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Old 12-25-2006, 11:56 AM   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2001
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Default Full Test: 2007 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE (edmunds.com)

Full Test: 2007 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE (edmunds.com)


What Works:
Brilliant CVT, fast in the tight stuff, still-great VQ35 V6, much improved interior.

What Needs Work:
Pricey options, so-so braking performance, looks like the old Altima.

Bottom Line:
Like Paris Hilton, a star performer with a plain face and a habit for expensive accessories.

All new, with a strong hint of old school

Remember the '80s? You know leg warmers, the Cold War, Punky Brewster? At the tail end of that let's-just-forget-it-ever-happened decade, Nissan introduced a revamped Maxima, the ads for which bore the well-known tagline: "The four-door sports car."

Fast-forward 18 years. Driving the 2007 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE, that old tagline keeps popping into the brain. And while real sports cars don't have automatic transmissions or front-wheel drive or even a backseat, it's obvious that Nissan has quietly made the Altima the spiritual successor of that tagline's underlying philosophy: Just because a car has four doors doesn't mean it has to drive like a dumpster.

Don't mess with success
With Nissan's all-new "D" platform underpinning the new Altima, 2007 brings considerable chassis updates detailed in our 2007 Altima First Drive. The formula established by the third-gen Altima, introduced in 2002, remains intact for the 2007 model solid performance, spaciousness and dynamic distinction.

And yet the 2007 Altima doesn't add up to the reinvention it was just five short years ago. Instead, it bears a close resemblance in size and style to its predecessor, bringing a little polish to the high points while addressing the complaints directed toward the interior. Just as the producers of the '80s sitcom Cheers knew better than to deviate from Carla's scathing one-liners or Norm's beer-drinking ways, Nissan is likewise shrewd enough not to meddle too much with a successful product.

New sheet metal blends shapelier hindquarters with a familiar some might say bland corporate Nissan face up front. It's not off-putting, but the subtleties of the new shape do little to differentiate it substantially from the previous-gen Altima.

With a mildly updated version of the evergreen VQ35 3.5-liter V6, the Altima now sports 270 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm. There's not much to say about this impressive engine that hasn't been said already it delivers its husky, broad powerband without ruffling your Dockers, albeit with a clearly audible purr.

The real news in the Altima's powertrain is the so-called Xtronic CVT, a continuously variable transmission, offered in lieu of a conventional automatic. Row-it-yourself addicts will still opt for the available six-speed manual, which stickers for $500 less than the CVT.

Our test car was equipped with the CVT, and the consensus here is that you'll never miss the conventional slushbox Nissan's CVT is a winner. It works better as an auto than many autos, and has a more useful manual mode to boot. Like all CVTs, this one is uncannily smooth, as it never interrupts the engine's power while changing ratios.

In theory, a CVT offers the best of all worlds, allowing the optimum gear ratio for acceleration and fuel economy, though in practice they're in the correct gear about never. This is where the Nissan's CVT really stands out. Around town, power is doled out responsively, all but devoid of the notorious rubber-band effect previously endemic to CVTs. Plus, the manual mode delivers useful engine braking rapidly just bap-bap the lever and you're down two "gears" in a heartbeat.

EPA fuel-economy numbers of 22/28 city/highway are respectable, though during its short 800-mile stay with us it averaged 19 mpg.

Packing heat
Instead of instantly winging the tach up to 6,200 rpm (where the big V6 generates maximum brio) like it ought to, Nissan's CVT instead forces the engine to creep steadily up its rev range until it reaches 6,200. The reasoning behind this strategy is to allow the engine's pitch to crescendo in lockstep with the rising speedo, emulating the feel of a conventional auto. As a result, some briskness is sacrificed on the altar of familiarity.

Still, it's faster in CVT mode than in manual mode, running to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 15 seconds at 95 mph. This performance dispatches every midsizer from our V6 Family Sedan Comparison Test, save for the Camry XLE V6 that blasted out in 14.6 seconds at 97 mph. For two cars of such similar layout, weight and power, a gap of 0.4 second and 2.4 mph in the quarter is pretty sizable. Unless the Camry slips through the air as imperceptibly as Small Wonder on the Nielsen ratings, its engine probably has more lentils than Toyota's owning up to.

"D" platform of choice
The Nissan still manages to be a more engaging drive even if the Camry's acceleration is Ponch to the Altima's Jon. Higher speeds load up the steering's weighting nicely, and a welcome trickle of feedback from the road surface makes its way to the wheel rim. Steering effort is light at parking lot speeds, where whipping the wheel can briefly outpace the hydraulic assistance. On-center feel is excellent, and torque steer is somewhere between "just a hair" and "jack squat."

Well-honed body control helps to deliver an impressive 67 mph through the slalom, 2.4 mph faster than the fastest cone-dodger, the Accord EX V6, in our aforementioned comparison test. And it's not as though the Altima is relying on mega-grip to produce its slalom result, either, as it circulated our skid pad at a just-decent 0.81 g on its 215/45/17 all-season tires.

Best of all, the driving experience does not come at the cost of comfort or practicality. The Altima's ride is on the acceptably firm side of supple, and with 60/40-folding rear seats and standard cargo nets in the trunk which measures a healthy 15.3 cubic feet it's pretty versatile.

While few midsize FWD sedans offer the driving poise of this Altima, its braking performance could have been better. The Altima required 134 feet to stop from 60 mph, which is worse than all five sedans in our comparison test and 12 feet longer than the best-stopping Hyundai Sonata LX V6. The pedal's initial bite is positive, though, and no fade was encountered during testing.

Likely in response to criticism over the previous Altima's plasticky interior, Nissan went to the opposite extreme for 2007. Visually, the dark plastics are much richer-looking, even if the overall theme now borders on austere. Functionally well laid out, we appreciated the volume and temperature knobs. On the negative side, a few interior squeaks hint that the interior build quality isn't perfect, and rear-seat headroom is on the tight side for 6-plus-footers. Plus, the Altima's long rear doors hamper ingress and egress when something's parked next to it.

For best results, keep it light
At its $25,115 base price (including destination), the Altima 3.5 SE is a strong package, as its solid driving experience and basic practicality are inherent. The extras will kill you, though there just isn't much flexibility in the options. If you want, say, the premium audio, the price just went up by $5,300.

Here's the math. The only way to get the premium audio is to select a $4,400 Premium Package, which includes big-ticket items like comfortable (if a bit wide) heated leather seats, satellite radio, Bose audio, HID headlamps and a moonroof. But that's not all. Stability control which is, oddly enough, bundled with a full-size spare is a $900 prerequisite for the Premium Package.

Our test Altima 3.5 SE, inflated to $30,715, is knocking on Infiniti G35 territory. And it's not even fully loaded. That's a lot of coin, and as good a package as the Altima 3.5 SE is, it's considerably less tempting at nearly $31 grand. Go light on the options and the 2007 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE makes a strong case for itself. Call it a sequel with substance.

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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Old 12-25-2006, 12:13 PM   #2
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2011 328i 6MT


Working on Christmas?
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Old 12-25-2006, 05:23 PM   #3
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Looks WAY too similar to the old one - which might not be a horrible thing, since the old one was nice looking, but tough for current owners to tradeup to the new model if they look so similar (Mini is going to have the same problem).

I do think they are going to have issues with the price though. While $25k for the 3.5L might not be bad at all, like was mentioned in the article the price jumps quickly past $30k - which I honestly think is too much for a car like this.
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Old 12-25-2006, 06:19 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Len View Post
Working on Christmas?
actually in my business there is no holiday, but the new guy got to work, this one's from home...lol
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Old 12-25-2006, 07:00 PM   #5
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Default 2 Door version looks HOT

Lets hope the new STI looks as good as 2 door altima
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