Altima gets a styling upgrade for 2005

December 31, 2004|by MALCOLM GUNN/Wheelbase Communications

Nissan certainly got it right when its third-generation Altima was introduced three years ago.

The updated 2005 version is quicker and has received a number of key improvements that make it an even sweeter deal.

In 2002, the sedan competition was blindsided by the Altima's classy looks and potent inline four-cylinder and optional V-6 engines. It was a leading-edge family ride that left other weaker-kneed midsized four-doors in the dust, even the old Altima it replaced. In fact, even some near-luxury cars costing thousands more were plainly embarrassed by what was once an innocuous five-passenger chariot that rarely warranted a second glance.

Now with its reputation enhanced and sales charting upward, Nissan seems determined to prevent the Altima from growing stale or, worse still, boring. The company has also listened to current Altima owners as well as the critics who have expressed some minor gripes about the vehicle's plasticky interior. Beyond dealing with that issue, the Altima gets a general refreshening of its basic design, some new options and the introduction of a sporty SE-R model.


Inside the already spacious cabin, the Altima now projects a higher quality image with a richer looking instrument panel, console and revised trim pieces. The seat fabrics have also been upgraded and a classier three-spoke steering wheel with a tilt and telescoping feature has been fitted.

While they were at it, Nissan's designers also tinkered with the Altima's facade, installing new headlamps, taillight, grille and wheels.

Although the base engine is a 175-horsepower (170 horses in California-certified cars) 2.5-liter four-cylinder that carries over unchanged from last year, the optional 3.5-liter V-6 receives an extra five ponies for '05 for a total of 250. Both are ranked at the top of their class in terms of strength, a fact that helps keep the Altima on a lot of buyer's short lists during lot-shopping time.

Either motor can be connected to a five-speed manual transmission while the optional automatic depends on the engine: four forward gears with the four-cylinder; and five with the V-6.

To further bolster the Altima's image, Nissan has also pulled a few performance strings to create the SE-R, a leaner, meaner street machine that flexes its muscles to the tune of 260 horsepower that's extracted from the same optional V-6 that propels the rest of the Altima clan.

In fact, this quicker, slicker Altima comes dangerously close to equaling the top-kick Maxima sedan that struts its stuff with an impressive 265 horsepower.

Beyond the extra punch, the more athletic SE-R features a six-speed manual gearbox (a no-extra-cost five-speed automatic can be substituted), heated sport bucket front seats, leather interior, drilled aluminum foot pedals, additional instrumentation, xenon headlights and 18-inch wheels. You'll also know an SE-R by its distinctive nose piece, side body kit, darker tail lights, beefy brakes (with SE-R lettering on the calipers) and a less restrictive exhaust system.

In base trim, the Tennessee-built Altima arrives with air conditioning, power windows, mirrors and door locks and four-wheel disc brakes. From that point, the available option and extra-cost feature packages run the gamut up to a new-for-'05 DVD-based navigation system. In other words, you can keep it basic or head on up to luxury street where Nissan would be pleased to load you up with the latest gear.

All of the Altima's revised base and available content combined with its new looks and pumped-up SE-R power package further entrenches this Nissan as a leader - if not the leader - in its class.

Copyright 2004, Wheelbase Communications

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