Tweaks keep Altima a segment favorite

The Altima has evolved magnificently over the past 24 years, and it is Nissan’s top-selling model in the U.S.

The mid-size sedan market is extremely competitive, and automakers are forced to make continuous tweaks through a product cycle in order to retain market share.

That is why the Nissan Altima has significant revisions for 2016 just three years after it was completely redesigned.

Revisions include freshened exterior styling, refined interior design, improved seating comfort, revised steering and suspension systems to deliver enhanced ride comfort, an expanded suite of available safety features,  more standard features and a new sporty Altima SR trim level.

The 2016 Nissan Altima looks bolder and more luxurious, sporting a “V”-shaped grille and curvy sheet metal more akin to its Murano and Maxima siblings.

With the addition of the new SR model, the 2016 Altima is available in seven trim levels: 2.5, 2.5 S, 2.5 SR, 2.5 SV, 2.5 SL, 3.5 SR and 3.5 SL.

The five 2.5 trim levels feature a 182-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The two 3.5 trim levels feature a 270-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6.

A manual transmission is not offered. All Altima models feature a fuel-efficient continuously variable transmission (CVT) with enhanced third-generation programming to provide performance similar to a conventional automatic.

The CVT in the 2.5 SR and both 3.5 trim levels features a manual shift mode and paddle shifters for sportier performance when desired.

The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine feels refined and provides adequate acceleration for taking off from a stop and for passing maneuvers. For those who prefer more power, the stout 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 is particularly gratifying.

Fuel efficiency, especially for 2.5 models, is impressive. All 2.5 trim levels (except the 2.5 SR) are rated at 27/39 mpg city/highway. The 2.5 SR is rated at 26/37 mpg, and the two 3.5 models are rated at 22/32 mpg.

Suspension tuning in all models (except for the two SR models) has been engineered to provide greater comfort. While Active Understeer Control is standard in all Altima models, those who prefer handling over comfort will prefer one of the two new SR models. They offer specific SR-tuned suspension systems with larger front and rear stabilizer bars.

The interior of the 2016 Nissan Altima looks and feels more premium than many of its competitors. The driver and front passenger enjoy standard NASA-inspired “zero gravity” front seats that are incredibly comfortable.

There is plenty of leg room for six-footers in the front and in the rear, but taller rear-seat passengers may find the sloping roof line to be a bit confining.

A new center stack and center console offer improved usability. A back-up camera is standard in all models except the Altima 2.5 base model. Anti-lock brakes and traction control are standard across the line, and the 2.5 SV, 2.5 SL and 3.5 SL include blind-spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.

While some have become critical of Altima’s more comfort-oriented ride, I find it to be suitable for me. Altima remains one of my favorite choices in this segment.