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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
[by Robert Farago]
Jalopnik Reviews: 2006 Nissan Altima SE, Part 1 [internal]