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2002 NissanAltima Road Test
WOW!

By CharlesOfria

Category: $17,000 - $25,000 Mid-Size Sedan
Who should buy this car: Someone who wants a stylish, roomy, reliable and comfortable sedan that stands out from the crowd.
Comparable models in this class: Buick Century & Regal, Chevrolet Impala & Malibu, Chrysler Sebring, Dodge Intrepid, Ford Taurus, Honda Accord, Mercury Sable, Mitsubishi Galant, Oldsmobile Intrigue, Pontiac Grand Prix, Toyota Camry, Volkswagen Passat and Volvo S40

It's not often that a mid-sized sedan comes along that combines startling good lookswith blazing performance in a price range that is affordable for families on a tight budget.  Most manufacturers building cars for this frugal group play itsafe by keeping their designs conservative in order to attract the widest audience.   But not Nissan.  This company is on a roll, sweeping away their old conservative looking cars and replacing them with beautiful designs that are achieving world-wide acclaim.  

The previous Altima was a non-descript small sedan that garneredlittle excitement, but sold well because it was reliable, economical and, above all, pricedright.  To all the world, it was the personification of the generic sedanthat made their owner all but invisible on the road.

Thisnew Altima (trumpets please) has grown up tobecome a first-class ride.  It is larger than its predecessor with a wheelbase of 110.2 inches, up by 7.1 inches, and an overall length of  191.5 inches which is an increase of  5.7 inches.  It's also wider and taller than before by 1.3 inches and 2.0 inches respectively.  In fact, it's bigger and roomier than its big brother, the Nissan Maxima.

Above all, the new Altima stands out because of its styling.  This car is gorgeous.  The pictures here do not do it justice.  In my not so humble opinion, this is the best looking mid-sized sedan of the lot.  The new cockpit-style, driver-oriented interior is also well designed with more room in every dimension and among the roomiest in its class.

The Altima is built on an all-new platform that is a whopping 170 percent more rigid than the 2001 model for improved ride quality and noise control.  A new suspension design was developed with extensive use of aluminum to provide class-leading ride and handling for this beauty.

Under the new aluminum hood (the trunk lid is also made of aluminum) lies a few more surprises. There are two new engines that are setting new standards for this class:  A new 3.5-liter 240 hp DOHC 24-valve V6 with 246 lb-ft of torque, and an all-new 175-horsepower 2.5-liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder producing 181 lb-ft of torque.

Both engines are available with either a 5-speed manual transmission or a 4-speed electronically controlled automatic transmission.  The V6 with the 5-speed that was in our test car was good enough for a 0 to 60 run of  6.3 seconds. while the 4 cylinder automatic does the blast in a class-leading 8.6 seconds.

The 2002 Nissan Altima is available in four different models: the base 2.5, mid-grade 2.5 S, luxurious 2.5 SL and our V6-powered 3.5 SE.  The Altima has everything that it needs to compete head-to-head with the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord which are the class leaders in this crowded market segment..

Onmy initial walk-around, I found that the fit and finish was excellent as youwould expect from a company known for producing high-quality products.  

Behind the wheel, I quickly found a comfortable driving position and was readyto explore this car's stout performance envelope.  What surprised me was that this carcombined the feel of a highly competent sports sedan with the ride and smoothness of an upscale family sedan, a hard combination to achieve at this low price range.  The steering was spot-on tight and responsive with an excellent feel of the road.  When I tipped into the gas with any kind of urgency, it felt like I was prodding the 240 horses with electrified spurs.

The interior is roomy and comfortable, but lots of hard plasticmake up the door panels, dash and console giving the interior a cheaper lookthan I would have expected in this category.  The interior does work,however with everything in the right place and falling easily to hand.  Theoptional steering wheel controls put a number of functions at your fingertips,but they're not as easy to use at night unless you memorize their positionssince they do not light up.

But these little nits aside, if I were in the market for a mid-sized sedan for under $30,000, this one would suit me just fine.  If the new Altima is this good, I can't wait to see what the next Maxima will be like.  It's due in January 2003 and will have more upscale interior trimmings and suspension systems as well as more powerful engines.

These are exciting times at the Nissan Corral.

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Specifications 

Engine Types 3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve V6 with variable valve timing
2.5-liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder with variable valve timing
Horsepower V6 - 240 hp @ 5800 rpm
4 Cyl. - 175 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque V6 - 246 ft-lbs. @ 4400 rpm
4 Cyl. - 181 ft-lbs. @ 4000 rpm
Fuel Recommended V6 - Premium Unleaded.
4 Cyl. Regular Unleaded.
Transmission - Std.
Transmission - Opt.
Five-speed manual 
4-speed electronically controlled automatic with gate-style shifter
Tires - Standard V6 - P215/55VR17 all-season BSW
4 Cyl. - P205/65TR16 all-season BSW
Overall Length 191.5" 
Wheelbase 110.2"
Width 70.4"
Curb Weight 3,225 lbs. (V6 - manual trans)
Fuel Tank 20 Gals.
Miles Per Gallon EPA city 21, hwy 26 (V6 - manual trans)
Acceleration 0 to 60 6.3 Seconds (V6 - manual trans)
Base Sticker Price $16,349 Base 2.5 with manual trans, $22,349 3.5 SE with manual trans.
Add $540 Destination Charge.

2002 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE Front Wheel Drive Sedan

Standard Equipment

  • 8-way power driver seat with manual lumbar support
  • Manual tilt and telescopic steering wheel
  • Audio and cruise controls on steering wheel
  • Leather-wrapped steering wheel
  • 100 watt AM/FM CD stereo with 6 speakers and speed sensitive volume control
  • Auto on/off headlights
  • LCD in-meter trip computer with dual odometers, outside temperature display, distance to empty, average fuel economy, average speed, drive time
  • Dual exhaust with chrome tip finishers
  • 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels

Major Available Options

  • ABS and Airbag Package
    Includes antilock brakes, brake assist, electronic brake force distribution, front seat side-impact airbags and roof-mounted side-impact curtain airbags.
  • Bose AM/FM Stereo and 6 CD Changer
  • heated front seats and outside mirrors
  • Color Keyed Spoiler
  • leather covered seats
  • Homelink garage door opener
  • automatic temperature control A/C
  • Power Glass Sunroof

For more information on the New Altima, visit Nissandriven.com

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