2011 Nissan Altima Review and Prices

Last Updated: Mar 7, 2011

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2011 Nissan Altima Buying Advice

The 2011 Nissan Altima is the best car for you if you’re comfortable with a frisky Nissan that’s not as fresh as it once was.

The 2011 Nissan Altima adds Special Edition and Alloy Wheel trim packages for the 2.5 S sedan and gains three new exterior colors (Metallic Slate, Saharan Stone, and Brilliant Silver). Otherwise, the 2011 Altima is unaltered from the 2010 Nissan Altima. The 2011 Altima returns in four-door sedan and two-door-coupe form. It remains the rascal of a popular triumvirate that includes the precision-tuned 2011 Honda Accord and the kinder, gentler 2011 Toyota Camry. Camry, Accord, and Altima -- in that order -- are the top sellers in the midsize-car class. It’s a wickedly competitive category in which the 2011 Ford Fusion and 2011 Chevrolet Malibu are nipping at Altima’s heels and the redesigned 2011 Hyundai Sonata is coming on fast.

Should you buy a 2011 Nissan Altima or wait for the 2012 Nissan Altima? Buy a 2011 Altima. By carrying over updates introduced with the 2010 model, the 2011 model gives Altima the styling and features that’ll see this fourth-generation design through to its model-year 2013 redesign. The 2012 Altima isn’t likely to change significantly from the 2011 model but it will be a year closer to the end of this generation’s life cycle. Buying a 2011 Altima means your car won’t feel dated quite as quickly as a 2012 might.

2011 Nissan Altima Changes back to top

Styling: Aside from some fresh shades of grey, silver and tan, the 2011 Nissan Altima sedan and coupe models are visual duplicates of their 2010 counterparts. The styling changes to the 2010 Altima were the first for this design generation, which launched as a sedan in model-year 2007 and added the coupe in model-year 2008. The 2010 mid-cycle updates slightly altered the Altima sedan’s hood and grille and gave it new wheels; the coupe gained a “projector beam” headlight design.

Altima’s clientele values expressive styling. But the confident lines and well-considered details that initially helped this Nissan stand out in the crowded midsize segment no longer look quite so original against more recently redone rivals, notably the Fusion and Malibu and especially the surprising 2011 Hyundai Sonata and the related 2011 Kia Optima.

The 2011 Altima sedan and coupe again share mechanical components, and the sedan continues to lend much of its underskin engineering to the upscale Nissan Maxima. The 2011 Altima sedan’s dimensions are average for a midsize four-door. The coupe has swoopier body work than the sedan and a four-inch-shorter wheelbase. With less distance between its front and rear axles, the Altima coupe is slightly more agile than the sedan but has a smaller back seat and a stiffer ride. Among Altima rivals, only Accord offers a coupe in addition to a sedan, though sedans in this class sell in greater numbers by far.

The 2011 Altima sedan returns three models: the 2.5, 2.5 S, and 3.5 SR. The coupe repeats in 2.5 S and 3.5 SR form.

Mechanical: Nissan doesn’t tinker with a 2011 Altima foundation built on two gas engines and a gas-electric hybrid. Most Altima buyers opt for the four-cylinder engine and the 2011 Altima’s 2.5 sedan and 2.5 S sedan and coupe have had good success with their 175-horsepower 2.5-liter four. The 270-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6 in the 2011 Altima 3.5 SR sedan and coupe appeals to performance-minded drivers who can afford its higher cost and accept its propensity to spin the front tires in rapid takeoffs.

Indeed, front-wheel drive is the basis for the Altima and every other car in this class.

Front-drive puts the weight of the engine over the wheels that propel the car, which benefits snowy-surface traction and makes for efficient packaging. But in powerful cars like the 2011 Altima 3.5 SR, front-wheel drive can diminish steering precision during fast takeoffs. All-wheel drive is one solution, though it’s available in this class only as an option on the Ford Fusion and as standard on the Subaru Legacy. Driving enthusiasts tend to prefer the more equitable weight and traction balance afforded by rear-wheel drive. Rear drive tends to be the province of premium-class cars, such as the G37 from Nissan’s luxury Infiniti line.

Until model-year 2010, Altima had been among the few sedans in its competitive set to pair a six-cylinder engine with a manual transmission – a combination that bolstered its enthusiast-driver credentials. But low demand killed that combo, and now all Altima sedans come only with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). A CVT performs the duties of an automatic transmission but with a rheostat-like delivery of power rather than though a series of pre-set gear ratios. The intent is to more precisely match engine speed to power requirements for greater efficiency. With either engine, the 2011 Altima coupes are again available with a choice of the CVT or a six-speed manual transmission.

The 2011 Nissan Altima Hybrid is available only in California, Oregon, and New England, where exhaust-emissions standards are particularly stringent. The Altima Hybrid comes only as a sedan with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine in harness with an electric motor. No plug-in charging is necessary, net horsepower is 198, and the Altima Hybrid can drive on electricity alone at low speeds. Note that Nissan limits the Altima Hybrid’s sales to the 11 states that adhere to California’s stricter tailpipe emissions regulations (California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Maryland, and New Mexico).

Features: The 2011 Nissan Altima’s two new trim packages are exclusive to the most popular model in the lineup, the 2.5 S sedan equipped with the CVT. The Special Edition Package dresses things up with a leather-wrapped steering wheel, fog lamps, and a rear spoiler. The Special Edition package retains the four-cylinder model’s 16-inch wheel size, but replaces the standard steel rims with alloys.

The new Alloy Package fits the 2011 Altima 2.5 S sedan with the 17-inch aluminum wheels from the 3.5 SR models.

The 2011 Nissan Altima’s list of standard features includes four-wheel disc brakes with antilock technology to maximize control in emergency stops and traction control to limit wheel slip on takeoffs. Every 2011 Altima also comes with stability control designed to prevent sideways skids. Among returning available features are an audio system with a 4.3-inch color dashboard display screen, USB iPod connectivity, Bluetooth hands-free phone linking, XM satellite radio (subscription sold separately) and a rearview monitor. The available navigation system is a hard-drive setup with a 6.5-inch color display and map data that includes speed-limit advisories, Zagat restaurant guide, and XM NavTraffic and NavWeather (subscription sold separately). Navigation-equipped 2011 Altimas again come with 9.3GB of music storage and playback, USB connectivity, Bluetooth with audio streaming, and an RCA input for auxiliary audio/video connectivity.

Dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, xenon headlamps, and a power sliding glass moonroof return as standard or optional equipment on all 2011 Altimas except the base 2.5 sedan. All 2011 Altimas except the Hybrid also continue with a split/folding rear seatback.

2011 Nissan Altima Prices back to top

Base prices for the 2011 Nissan Altima continue near the lower end of the midsize-car spectrum thanks in part to some cost-cutting that’s evident mostly in the grade of cabin materials. The 2011 Altima’s starting prices range from $20,650-$30,850. (Base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee; Nissan’s is $750 for 2011 models.) Unlike most model lines that include a hybrid, the 2011 Altima Hybrid isn’t the most expensive car in the line – that distinction goes to the 2011 Altima 3.5 SR coupe.

The 2011 Nissan Altima 2.5 model starts at $20,650. The 2.5 model comes only as a sedan and includes among its standard features the CVT, air conditioning, power windows, locks, and mirrors, cruise control, tilt/telescoping steering wheel, manual driver’s seat height adjuster, and an outside-temperature indicator. The only factory option available on this version is a set of aluminum kick plates for $170.

The 2011 Nissan Altima 2.5 S returns in coupe and sedan form. Base prices are $22,810 for the sedan, $23,690 for the coupe. The 2011 2.5 S models build on 2.5 sedan equipment by adding such standard features as remote keyless entry with pushbutton ignition and a CD audio system that includes an auxiliary jack for digital players. Options on the Altima 2.5 S include a premium audio system bundled with a rearview monitor and Bluetooth interface for $1,240, the aforementioned Special Edition Package for $750, and a Technology package that includes the navigation system and digital music storage for $1,780.

The sporty 2011 Nissan Altima 3.5 SR models expand on 2.5 S equipment to include the V-6 engine as well as a power driver’s seat, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, heated outside mirrors with turn-signal indicators, and a firmer, performance-tuned suspension.

The 2011 Altima 3.5 SR sedan starts at $25,490 and the 2011 Altima 3.5 SR coupe has a base price of $28,520. The 3.5 SR coupe’s steeper price reflects its higher level of standard equipment, including its own alloy wheels and low-profile tires, plus features that are optional on the 3.5 SR sedan, including the power moonroof, xenon headlamps, and rear spoiler.

The Technology package for the 2011 Altima 2.4S and 3.5SR sedan and coupe costs $1,780. The 3.5SR sedan can be equipped with a Sport Package for $2,370 that includes the moonroof, fog lights, and high intensity headlamps, while a Premium Package fully loads up the V-6 sedan or coupe for $2,380 and $1,420, respectively.

Base price for the 2011 Nissan Altima Hybrid is $27,530. Its standard equipment mirrors the 2.5 S sedan’s but adds antiskid and traction control, dual-zone climate control, and alloy wheels.  The Technology Package is also offered here for the same price as with the rest of the line, while the Premium Package costs $4,230.

2011 Nissan Altima Fuel Economy back to top

Altima’s fuel-economy ratings once were at the upper range of the midsize class, thanks in large measure to the efficiencies of the CVT. Over the last year or so, however, rivals have tweaked engines, revised transmission gear ratios, and improved aerodynamics while Altima has essentially tread water. The result: the 2011 Altima’s gas mileage is roughly mid-pack among midsize non-hybrid cars.

With the CVT, four-cylinder 2011 Altima sedans and coupes are unchanged at 23/32 mpg city/highway. With the six-speed manual transmission, the four-cylinder 2011 Altima coupe retains a 23/31-mpg rating.

Fuel economy ratings for 2011 Altima 3.5 SR sedans and coupes equipped with the CVT repeat at 20/27 mpg. The 2011 Altima 3.5 SR coupe with the six-speed manual repeats at 18/27 mpg.

The 2011 Nissan Altima Hybrid is at its most fuel-efficient in around-town driving. Ratings of 35/33 mpg city/highway reflect how the hybrid maximizes gas mileage by driving on electric power alone at low speeds and its ability to automatically switch the engine off and on when the vehicle is stopped. All Altima models use regular-octane gas.

2011 Nissan Altima Release Date back to top

The 2011 Nissan Altima went on sale in September 2010.

What's next for the 2011 Nissan Altima back to top

With a model-year 2013 redesign in the wings, Nissan could send the fourth-generation Altima out with a bang by unleashing a 2012 Altima SE-R. An SE-R performance edition was unveiled late in the third-generation Altima’s product cycle. A 2011 SE-R could borrow some tuning tricks that give the Maxima’s version of this 3.5 V-6 290 horsepower. Also likely would be stiffer suspension settings and other tweaks to make the 2012 Altima SE-R handle better and perhaps special trim to help it look nastier.

As for the fully redesigned 2013 Altima, it’ll retain front-wheel drive but don’t rule out an all-wheel-drive variant despite Nissan’s apparent policy of reserving AWD for its premium Infiniti line. Altima’s wheelbase could grow to improve interior room, but exterior dimensions won’t change dramatically. Drama is likely the byword for the 2013 Altima’s styling, however: Nissan must reassert this car’s cutting-edge cred.

A four-cylinder engine will remain the next-generation Altima’s primary powerplant. Expect better fuel-efficiency and probably more power from the four – perhaps augmented by an available turbocharged version. Some industry insiders say six-cylinder engines are on the way out in the midsize-car class. It’ll be interesting to see whether Nissan believes the next-generation Altima needs to offer a V-6 to remain viable with performance-oriented buyers. A gas-electric Altima hybrid model is very likely, and it probably won’t be limited to sales in just a few of the most emissions-restrictive regions. Nissan is working on its first home-grown hybrid powertrain (today’s Altima borrows Toyota technology).

2011 Nissan Altima Competition back to top

2011 Honda Accord: With a basic design introduced for model-year 2008, Accord is beginning to feel its age. Still, it arguably remains the midsize-class benchmark for handling, spaciousness, and value – if not for styling, despite a minor facelift for 2011. Front-drive sedans and coupes with outstanding four- and six-cylinder engines continue. No hybrid is on the horizon. Accord’s 2011 fuel economy tops out at 23/34 mpg with the four-cylinder, 19/30 with the V-6. Base price range is $21,930-$30,480. Accord’s next full redesign is due for model-year 2013.

2011 Toyota Camry: Toyota’s battling to preserve Camry’s good reputation in the wake of the sudden-acceleration recalls. By most lights, though, this remains a very attractive value in a roomy and well-built sedan. Four-cylinder models are ideal family cars and rate 22/32 mpg with automatic transmission. V-6s rate 19/28 and, top-line V-6 Camrys are basically bargain-priced Lexus ES350s. The 2011 Camry Hybrid is a good performer and rates 33/34 mpg city/highway. All Camrys neuter driving excitement in the service of isolation and refinement – a worthwhile mission, even if critics won’t admit it. Base price range is $20,480-$30,130. Camry’s next full redesign is expected for the 2012 model year.

2011 Hyundai Sonata: Don’t overlook the Ford Fusion, which offers four- and six-cylinder engines, plus a 41/36-mpg-rated hybrid. But with four-cylinder/automatic-transmission sedans accounting for the lion’s share of midsize-car sales, it’s hard to overlook the redesigned 2011 Sonata. Nothing in the class is more boldly styled, roomier inside, or outfitted with higher-quality cabin materials. What may really set this South Korea brand’s U.S.-built sedan apart is a powertrain lineup consisting solely of four-cylinder engines and six-speed manual and automatic transmissions. The workhorse gas version tops out at 23/35 mpg, the 274-horsepower turbo at 22/34, and the gas-electric hybrid at 37/39. Base prices start at $19,915.

UPDATED BY JIM GORZELANY