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A sleeker design, an interior full of gadgets and seats developed in co-operation with NASA, the new Altima could be a hard act to follow.
Nissan is to debut the fifth generation Altima at the New York Auto Show, its latest offering in the mid-size sedan segment and the most important one in the North American auto market. First introduced 20 years ago, the Altima has become Nissan's most important money maker in the US and became the second most popular car in the last few years. The fifth generation is an evolution of its predecessor, based on the same platform and with the same wheelbase length.
The base model is equipped with a 2.5-liter 182hp inline-four, starting at $21,500 and the most expensive version is the 3.5-liter V6 SL coming in at $30,080. The new Altima is the first model in a five-model attack Nissan will launch over the next 15 months. The mid-size sedan segment, the bread and butter of the American car market, is not something for experimentation, and Nissan designers followed that line of thought. Styling changes up front are subtle but clear and give the car a more attractive face with slimmer headlamps and a more aggressive grille.
The Nissan marketing department people have tried to squeeze every gadget possible into the passenger compartment. Nissan ConnectSM offers Bluetooth Hands-free Phone System and Streaming Audio via Bluetooth, along with available integrated Hands-Free Messaging Assistant, Pandora integration, USB connection for iPod interface and other compatible devices, and SiriusXM Satellite Radio. It includes a 5.0-inch color audio display with the upgraded SV and SL models. A new Advanced Drive-Assist Display comes standard on every model and is customizable, easy-to-use and integrates key information right in front of the driver.
It features a 4.0-inch color display, more than 400 percent larger than in the previous Altima, which Nissan claims is an intuitive feature that won't distract the driver. The system is customizable via the steering wheel controls, so drivers can view the information that is most important to them. Nissan consulted with NASA on seat design and was advised that the least fatiguing seats are those that come closest to a "neutral posture", that is a relaxed position the human body takes in a weightless environment; hence why Nissan called them 'zero-gravity' seats. Their shape helps in reducing fatigue over long periods behind the wheel.
From the looks of it, Nissan has built a very competitve and proper Altima, one that infringes even further on the Maxima's territory. With the recently redesigned Toyota Camry also just hitting the roads along with competitors such as the Hyundai Sonata, Ford Fusion, and Chevrolet Malibu, the Altima can't afford any mistakes. Neither can its competitors, for that matter. We'll know soon enough whether the Altima delivers when it goes head to head against those highly impressive models in a matchup.