Who in the world said family sedans needed to be boring? Whoever they were, they must not have driven the 2010 Nissan Altima 3.5 SR. The new performance Altima is still a perfect family sedan and one of the best cars to drive in its segment.
The new Altima gets some minimal surgery and it would take a person with incredible eyes to find most of the changes. Yet, what Nissan did is make the car more aggressive and, we have to say, the 3.5 SR looks quite good.
Some of the new toys for 2010 include a newly shaped hood and “T-grille” that give the car a wings sort of look. A new front bumper, and what Nissan refers to as the “license plant finisher”, is at the rear. The taillights are some of best in class, with sharp angles and different colored lights. From the side, the new 17-inch alloy wheels help give the sedan a planted look.
Nissan gives buyers a few engine options to choose from. First, there is a 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder that produces 175 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. This motor is capable of 23 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on the highway. This version of the Altima isn’t our favorite, as the engine doesn’t quite have the power to compete with the new Hyundai Sonata or the great noise of the Subaru Legacy.
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There is also a 3.5-liter V6 and a 2.5-liter gas/electric hybrid that makes 159 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. The hybrid manages to get 35-mpg city and 33 on the highway. So the Altima is not as good as the Ford Fusion hybrid, but better than the Toyota Camry.
Our test car for the week was the 3.5 SR CVT. What used to be called the 3.5 SE features a wonderful 3.5-liter V6 with 270 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The engine is connected to a Xtronic continuously variable transmission with an “advanced, performance-tuned controller with adaptive logic”. We like the CVT in this sedan, but it would be better suited as an option, as sometimes it’s nice to hear the car shift when driving aggressively. There is a sport shift mode that is quick and very responsive.
Mileage really doesn’t matter in a car like this because the only reason you would buy this Altima is for the power and forget the rest. Expect to get 20-mpg city and 27 highway. Put the Altima 3.5 SR on the scale and you should see around 3,357 pounds.
On the road, the Altima is brilliant. It soaks up the hard bumps in just the right manner. Not too soft like the Camry, but not that hard either. Road feel is good and you can even feel what the car is doing through the wheel, something that is seriously lacking on most midsize sedans.
The power-rack and pinion steering with speed sensitive controls is mated with MacPherson struts in the front and multi-link in the back. This combination gave us some of the best handling we have seen on a family sedan.
Inside, the Altima lets itself down a bit. Some of the plastics are a bit hard and flimsy and the cup holder resize thing is just stupid for a car of this price. We don’t want to take out plastic bits to make a smaller cup fit. Plus, there is no where to put the plastic bit that you took out to make that cup fit. There is also way too much black and not enough unique design. This is a bland showing at best for the Nissan Altima SR.
On the plus side, the seats are very nice to sit in and the Bose sound system is wonderful. So is Nissan’s optional navigation system. It was easy to use and even warned us of a thunderstorm warning in the area. The hard drive can store up to 9.3 GB of music, which is handy because the iPod jacks are in the center storage bin and wouldn’t load the music from our Droid phone.
Setting up the Bluetooth in the Altima was a piece of cake. Push a few buttons on the steering wheel and the center stack then enter a few codes and boom, connected.
The 2010 Nissan Altima SR is a real winner in the driving department. It’s fast and handles better than most sedans of the same size. It looks great from the outside and the stereo is stunningly good. That being said, this is the only Altima we would recommend. The base models suffer from a more boring interior and a bland engine. Even this $31,900 SR version could use an interior refresh.
The base price for the SR is $24,520.