We live in exciting times: The new Nissan Altima is replacing its big 3.5-liter V6 for a 2.5-liter four, and it’s making up the difference not just with a turbo but also with a 2.0-liter variable compression engine.

This is tech we’re starting to see proliferate across the auto industry. First we saw very, very high compression from Mazda, then we got variable compression from Infiniti.

Now the tech is trickling down to ordinary Nissans by the look of things.


Here’s how Nissan explains it:

Replacing the previous-generation Altima’s 3.5-liter V6 engine is the company’s world’s first production-ready variable compression turbo inline 4-cylinder. The engine delivers near V6-level performance with 4-cylinder fuel economy. Standard on all 2019 Altima grade levels is a new 2.5-liter DOHC inline 4-cylinder direct-injection engine. More than just the gains in horsepower and torque, the new engine offers improvements in noise, vibration and harshness, along with enhanced fuel economy and cleaner emissions.

Hm. That doesn’t really explain variable compression. Luckily for us, Nissan spent quite a bit more time explaining how this engine works when it first showed it off for the Infiniti QX50 crossover thing:

The ingenuity of VC-T engine technology lies in its ability to transform itself and seamlessly raise or lower the height the pistons reach. As a consequence, the displacement of the engine changes and the compression ratio can vary anywhere between 8:1 (for high performance) and 14:1 (for high efficiency). The sophisticated engine control logic automatically applies the optimum ratio, depending on what the driving situation demands.


That’s better. It’s going to be extremely interesting to see how this tech works not just in a press release or in a luxury car, but in a completely ordinary commuter like this Nissan Altima. Remember, “downsized” engines like this have been huge disappointments in the past.

It does, however, make a big and important addition: all-wheel drive. Via Automotive News:

The addition of all-wheel drive may be the new car’s most startling change. The move pits the Altima harder against Ford’s all-wheel-drive Fusion sedan while also separating itself from the Camry and Accord. The feature additionally challenges Nissan’s smaller Japanese rival, Subaru, which has turned all-wheel drive into a brand cornerstone.

The Altima uses the all-wheel-drive technology of the Rogue crossover, the nameplate that has overtaken the Altima as Nissan’s best-selling product.


Can it fight Subaru and steal some sales from the Camry and Accord with these goodies? We’ll see.



Update: This post has been updated to clarify the 2.0-liter engine is the one with variable compression, and to add that the car is getting AWD.