
EPA MPG: 27/39/31 (city/highway/combined) – SSB Average:  MPG’s 34 | Fuel Range: 600 Miles
Featured Options:
Carpeted Floor Mats and Trunk Mat: $210
Premium Pearl White Paint: $395
Moonroof Package: $800
Technology Package: $1,700
Grand Total: $32,510


  1. It screams “rental” as badly as the white Malibu you had awhile back. The Zero Gravity seats are pretty dang comfortable, I have to admit. I remember experiencing them in one of Matt’s testers awhile back. Great opening shot, even though it’s still not a pretty face.

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