2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL: Around the Block

Patrick M Hoey

Various staff members wrench on Mazda Miatas, race hulking Mercedes-Benz SUVs on ice (it was a long winter, we got cabin fever), and wake up very early on Sundays to watch Formula 1 races live. We are, after all, a staff of auto enthusiasts.

So there was little competition for the keys of the mild-mannered 2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL when it passed through our short-term fleet this spring. An enthusiast car it is not. But we can say it drove well, it’s comfortable, and in top-of-the-range SL trim, it’s a premium car. Most would say it’s decent looking, with some design flourishes and nothing really offensive, inside or out.

And that’s exactly what it should be. Nissan isn’t trying to sell cars to writers at car magazines; it’s trying to sell cars to regular, hard-working Americans who want as much car as possible for their money. The Altima delivers, and that’s why it’s the third-best-selling car in its segment, after the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord.

For this stint, we tested a well-equipped Altima with the 182-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine powering the front wheels through a continuously variable transmission. After conducting a Four Seasons test of a V-6-powered Altima (six-cylinder mid-size sedans are quickly going the way of disposable cameras), which also has the CVT as its only transmission choice, we wanted to spend some time with the four-cylinder model. Options on this car were a moonroof ($800) and the Technology Package ($1090), which lifted the sticker to $30,625. This Altima had an attractive black and cream interior with some leather trim and tasteful use of faux wood accents. “It feels a lot more plush than other mid-size sedans,” associate web editor Eric Weiner says. “A fairly loaded Altima feels legitimately premium. Compared to other entries, the Altima is the most finished.”

The Altima’s curvy styling is more distinctive than the previous generation’s, punctuated by shiny, 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels, lots of chrome trim, and wraparound headlights. There’s nothing to be ashamed of when you pull up to the valet. Plus, you can put tons of stuff in an Altima. One of our staffers loaded two huge suitcases for a five-day trip to Florida, which this midsize car handled easily. For simple, normal, family-oriented chores, the Altima is a winner, though to hot shoes, it’s boring. “It out-Camrys the Camry,” associate web editor Joseph Capparella says. So it’s also a solid, well-rounded sedan, which is what matters in this segment.

2014 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL

Base Price $28,550
Price as tested $30,625
Engine 2.5-liter in-line four-cylinder
Power 182 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque 180 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm
Transmission Continuously variable
Drive Front wheel
Fuel economy 27/38 mpg (city/highway)
I've often pondered buying an Altima, having owned one of the first gen versions (97).  The one I test drove performed well.  My worry with the CVT is not drone or performance related...it's long term durability.  Are CVTs as reliable over the course of 100k miles as a good conventional automatic?  Can you put 150k miles on a CVT car without fear of failure?  I'd love to see some long term data on how well CVTs hold up compared to conventional automatics.
very nice to see a car mag not bitching about the CVT

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