Jalopnik Reviews: 2006 Nissan Altima SE, Part 2

Exterior Design ****
If Star Trek fans can get all excited about a Klingon ship's cloak of invisibility, I can give four-stars to the Altima for being the LAC (Least Objectionable Car) in the mid-market family sedan segment. My favorite (if that's the right word) part of the Altima's design is its relatively low hip-height; it gives the car a gentle hunkered-down look. The final star is withheld because the Nissan logo enjoys pride of place dead center in the Altima's snout, and man, does it look cheap.

Acceleration *****
There's nothing wrong with the way the 3.5-liter V6-powered Altima gets up and goes (save for a ridiculous amount of wheel-spinning torque steer). With 250 horses and an equal amount of torque, the Nissan delivers more passing power than a championship-winning high school football team, and plenty of lovely low down shove for, um, well, I think you get the point. So to speak.

Braking ***
A bit squidgy here — as if our test car had been journo-thrashed and drop-kicked through the goal posts of life (thank you Jesus). The Altima is also slightly prone to nose dive under driver's ed clipboard-hits-the-dash deceleration.

Ride ***
Our SE came with Z-rated Bridgestones. The Turanzas (from Turanzania) offered plenty of physical and emotional support during episodes of road rage. Even so, I reckon Nissan should have saved the athletic footwear and stiffer suspension settings for the SE-R, and left us fast old farts stirred, not shaken.

Handling ****
Although the equally front-wheel driven Fusion will certainly give an Altima driver pause for thought ("Why am I being chased by a disposable razor?"), the Nissan is a model cycle behind the Ford and just as good. (Expect to see the new Altima's competition doing a little weed-whacking this summer.) Of course, it's got nothing to do with the big O: oversteer. Even with the traction control disabled (physically challenged?), a tail-out Altima is a virtual impossibility — which is just as well, really. Why would you want to put the sprogs in harm's way, Britney?

Gearbox ****
The Altima's five-speed autobox knows the drill: easy does it or everything all at once. The only other salient aspect is the chrome surrounding the gate. A classy touch in an otherwise polymer-crazed car.

Audio/Video **
When, oh when will automotive manufacturers finally ditch displays that show you the station with digitized toothpicks? The head unit looks and feels like a budget blaster, and sounds like one too.

Toys *
I didn't expect toys in this car, just a few of the basic amenities: AC, central locking, one-touch windows (the envy of Cadillac Escalade owners), heated seats, power seats, power roof and... that's it. Still, while all the basics are there, you might-a-thunk that Nissan would do one thing — one thing — to surprise and delight their customers. I mean, GM sells Lucernes entirely on the basis of their heated window washer fluid. But no, the Altima's cabin was carefully crafted by Mssrs. Dull and Worthy.

Trunk ****
It's a big ass trunk. The final astral accolade falls afoul of my latest pet peeve: the amount of trunk openage triggered by the plipper, the sound created and the height of lid ascendancy. You push the button and the Altima's lid literally pops three-quarters of the way open. Help. I need life.

Overall: ***

[by Robert Farago]

Related:
Jalopnik Reviews: 2006 Nissan Altima SE, Part 1 [internal]