2019 Nissan Altima Expert Review: Doubling Down on Tech

Leading-edge driver aids mark new 2019 Nissan Altima

Nissan has doubled down on its commitment to provide inexpensive sedans to the U.S. market with the all-new 2019 Nissan Altima. In the face of an eroding market for conventional sedans, Nissan has put its money into new technology, including two new engines and an impressive array of safety equipment.

Out is the old 3.5-liter V6 engine, and in is a new a 2.0 turbocharged variable compression (VC-T) four-cylinder engine. Another change is an improved, sportier 2.5-liter direct-injection four cylinder engine. Both powerplants are designed to add performance through improved technology, while offering added fuel efficiency.

Nissan makes strategic decision to up technology ante

It is easy to see where this strategic decision is coming from. American consumers hold Japanese automotive technology in high regard, awarding Toyota, Honda and Nissan the top three sales slots in this sedan category. The three Japanese giants sell a lot of cars on a monthly basis, and even if the margins on these vehicles are thin, the sheer volume means this remains an extremely important category.

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Assembled in the U.S. in Smyrna, Tennessee, the new Altima is designed to keep the sedan sales coming. A key target: cost-conscious and fuel-conscious young adults at the beginning of their car ownership cycles. But as the Honda, Toyota and Nissan sedan models continue to cede market share to their crossover SUV brand siblings, Nissan realized that a standard update to the Altima wasn’t going to cut it. The result of this strategy is the largest investment Nissan has ever made in a new platform, new powertrain, new design and new safety tech to try to woo the remaining sedan buyers.

Improved driving performance

After driving the 2019 Nissan Altima, we’d say the strategy has a decent shot at succeeding. The new 2.0-liter VC-T boasts 248 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque, which is a slight and largely unnoticeable decrease from the V6. The 2.5-liter goes from 179 in the previous version to 188 horsepower and brings with it 180 pound-feet of torque. Both engines are equipped with Nissan’s Xtronic transmission with paddle shifting options on the SR. An all-wheel-drive (AWD) option is available for all 2.5-liter trims.

The car performed well in the winding rural roads outside Simi Valley in Southern California, and on the nearby highways as well. Improvements in steering and chassis control will give the driver added confidence in all driving conditions, and those in colder climates will like the AWD option.

Both the exterior and the interior are newly designed and newly styled. The new Altima sits lower, longer and wider than its predecessor, with a two-inch increase in wheelbase. Its new body has cleaner lines, which drew inspiration from entries in a global design contest. On the inside the roomier feel is noticeable sitting in both the front and back seats, with more legroom in the back due to the increase in wheelbase.

Enhanced Safety Features

Nissan’s heavily promoted ProPilot Assist is a driver-assistance and safety feature that will no doubt garner a lot of attention as the 2019 Nissan Altima rolls out its launch in the coming months. Already available on the new Leaf and Rogue, this enhanced “hands on” driver-assist system is designed for limited-access highways but it is not considered a “self-driving” feature. The idea is to give a fatigued driver extra confidence in heavy traffic in certain driving conditions. An Intelligent Driver Alertness system will be activated and warn the driver by buzzing the steering wheel if it detects the driver’s attention is waning.

Another safety feature we think Altima drivers will really value is the Rear Automatic Braking system, which is part of the Safety Shield 360 systems. When the car is in reverse and the sensors detect a hazard, the driver will receive visible and audible warnings. If the driver fails to respond the car will slow itself, issue another warning and then completely stop before colliding with the rear hazard. The other features of Safety Shield 360 are blind spot warning, lane departure warning, high beam assist pedestrian detection and rear cross traffic alert. We experienced firsthand some of the new features, and we were impressed.

View our look at the Honda Accord

The new 2019 Nissan Altima also comes with infotainment system upgrades that include an eight-inch screen, NissanConnect, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto and options for an upgraded speaker system and navigation.

The 2019 Nissan Altima will ship to dealer showrooms this fall. The S trim level starts at $23,750, and pricing goes all the way to the limited Edition One model that will run about $36,000. The EPA estimates on the new 2019 Altima are 29 mpg in the city and 34 mpg on the highway. This new 2019 Altima is a bold effort from Nissan, and unless shifting preferences in younger new car buyers really makes all sedans obsolete, there is no reason to think it won’t pay off.

Read our review of the Nissan Rogue SUV