Road Test Review – 2015 Nissan Altima 2.5SL is a Serene, Mile-Munching Machine!

altima 15Midsize sedans might not be the sexiest or most desirable segment of the new car market, but they are the gasoline for the American automobile market’s engine. Taken together with pickup trucks, these two body styles of vehicle make up more than a third of all sales annually.

The Altima is a big player in this mix: ranking number three behind the Camry and Accord for a whopping 2014 total of 335,000 sold.

However you slice it, that is a huge chunk of influence, and a car that many will consider when seeking their next ride. And to wrap up the math-blast: more than 80-percent of those Altima’s are this four-cylinder powertrain.

A week and road trip in Nissan’s best-seller confirms what might be obvious: the Altima 2.5 is nearly perfect. This car comes into its own right when you have had a rough day, or are two hours into a long drive.

The Altima SL feels like it will always drive you home. Where other vehicles feel like they naturally want to stop, the Altima feels born and bred to keep driving. Adding miles by the dozen and watching the odometer roll over is the Altima’s big asset versus the dozen-plus other models vying for a slice of its sales.

Let’s find out how the Altima does in section headings of Exterior, Interior, Performance, Pricing and Summary.

2015 Nissan Altima 2.5SL Review

Data and Graphic Source: GoodCarBadCar


The Altima’s exterior design feels extremely familiar, which is a double-edged sword in 2015 and into 2016. The all-new model arrived as a 2013 model year, with a much more horizontal and wide feel than the vertical emphasis of the previous generation. As the 2012-and-before model slung its headlights up and into the hood, the new model stretches the nose graphic with a wider grille and solid, triangular headlamp units. Projector halogens for the low-beams live in the outermost edge of the lamp graphic, while the blinkers are located down below in the bumper face above the available foglamps.

Simple profile surfacing extends part of the hood and front fender strake rearward into the doors. This pinched element flows into a beltline crease for the full length of the machine — helping the Altima feel long and low, despite its very practical roofline and giant doors all around.

Out back, standard dual exhausts are a nice treat from the Altima’s $22,300 base price, while the large chrome license-plate accent is also fairly premium and elegant.

This second-most-post 2.5SL trim level packs LED taillamps that the lower price levels skip, which is a shame because they are handsome and modern. The standard bulb units in the base Altima’s are much more forgettable.

Overall, that tail with relatively small, outer-mounted lamps is another big change versus previous-gen Altimas. The uniquitous tail treatment of 370Z-style lamps flowing up and into the trunk went from fresh, to current, to far too common as almost two million cruised America’s streets.

The new shape is exceptionally conservative all around, which may be a plus or minus in your book depending on priorities.

As LED and dark-wheel fanatics, we wish the Altima wore larger and less nerdy wheels. It is a slight bummer not to have white LEDs up front whatsoever in the Altima. While this is par for the segment compared with the entry-level Camry and Accord, both those cars do wear LED DRLs at a comparable, pretty-loaded trim level.


Wish granted?

Altima S Special Edition adds a ton of equipment to the base Altima S, including a rear spoiler and some gunmetal metallic grey wheels.






If the exterior offends no one, the cabin is even more approachable and friendly. This car is extremely comfortable right away, with a huge range of seat adjustment and a possible driving position much lower than the Camry or Accord allow.  On the other side of the people-size continuum, the Altima drive position can also bump up the seat helpfully high and near the pedals.

What really strikes you about the front cabin is a big sense of volume and overall width. The footwells are gigantic and the floor is admirably flat all around. Versus Camry and Accord, the Altima’s 45 inches of front legroom is +3 larger than both; only the new Sonata beats the Nissan by half an inch. The Sonata also pips the Altima for front headroom, where both offer much more hat space than Camry or Accord.

The main fixture inside sets the tone: a silver-accented center stack is mounted high up on the dashboard, mounted separately versus the center console and storage cubbies in the diving front part of the console. Black/grey and tan are the cabin color choices available, with each color-coded down to the littlest detail. The black is our preference, but in black, the seats and dash do get toasty in direct sunlight.

A giant entry to the back seat might sets the tone for a loungy and relaxed rear bench. A very comfy recline to the rear seatback is vastly superior to the FOrd Fusion and especially the church-pew uprightness of the 2015 Malibu back seat.

Versus Camry and Accord, roominess by leg and shoulder room in the Altima back seat feels large — which is of course a big part of why people love mid-size cars versus compacts like the Focus etc.

While is feels large back there, and entry is a piece of cake…. the SAE official measurements show that Altima is down at least 2.5 inches of rear legroom versus the Accord or Camry; just pipping the Sonata by half an inch. All are comfortable and spacious this year, however, and these are just minor details.

What will win the day for Altima drivers and passengers is the surreal driveline smoothness, seat comfort and very little wind noise. Some road rumble is a bit louder in the back seat than the very-quiet front, but the cabin is overall very serene — even for hours and hours at a time.

Nissan has a pretty handy comparison feature on their website, with the highlights in measurements noted below.









Nissan has taken some heat for their CVTs over the years, but the years of refinements have made this Xtronic CVT the best in the segment. Also employed by Honda in the Accord, the CVT phenom is real and has real benefits versus the standard six-speed automatics in the rest of the segment stars.

We are fans of the Xtronic these days for a few reasons:

— totally effortless rolling refinement; around town the Altima is so chill and relaxed that you literally forget any grumbles and upshift body movements that torque-converter automatics deliver.

— a rapid and smooth downshift  in the Altima Xtronic is perfectly programmed. No big gas-pedal shove needed to move forward: the Altima just glides onward smoothly with a perfectly matched instant bit of power.

— overall lightness and efficiency: the Altima Xtronic helps the car be the lightest in its segment. Under 3200 pounds for such a roomy and well-insulated sedan is remarkable. Despite much fanfare for Mazda6 SkyActiv design or Accord/Camry hybrid efficiency, the Altima is lighter and sips fuel no matter how you drive it.

Speaking of flooring it…. we definitely did!

The Xtronic paired with 182-horsepower hustles the Altima along very respectfully. Passing performance is much, much more confidence-inspiring than the Accord automatic, while overall top-end speed on the highway is genuinely impressive.

Overall sprint speed to 60-mph is slower than the Camry fourbanger with an estimated pace of 8.8-seconds. While not super impressive objectively, in the context of 29/38 MPG ratings that speed is respectable.

A pure sprint from a stop is the Altima’s least-impressive trait versus its pseudo-upshifts when flooring it from about 20-mph to 60-mph. From a stop, the Altima Xtronic still zings out to engine to its power peaks, then peels off increasing MPH with decreasing revs as it hits cruising speed. It is counter-intuitive at first, but soon becomes normal. The big advantages noted above of of infinite gear ratios outshine this slight demerit, however.

Handling-wise, the Altima feels like the chassis could be a bit tighter around corners. Despite light steering and nice balance in the chassis tune, the Altima does not love being manhandled like the Sonata ECO and its 1.6L turbo + DCT automatic.

All cars in the segment feel softly sprung and under-tired when pushed to their limits, and the Altima is no exception. With wheels larger than the standard 17’s on the 2.5SL, the Altima suffers from much less tire scrub around bends. As it is, the chassis feels like it might struggle with the 3.5-liter V6’s extra shove.










2015 Altima® 2.5

Starting MSRP * $22,300
182 Horsepower*

27/38 City/Highway MPG*

5 Seats / 4 Doors

2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine [*]
Xtronic CVT®
Bluetooth® [*]
Advanced Drive-Assist® Display [*]
Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) with Easy-Fill Tire Alert [*]

2015 Altima® 2.5 S

Starting MSRP * $22,560
182 Horsepower*

27/38 City/Highway MPG*

5 Seats / 4 Doors
Includes 2.5 features plus: [*]
Smart Auto Headlights
Nissan Intelligent Key®
Cruise control

2015 Altima® 2.5 SV

Starting MSRP * $24,720
182 Horsepower*

27/38 City/Highway MPG*

5 Seats / 4 Doors
Includes 2.5 S features plus: [*]
17″ Aluminum-alloy wheels
Nissan Intelligent Key® with Remote Engine Start System [*]
Audio system with 5” color display [*]
NissanConnect℠ with Mobile Apps [*]

2015 Altima® 2.5 SL

Starting MSRP * $28,150
182 Horsepower*

27/38 City/Highway MPG*

5 Seats / 4 Doors
Includes 2.5 SV features plus: [*]
LED taillights
Leather-appointed seats
4-way power adjustable front-passenger’s seat
Bose® Premium Audio System [*]

2015 Altima® 3.5 SL

Starting MSRP * $32,350

270 Horsepower*

22/32 City/Highway MPG*

5 Seats / 4 Doors

High Intensity Discharge (HID) xenon low-beam headlights
Leather-appointed seats
4-way power adjustable front-passenger’s seat
Bose® Premium Audio System [*]





The Altima feels like it was born at 85-mph — and would run for decades at that speed in perfect happiness.

Driven with your foot on the floor, the Altima 2.5SL delivered real-world economy averages of 31-mpg and above. City, highway and mixed driving as hard as we could did not lower this average — which is a big achievement and Xtronic advantage.

With heavy-footed testers at the wheel, the Fusion and Camry are much, much thirstier.

So will the unstoppable smoothness and efficiency of the Altima seal the deal for you?

It certainly impressed us.

Far from boring, the tech median of the mid-size sedan segment is actually a great barometer — nay, car-ometer! — of how the industry is progressing.

The Altima delivers large-car comfort and roominess at modest prices and with great standard tech.

For that, we give it a big thumbs up.  If you do big and tiring miles, the Altima is at the top of the game!