After crisscrossing the upper Midwest in its early days with us, our Four Seasons Nissan Altima has now spent significant time closer to home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which means that staff members have logged a wealth of first impressions.
"Comfort" is by far the word that has come up most often in describing the Altima. That's a good thing if you're crisscrossing states on long freeway journeys, but it's not necessarily so wonderful if you're an enthusiastic driver (like most of us at Automobile Magazine) who enjoys going out of his or her way to tackle the curviest roads around.
"The Altima is for the buyer who prioritizes comfort above all else," says senior editor Eric Tingwall. "This car is soft by every definition of the word. It leans in turns, wallows over big dips, and floats over imperfections. From the driver's seat, you get the impression that Nissan achieved exactly what it wanted to with this car. But the soft-and-smooth nature of the Altima isn't for me. It feels too large, too unresponsive, too imprecise. Sharp steering inputs are met with a lackadaisical turn-in, quick corners come with serious body roll, and stomping on the throttle comes with that unpleasant CVT wind-up."
"Eric is right," agrees associate web editor Donny Nordlicht. "This is a car for people who want plushness. The interior uses high-quality materials all over and feels very upscale. The seats cosset you in the same way a comfy chair does, and the Bose sound system is great. The suspension happily absorbs road imperfections -- the overall ride could be described as somewhere between pillowy and wallowy. In other words, for those who feel the 2013 Toyota Avalon is too sporty compared to the old one, this may be the car for them."
Drivers who spend most of their time on interstates also likely will be more than happy with the Altima's driving characteristics. "The Altima was made for highway cruising," says managing editor of digital platforms Jennifer Misaros. "The engine is quiet and responsive, and the CVT is always on the ready, so passing is a quick affair. The seats are divine, the trunk is roomy, the cabin is user-friendly and comfortable for full-size adults."
As it happens, the Altima also can be very comfortable for two adults and two young children in bulky child seats, as this writer proved while taking his kids to see Santa at Bronner's Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth, Michigan: "A very good family car, the Altima offers lots of rear-seat room and a sizable trunk. My kids can see out of the side windows fairly easily, which helps make trips more pleasant. Besides the comfort factor, I thought the Altima was a fitting car to visit Santa because of its bold red paint, attractive styling, and expansive space for a big guy who requires significant cargo space and seating space for the occasional raddled reindeer. I didn't have a chance to ask the real Santa what he thought of our Nissan, but a gigantic statue of his likeness seemed to approve."
In a car that's so smooth riding, it was extra easy to detect a wobbling bent wheel. We paid $180 to have it straightened, but a vibration still shakes the car from time to time, so we need to have the wheels checked out again. Don't blame Nissan, though -- blame Michigan's rough autumn roads.
Associate web editor Jake Holmes summarizes our primary first impressions of the Four Seasons Nissan Altima very well. "It may be somewhat dull and boring," he says, "but the Altima's pleasant and inoffensive demeanor will attract the sort of buyers who think of driving as a necessary evil." That's not us, but we're taking a tempered liking to the car anyway. In January, we'll let you know if Santa decides to trade his sleigh for our Altima.