NEWS: 2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid

By Evan McCausland - March 18, 2009
0903 01 Z+2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid+badge
I forgot just how quiet hybrids are. Like, silent. As in, so silent when you start one, you turn it off and try again because you think nothing happened. So silent that it's like a party trick I perform for Lovely Rita and Ali at the parking garage downtown. Check this out! It's RUNNING. No, really!!
The Altima Hybrid would be a lot less amusing to me if it weren't such a perfectly normal Altima in everyday use. It looked normal. It drove fairly normally, although felt a bit clunky over rough pavement. Nice materials inside, solid Nissan design inside and out. No sackcloth and ashes here.
I actually got engaged in the act of saving fuel through the shaded orange area under the speedometer, where the Altima's range is constantly displayed and a small darker orange EV MODE box lights up just under 30 mph. Around town, I found myself feathering the throttle to keep that EV MODE light on. Because it was free!
After driving 100 miles, I'm pleased to report that the RANGE figure dropped only about 30 miles because of my diligent efforts at low speed. Okay. On to the Audi S5.
Jean Jennings, President & Editor-in-Chief
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Since it doesn't scream "hybrid!" the Altima Hybrid is almost the incognito hybrid, even more so than Toyota's subdued gas/electric Camry. A Hybrid badge on the Nissan's trunk and the power/charge display (less clear than Toyota's) on the instrument panel are about the only things that give away the green. I like the look, though, since the basic Altima is pretty attractive inside and out, in my opinion.
I drove the Altima for about 125 miles on a cold February weekend, but I averaged barely 26 mpg, according to the trip computer. That's extremely underwhelming, especially considering the car's 34-mpg combined EPA rating. I must disclose that I did let the car idle a fair amount, so as to warm the cabin prior to my infant daughter's entry into the Altima. But I would have at least expected a number near 30 mpg ...
I was also somewhat disappointed with the powertrain's surginess, particularly under moderate throttle at highway speeds; for instance, when the electric drivetrain parts cycled, I found my neck bobbing back and forth on several occasions. On the plus side, the CVT is quite smooth and undistracting. Also, although the Altima is no riot to drive, it is more fun and less wallowy than the Camry Hybrid. Plus, I was able to run in EV mode at speeds up to 40 mph, and I even reached 35 mph going uphill alongside Michigan Stadium. In the end, however, I prefer the Ford Fusion Hybrid's driving experience and styling.
Rusty Blackwell, Copy Editor
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Apart from the new Fusion, this is one of my favorite hybrids to drive, largely because it doesn't smack of being anything but a normal Altima. As my colleagues have noted, this means you're buying a car that's attractive, comfortable, and somewhat engaging over a long series of switchbacks. In my mind, the hybrid powertrain is but icing on an already tasty cake.
Although its hybrid system is licensed directly from Toyota, it appeased me moreso than the powertrain in the Camry Hybrid. Rusty's right, the transition between gasoline and electric power is a bit coarse, but Nissan's engineers understood that when drivers want power, they want power. Goose the throttle in the Altima Hybrid, and the I-4 and electric motor work in pair to deliver a formidable wall of torque to move the sedan up to highway speeds. That simply doesn't happen in the Toyota, which feels quite sedate in comparison.
Surprisingly, the Altima is also easier to keep in EV mode around town than the Camry. Slow starts and feathering the accelerator pedal can keep the car running off electricity up to 30 mph, but I found there's a better strategy: use the gasoline motor to accelerate up to 25 mph (this reduces the amount of road rage you'll witness), lift-off the gas pedal to shut the engine off, and gingerly accelerate. My approach may be a bit convoluted, but I regularly saw the Nissan silently reach speeds of 37-40 mph.
Evan McCausland, Web Producer
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2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid
Base Price (with destination): $27,345
Price as tested: $33,855
Options:
Convenience Package - $1300
- Rear Spoiler, Power Driver's Seat, Automatic Headlights, Leather-Wrapped Steering Wheel, Wood-Tone Trim Finishers
Connection Package - $3100
- Leather-Appointed Seats & Shift Knob, Heated Front Seats, Bose 6 CD Changer, Bluetooth Phone System, XM Satellite Radio, Rear A/C Vents
Technology Package - $2000
- Nissan Navigation System, Hybrid Energy Flow Display, XM NavTraffic, Rearview Monitor Floor Mats Set - $110
Fuel Economy: 35 / 33 / 34 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Engine: 2.5 Liter DOHC 4-Cylinder Engine
Horsepower: 198 hp (Net; Engine - 158 hp @ 5200 - 6000 rpm)
Torque: 162 lb-ft @ 2800 - 4800 rpm
Electric Motor: Permanent magnet AC synchronous, 40 hp
Net Horsepower: 198 hp
Transmission: Electronically controlled Continuously Variable
Weight: 3,471 lb
Wheel/Tire Info:
- 16" x 7.0" Aluminum-alloy wheels (size)
- P215/60TR-16 All-season tires
0903 03 Z+2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid+gauges

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