Road Test Review – 2016 Nissan Altima SL – By Tim Esterdahl

Review: 2016 Nissan Altima SL Offers Smooth Ride With Stylish Looks

The all-new 2016 Nissan Altima is a great example of improving on what works with smart upgrades and improved style complementing a smooth riding sedan. While critics bemoan its lack of pep, after a week behind the wheel, it’s hard to understand what they are talking about.

Now in its 5th generation the refreshed 2016 Nissan Altima features a host of styling improvements seen in the V-motion grille with boomerang-shaped headlights carried through the back officially called an “Energetic Flow” by Nissan. Equipped with new sheet metal as well as new front/rear bumpers, headlights and taillights, the Altima is much more stylish than past iterations of the sedan.

Inside the styling upgrades again focused on creating a more stylish look and the Altima is much less bland than prior iterations of the sedan. These styling lines are offset by chrome trim accents and two-tone color treatments in our test model including the faux wood trim which looks good mixed with the other cabin colors.  Nissan calls the interior theme “Gliding Wing” and it makes sense looking at the front dash and center stack from the rear seats with its sloping lines.

Speaking of the rear passenger room, it is more than adequate for a vehicle of this size. The front driver and passenger space is also good for a mid-size sedan plus all the knobs and controls are within easy reach of both driver and passenger.

In fact, the driver’s position in the Altima is ideal for maximizing visibility as well as using all the controls on the redesigned center stack (radio, a/c and heat controls). Plus, the steering retains a variety of controls for radio and cruise control. While I consistently find these controls large and their input rather harsh, I know many an owner who appreciates them.

The one thing everyone can agree on with the Nissan Altima is the seats. They are simply superb with the Zero Gravity design. Nissan worked with NASA to create this design to alleviate pressure points and provide long-term comfort. It works. I took a 200-mile road trip in the Altima and never felt any seat discomfort.

On this road trip and during my time driving around town, I got to experience the smaller of the two engine choices available in the Altima – a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine (3.5L V6 also available). This powertrain is a carry-over from the prior model year and amongst many automotive journalists there is a consensus it could be more powerful off the line as well as offer a sportier drive. In order to do this, Nissan would have to develop a turbo-charged engine and/or replace the Xtronic continuously variable transmission with a straight 6-speed setup for additional torque off the line.

However, this approach does come with a drawback and that is additional cost to the consumer as well as repair costs to the consumer when turbochargers fail over time. A straight four-cylinder then is much easier to repair with most shade-tree mechanics able to work on them.

While the peppiness could be improved, it is hard to ignore on the EPA estimated 39 MPG highway fuel economy found in the 4-cylinder 2016 Nissan Altima (27 city/31 combined).

The debate over powertrains should be put to rest after owning it for a while as we found through a week of driving with the Altima feeling amply powerful for all tasks. While it isn’t going to set any dragstrip records nor win acclaim for being a “speedy” mid-size sedan, the powertrain provides a smooth output that meets most consumer’s needs.

The smooth powertrain is matched by a smooth driving experience which is surprisingly good for a mid-size sedan. Again, this isn’t a luxury car driving experience and it shouldn’t be judged as such. However, it adequately handles road imperfections and feels solid.

Overall, the 2016 Nissan Altima provides a smooth ride, solid powertrain and great highway fuel economy for right around $30k. The new styling is markedly better and the Zero Gravity seats remain a key selling feature. It won’t blow you away with any one feature versus the competition, yet it simply does everything fairly well. Isn’t that what we are really looking for anyway? A car with good looks, comfortable interior and great fuel economy – the 2016 Nissan Altima checks all those boxes.

Model: 2016 Nissan Altima SL

Engine: 2.5L 4-Cylinder

Transmission: Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission)

Fuel Economy: 27/39/31 city/highway/combined


  • Premium Paint – $395
  • Moonroof Package – $800
  • Carpeted Floor Mats and Trunk Mat – $210
  • Technology Package (Predictive Forward Collision Warning, Forward Emergency Braking, Intelligent Cruise Control, Nissan Connect with Navigation) – $1,700

Price as Tested: $32,510 with $835 Destination Charge

2016 Nissan Altima SR

What do you think?

About The Author

Tim Esterdahl is a married father of three who enjoys all things automotive including wrenching on his collection of old pickups. You can find his work here and in print in Truck Trend magazine as well as on He also plays an absurd amount of golf. Like really absurd.