The Altima line includes S and SR trims for both sedans and coupes; there's also a separate price-leader Base version of the sedan, priced at under $20,000. Models with the 175-horsepower, 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine can be equipped with either a 6-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable (CVT) automatic. The 270-hp, 3.5L V6 is offered only with the CVT in sedans but with either the CVT or a 6-speed manual in coupes.
No matter which model, the Altima feels sportier than most rival models. Well-bolstered sport seats and more of a cockpit-style interior also distinguish the cabin feel-- interiors feature soft-touch materials and chrome accents. A "blonde" interior theme is available on the coupe, and the red-leather interior is especially distinctive. On the outside, all Altimas get dual exhausts for a sporty look, while Altima Hybrids, SR sedans and all coupes come with sportier alloy wheels.
The Altima handles well, thanks to speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering and a suspension that's tuned on the firm side yet compliant enough for most surfaces. V6 models get sportier suspension tuning, with thicker front and rear stabilizers to help get the most out of the additional power, while all models get 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes.
As a coupe, the Altima is somewhat more nimble, because it has a shorter wheelbase than the sedan and has a bit less back-seat space as well. Trunk size is quite a bit smaller in coupe models, but both have a split-folding back seat to expand cargo space for larger items.
The Altima Hybrid employs a full hybrid system that combines the 2.5-liter engine with an electric-drive motor/generator system and an electronically controlled CVT. Altogether, the powertrain produces 198 horsepower and gets EPA ratings of 35 mpg city, 33 highway.
Base-model Altima sedans come with an ample amount of equipment, including air conditioning, power locks and windows, a trip computer, cruise control, tilt/telescopic steering and rear-seat heated vents. S models include a 6-speaker sound system, Intelligent Key entry and ignition system and variable intermittent wipers. At the top of the line, SR models get fog lamps, power heated mirrors with integral turn signals, wood-tone and leather interior trims, a power driver's seat, a moonroof and upgraded 18-inch alloy wheels. Safety is strongly represented as well, with electronic stability control standard, in addition to a full roster of airbags.
The star of the Altima's options list is the Nissan Hard Drive Navigation System, which includes XM NavTraffic, NavWeather with dynamic rerouting, a Zagat restaurant guide, Bluetooth Streaming Audio, a DVD player, RCA input and 9.3 GB of hard-drive capacity for music storage. A premium Bose audio package with 9 speakers and a color display is also available.