You keep hearing that America’s insatiable appetite for crossovers is putting sedans on the endangered species list, but Americans still buy 6 million cars a year, a third being mid-sizers. Furthermore, Nissan’s internal research says 30 percent of millennials and 44 percent of Gen Z buyers actually prefer sedans.
That is, in front-wheel-drive configuration — a necessary distinction because the new Altima will be the first AWD sedan sold by Nissan in this country. With AWD, fuel economy drops to 26 mpg city and 36 highway, but that still ekes out the Subaru Legacy, and makes for a credible alternative.
We spent a little time in an AWD Platinum with the 2.5, but much more time in the very interesting SR VC-Turbo. The SR’s novel engine debuted in the Infiniti QX50, and it impressed, even if the plush crossover wasn’t quite the right fit for it. It’s more natural in the Altima, even if it’s detuned to 248 horsepower — 20 fewer than its Infiniti cousin. It still feels sprightly thanks to “a different torque converter and final drive compared to the QX50,” revealed Nissan’s chief powertrain engineer Shinichi Kiga.
Sport mode will let the SR hold the CVT’s simulated gears longer, or use the SR’s exclusive shift paddles, but this only highlights how the Altima SR is absolutely crying out for a stick shift. That’s a compliment — on a bland chassis, a manual makes driving a chore; on a capable one, it enhances the motoring experience. It’s in part what draws us to the Accord and Mazda 6. A VC-Turbo engine matched to a manual would be a potent powertrain. So potent that, I kid you not, I actually had a dream in which Nissan offered one.
The 2019 Altima goes on sale in October. Since the original Altima debuted in 1993, on the cusp of the SUV boom, an entire human generation has passed. It makes sense that their offspring would grow up wanting something other than their parents’ crossover. And when they’re ready to buy, the Altima (and in particular, the SR) will be waiting for them.