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Road Test: 2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL

Nissan’s Biggest Seller – Almost in the 40 MPG club

Designed and built in the United States, the 2014 Altima is Nissan’s best-selling vehicle and there is no wondering why the driving public has taken to this car. With Infiniti-like styling, excellent fuel economy and a smooth engine and seamless transmission, this midsize car should be at the top of your shopping list.

Drivetrain

The front-wheel drive 2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL is powered by a 2.5-liter, DOHC, 16-valve, four-cylinder engine producing 182 hp through the Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), delivering an EPA rating of 27 city/38 highway/31 combined mpg. The CVT is the only transmission offered, but there is an engine option of the 3.5-liter V6 that produces 270 hp and has available paddle shifters for sporty driving. The V6 has a fuel economy rating of 22/31/25. Both

2014,Nissan,Altima,midsize

Altima has muscled its way into the midsize mix

engines use regular gasoline.

In 320 miles of 85-percent/15-percent highway/city driving I averaged 28.8 mpg. At this average, the 18 gallon fuel tank would get you almost 520 miles away from home.

So why is Clean Fleet Report reviewing a gasoline-powered car as we primarily feature alternative fuel vehicles or high-mileage gas cars? We felt the Altima, with the 2.5-liter engine, was newsworthy if you are looking for a family sedan that gets excellent fuel economy for its size category. Gasoline-powered cars are creeping up to the fuel economy numbers delivered by hybrids and clean diesels, so wewill feature gasoline-powered vehicles occasionally when they merit the attention and recognition.

Driving Experience: On the Road

The four-door Altima weighs in at 3,230 pounds with a 60/40 front-to-rear weight distribution. The handling was pleasing and efficient on any surface and speed with the 17-inch wheels, Michelin tires, electrohydraulic power-assisted steering and upgraded Sachs shocks. It is always tricky trying to find the balance between a premium highway ride and tight steering. Nissan has done a good job dialing in a compromise with their Active Understeer Control that, when sensing under and over steer, gently applies the brakes to the inside wheels resulting in tighter turning when cornering hard

2014,Nissan,Altima,styling

Coming at you with style

and sharp. Without the ability to turn off this feature, it is hard to tell exactly how well it works, but, after pushing the car on cloverleaf freeway ramps and finding a few twisties, I can say the Altima goes where you point it with control and confidence. One knock on the Altima’s steering is it could offer more feel for the road and there should be an increase in effort when cranking sharp turns. This lack of feedback detracts from the Altima’s ride and is probably the result of over-engineering the electronic steering system.

The Altima has rear torsion bars and stabilizer bars at both ends, power-assisted disc brakes all around, and Nissan’s Electronic Brake Force Distribution system that adjusts brake proportioning to compensate for added weight from passengers or cargo and even adjusts as fuel is consumed.

In other reviews you will see I find driving a CVT-equipped car to be a good experience as they are smooth and help deliver higher fuel economy. The 2.5-liter with the CVT delivers peppy acceleration and smooth freeway cruising, both of which are achieved without ever feeling a shift point. The drawback to this engine/transmission combination is that at low rpms there is a very noticeable and annoying drone that fills the cabin. This can happen when cruising around town at low speeds or on the freeway when needing to accelerate to pass a slower vehicle or to climb a mountain. You never really get used to it but, that is what the radio volume knob is for!

Driving Experience: Exterior

The Nissan Altima was completely redesigned for the 2013 model year and the 2014 version carries over with no changes. The redesign brings with it cues from Nissan’s Maxima and their Infiniti premium line. In the very crowded and competitive midsize class with Honda Accord, Hyundai Sonata, Ford Fusion and Toyota Camry, the Altima has the best look of them all.

Nissan calls this their “Class Above” appeal. Good marketing slogans aside, the Altima catches your eye with a wide stance, a short front overhang, a steeply raked windshield and a long sloping roofline ending with a short trunk lid. Chrome trim is judiciously used as accent pieces, including dual exhaust tips, and is kept to a tasteful minimum leading to a contemporary and pleasing silhouette.

Driving Experience: Interior

The Altima interior has a conservative, non-flashy or techie, but upscale look and feel, with soft materials and surfaces presented with an attention to detail. As with the exterior, chrome accent pieces are kept to a minimum and, on our SL model, the leather seats and heated steering wheel carried the upscale feeling very close to luxury.

2014,Nissan,Altima,rear seat

Room for three, but comfort for two

Nissan is proud of its front driver and passenger “zero gravity seats” that were designed using seating and posture research conducted by NASA. Yes, the space people. It seems NASA discovered that using an articulated seat shape with continuous support from the pelvis to the chest reduced fatigue. My experience with the heated, 8-way power driver seat with power lumbar was exactly what Nissan advertised—a quality seating position that after battling SoCal freeway traffic for a couple of hours left me feeling no fatigue.

The rear bench seat, which splits 60/40, accommodates three adults. For longer trips or commutes, two adults would be a better arrangement to guarantee a comfortable ride aided by the fold down center armrest, 12V power outlet, rear heating and cooling vents and multiple cup holders.

Driver sight lines are excellent with large windows and no blind spots.

The dash and center stack have a nicely laid-out combination of knobs, switches and buttons that are all within easy reach. Our SL model had the optional Technology Package with a 7-inch color

2014,Nissan,Altima,dash

Nothing unusual here, but it works

display, navigation and rearview monitor. The nine-speaker Bose premium audio system came with SiriusXM (three-month trial subscription), AM/FM/CD, USB port with iPod connectivity, aux-in jacks and Bluetooth for streaming audio and hands-free telephone use. The Homelink auto-dimming rearview mirror is standard on the SL model. Nissan also offers the optional Hands-free Text Messaging Assistant where pre-set, voice activated responses to incoming text messages are sent to the caller. You can even make custom responses when the car is in Park and the parking brake is engaged. The voice recognition system, used for placing calls, was as good as any I have tested.

The Clean Fleet Report Altima 2.5 SL came with all the expected comfort and convenience features such as heated, power outside mirrors with turn indicators, one touch up-and-down power windows, power door locks, steering wheel mounted audio, telephone and cruise control, 12V power port and push button ignition.

Safety and Convenience

The 2014 Altima 2.5 SL came with safety and convenience features including Nissan’s Intelligent Key with remote keyless entry and engine start, TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring System), multi-reflector halogen headlights, eight airbags, cruise control, illuminated entry, Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), traction control, ABS, individual tire pressure display, fog lights, LED rear taillights, blind spot and lane departure warning and moving object detection. One fun and very nice feature, that is standard on all Altima models, is the Easy Fill Tire Alert system that beeps at the correct tire pressure when putting air into the tire. No more trusting the unreliable pressure gauge on the gas station air hose.

Pricing and Warranties

Base pricing for the seven 2014 Nissan Altima models:

2.5                        $22,170

2.5 S                     $22,690

2.5 SV                   $24,340

2.5 SL                   $27,920

3.5 S                     $26,320

3.5 SV                   $28,520

3.5 SL                   $30,820

The 2.5 SL model we were driving had the Moonroof and Technology Packages and carpeted floor and cargo mats, bringing the price to $30,830.

All prices are MSRP and do not include the $810 Destination Charge.

The 2014 Nissan Altima comes with these warranties:

  • 3-year/36,000-mile  Basic
  • 5-year/60,000-mile  Drivetrain
  • 5-year/unlimited-mileage  Corrosion

Observations: 2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL

When an auto manufacturer touts a model as being “All New” it is necessary to not get wrapped-up in the hoopla and see what is so different from the old model. When Nissan released the completely redesigned Altima in 2013 it was truly,

2014,Nissan,Altima

A package worth considering

all new, and quickly became the new benchmark for the midsize class, reaching unprecedented sales levels in the U.S.

Two engines, one transmission, three trim levels. That’s it, no racking your brain trying to understand a myriad of numbers and letters.

The 2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL Clean Fleet Report drove for a week is all the car you would want – or need – in a midsize sedan. Comfortable, room for five adults, excellent fuel economy and styling that stands-out from the crowd. With the optional (highly recommended) Technology Package, and in the SV model with cloth interior, the Altima can be had for around $26,000. With the average 2014 new car costing $30,300, the Altima looks really good—delivering a total package of convenience, safety, style and fuel economy.

Whatever you buy, Happy Driving!

Related midsize sedan stories you might enjoy:

Road Test: 2014 Toyota Camry Hybrid

Overview: 2014 Chevy Malibu with Start-Stop System

Comparison Test: 2014 Toyota Prius vs. Prius Plug-in

Road Test: 2014 Honda Accord Hybrid

 

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About Author: John Faulkner

John Faulkner is an automotive marketing professional with more than 30 years experience branding, launching and marketing automobiles. He has worked with General Motors (all Divisions), Chrysler (Dodge, Jeep, Eagle), Ford and Lincoln-Mercury, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan and Toyota on consumer events and sales training programs. His interest in automobiles is broad and deep, beginning as a child riding in the back seat of his parent's 1950 Studebaker. He has a keen appreciation of Art Deco design, no bias for domestic versus foreign makes and loves competition - whether that be F1, IndyCar, Sports Cars, NASCAR or participating in Track Days at places such as Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Thunderhill or Willow Springs. John lives in Dana Point, CA, and enjoys a top-down drive on PCH on an early Sunday morning.

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