Review: 2015 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL
The last generation (and the generation before that and before that…) Altima was so vanilla. As a commuter car and something to get your college student safely back and forth it served valiantly. When the 2015 Altima 2.5 SL arrived in our driveway, it offered a look that screamed, “more of the same,” at first. Then we drove it. Looks can be deceiving.
Under the Hood
The 2015 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL comes standard with a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes a respectable 182 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque. That power is sent to the front wheels through Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission. If you just have to have more oomph, the 3.5 SL gives you two more cylinders and almost 90 more horses at a cost of about four grand more.
The exterior design of the 2015 Altima somehow manages to look a little dated and a bit modern at the same time. The front end carries a feeling of been-there-done-that in that it looks a lot like the last generation Maxima. The profile however hints at a sportier direction Nissan may be going in the future with slightly bulging wheel wells and steeply raked, coupe-like back glass.
While it may not sound like it, the Altima’s appearance grew on us the more we spent time around it. We went from thinking the style was a bit vanilla to appreciating the simple lines and contours of the body that lent a subtle sophistication. Our tester came to us in Cayenne Red, a deep red/maroon color that not every vehicle can pull off. The contrast of the red and chrome accents Nissan has grown so fond of recently were a nice touch.
We felt the same about the inside of the Altima as we did the outside. We started ho-hum and ended not wanting to say goodbye when it was time to hand over the key fob. There is a simplicity to the design of the interior that ultimately manages to avoid boring and tend toward sophisticated.
The Altima is just about the biggest in its category and the size carries over into a massive trunk. Your regular groceries will only take up a portion of the room back there. You might even be able to fit the monthly warehouse club haul in with room to spare.
The passenger compartment benefits from the size as well. Four adults fit inside comfortably in the surprisingly roomy sedan. All the seats fit our comfort ideal: comfortable without being squishy and sporty without being too firm. Nissan manages supportive seats that keep one’s fanny in place during moderately dynamic driving without the constant sports car hug of aggressive bolstering.
Fit and finish were good with interior materials having a soft touch feel with no hard edges. The overall layout of the interior seemed well thought out and very intentional for the most part; however, there were one niggling issue. The instrument panel dimmer switch was integrated into the dash above the driver’s left knee on a ledge or lip that jutted slightly out from under the far left HVAC vent and was next to the reset button for the trip odometer. The dimmer is a feature we use a lot and appreciated it being in an obvious spot. It’s often a bit of a “Where’s Waldo” among the other knobs and switches.
Our issue was with the ledge the switch was built into. Under the ledge, right at the driver’s left knee were the controls for some safety features like Blind Spot Monitoring, Lane Departure Warning, and a couple others. The controls were neatly hidden from view of all but the bendiest contortionist. These particular features are usually set-it-and-forget-it, but it is nice not to have to fold oneself to see them if you want to activate/deactivate them.
Our test vehicle came equipped with the Technology Package (a $1,090 upgrade) which means along with some safety technology it came with a 7” touchscreen with NissanConnect, Navigation and Mobile Apps. The apps are pretty much the same third party subscription apps most manufacturers allow access to. The system is pretty middle of the road, and realtively easy to get used to using while on the go.
The screen is flanked by analog controls which include a volume knob and a tuning knob (something we’ll never take for granted after driving a couple of other vehicles). Rows of buttons run vertically under the knobs to easily skip to the Home screen, Apps screen, and Navigation among others. The system is easy enough to use, but the design just looks tired. We expect to see a new Altima hit dealerships fairly soon based solely on some of the Altima’s design elements including the center stack.
HVAC controls are simple, easy to reach, and easy to use. The center console is straightforward with the shifter and two cupholders. In keeping with the Altima theme, it wasn’t terrible and it wasn’t great.
After yawning through the design elements, at least initially, we really weren’t sure what to expect when we got behind the wheel of the Altima. We were pleasantly surprised with its sportiness. The engine won’t have you blowing anyone’s doors off, but it was responsive and maybe even agile. The engine was quick thanks at least in part to the CVT which Nissan embraced so long ago.
The Altima held corners when pushed, and always felt surefooted with no wallowing or wandering through twists. It was a solid driver’s car without being so sporty you risk frequent run-ins with the local constabulary.
Important Numbers for Families
- 0 – Nissan’s Zero Gravity front seats are standard on all 2015 Altima trim levels and designed to help eliminate rear end fatigue on long road trips. We’re big fans of the seats, likening them to the seats in a Subaru Forester.
- 60/40 – Though the back seat is a bench, it does bend offering a cargo extension for oversized loads.
- 38 – The Altima’s 2.5L , 4-cylinger engine offers 38 mpg on the highway while their 3.5L V6 gets 32 mpg on the highway. If you’re taking a road trip and are looking to rent a sedan for the journey, keep these numbers in mind.
Family 5 Test
- Car Seats – Like it’s competitor, the 2015 Toyota Camry, the Altima stepped up to the challenge and comfortably sat two car seats in the rear. There wasn’t a spectacular amount of space for grandma between those seats but if squeezing in needs to happen, it can.
- Coffee Cups – The cupholders in the 2015 Altima aren’t anything special but they are perfectly placed next to the gearshift in the center console. That means no matter what the coffee you order, if it comes in a standard cup size and shape, it should fit and not block your ability to access the HVAC system.
- Luggage – The luggage storage space in the Altima isn’t going to win any awards but like other vehicles in the Nissan lineup, it has more space than it looks like it should from the exterior.
- Golf Clubs – A set of clubs easily fits across the backseat and in the trunk.
- Groceries – Without rear seat passengers, you can pack the Altima full with stops at all your favorites shopping destinations and still have a fair amount of room left over. Even when just using the trunk you won’t have to skimp on purchasing to get it all to fit.
If you are looking for an economical commuter sedan with comfortable room for four there are plenty of options on the market. If you want one that drives as if it may have something up its sleeve, the Altima may be your car. There is buzz though about a 2016/2017 redesign for the Altima. If some of the conceptual renderings we have seen are close to the new Altima, I might wait for it to make its appearance, especially if the drivetrain leaps as far ahead as the aesthetics.