2015 Nissan Altima Review and Prices
The 2015 Nissan Altima is the best car for you if you want a popular midsize sedan updated by tweaked styling and introduction of a unique hybrid model.
The 2015 Nissan Altima, still fresh from a model-year 2013 redesign, won’t rest on its success. Expect appearance updates and addition of a third powertrain choice -- a supercharged four-cylinder engine that’ll team with an electric motor to provide V-6-type power and four-cylinder-like fuel economy.
Should you wait for the 2015 Nissan Altima or buy a 2014 Nissan Altima? Wait for the 2015 Altima if you’re keen on the very latest look or you’re a hybrid fan and think Nissan will gain a competitive edge with its supercharged approach to green motoring. Buy a 2014 Altima if you need a well-sorted midsize sedan and aren’t leaning toward a hybrid. Nissan actually gave the ’14 Altima some insightful updates. And frankly, the 2015 model’s styling changes won’t be significant. But it will cost more than a 2014.
2015 Nissan Altima Changes back to top
Styling: The 2015 Nissan Altima’s styling changes would be limited to minor alterations to nose and tail. Expect perhaps a new grille insert or surround and a slightly reshaped front fascia. Changes at the rear would likely be confined to items like revised taillamp lenses. The 2015 Altima’s basic profile and proportions would be untouched, leaving it a midsize sedan with a wheelbase slightly shorter than the class average.
Wheelbase – the distance between the front and rear axles -- is pivotal to a vehicle’s passenger room. But astute packaging will help keep the 2015 Altima among the roomier cars in the category. The 2015 freshening could include revised cabin textures and graphics. Nissan, however, will continue to pursue a “class-above” ambience through touches like trendy piano-black trim panels and numerous soft-touch surfaces.
The 2015 Altima’s basic dashboard design won’t change. It’ll remain relatively conservative, with a display screen set between the main analog instruments and another in the central control “stack.” The screens in the 2015 Altima Hybrid, however, will get specific displays to track gas-electric energy flow and various fuel-consumption details.
Nissan discontinued Altima’s two-door sedan body style for model-year 2014, leaving the 2015 Altima a five-passenger sedan. Trunk volume should remain a class-average 15.4 cubic feet. But of note is that Nissan’s hybrid system is configured to consume as little cargo volume as possible. So the 2015 Altima Hybrid probably won’t suffer the luggage-space penalty associated with some rival gas-electrics.
In general, the 2015 Altima should return a broad lineup, with at least seven trim levels, plus the new hybrid. Look for gas-only Altimas to again be grouped by “2.5” four-cylinder models and “3.5” V-6 editions. Both categories probably will again include S, better-equipped SV, and top-line SL models. The 2.5 line may also reprise an entry-level model without a suffix.
Expect the 2015 Altima Hybrid to be offered in one of the uplevel trims, probably an SL equivalent, although Nissan might also make it available in a more affordable SV-type grade, as well.
The Hybrid could wear subtle aero-enhancing exterior touches. But styling distinctions among all 2015 Altimas should run primarily to wheel size and type: 16-inchers (alloys or with wheel covers) on 2.5 and 2.5 S models, available 17-inch alloys on 2.5 S and 2.5 SV and SL, and 18-inch alloys – or perhaps optional 19s -- on all 3.5 models. Upper-trim Altimas should also continue with fog lamps. And Hybrid and SL versions likely will have LED taillights and LED outside mirror turn signals.
Mechanical: The 2015 Nissan Altima will continue to rely on a four-cylinder gas engine for the lion’s share of volume. But along with the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Subaru Legacy, and Volkswagen Passat, the 2015 Altima will remain among the shrinking number of midsize cars to also offer a V-6 engine.
Addition of the 2015 Altima Hybrid will put this Nissan among the growing number of alternative-propulsion choices in the class. These include hybrid versions of the Accord and Camry, as well as the Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, and Kia Optima. (Further alternatives would include diesel-powered choices in the Passat and Mazda 6 lineups.)
Some speculation has a 1.8-liter turbocharged four-cylinder in Altima’s future; we don’t foresee it for model-year 2015. That would leave the 2015 Altima reliant on Nissan’s 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four, which is likely to repeat at 182 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque (think of torque as the muscle behind acceleration).
That output is competitive for similarly positioned four-cylinders, though Nissan would come abreast of the class leaders by adding to this engine direct fuel injection, a precision technology that introduces fuel directly into the cylinders to minimize fuel consumption and exhaust emissions and maximize power.
Expect the 2015 Altima’s V-6 to remain a 3.5-liter with 270 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Rivals employ turbocharged four-cylinder engines to approximate that output, but with better fuel economy. The V-6 fights back with less complexity and a more linear delivery of power.
The 2015 Nissan Altima Hybrid will borrow its powertrain from the one introduced in the 2014 Nissan Pathfinder Hybrid crossover. Nissan’s aim is maximum fuel economy, minimal exhaust emissions, and no compromise in performance or packaging. Indeed, expect the 2015 Altima Hybrid to have some 250 horsepower and 242 pound-feet of torque – not far off the V-6’s numbers.
It’ll be the first hybrid car to use a supercharger to boost power. The engine will be a 2.5-liter four-cylinder teamed with a 15-kilowatt electric motor. The system’s relatively compact lithium-ion battery will be located under the rear seat and in the forward portion of the trunk. The system will be capable of propelling the Altima on gas or electric power exclusively or in combination as determined by onboard programs set to find the best balance of fuel economy and acceleration.
Like a turbocharger, a supercharger delivers a high-density flow of air to the cylinders for more power. But a supercharger’s compressor is driven by the engine’s crankshaft rather than spooled by exhaust gasses, as in a turbocharger. Nissan engineers have told reporters a turbocharger would necessitate addition of direct fuel injection to the four-cylinder, which would drive up the system’s cost to consumers. An advantage of a supercharger versus a turbocharger is quicker delivery of low-rpm torque. That can translate into more responsive around-town acceleration.
All 2015 Altimas will again come only with a continuously variable transmission. A CVT performs the duties of an automatic transmission but with a pulley system instead of a fixed number of gear ratios. The ratios change continuously in an effort to more precisely match engine output with acceleration and fuel economy. A CVT drawback is its tendency to allow engine speed to zip ahead of actual vehicle speed, resulting in an annoying exhaust drone during rapid acceleration.
Nissan has given V-6-equipped Altimas steering-wheel paddle shifters that allow the driver a sense of manual gear control via seven simulated CVT “ratios.” If it detects a marketing advantage, the automaker could expend the resources to extend that capability to the four-cylinder versions for 2015.
Carrying over the CVT used in the Pathfinder Hybrid would equip the 2015 Altima Hybrid with Nissan’s Intelligent Dual Clutch System. This one-motor, two-clutch parallel setup manages power from both the electric motor and the gas engine. The motor is positioned between the engine and the CVT and can drive the car and function as a generator, conveying deceleration force from the CVT to the battery.
Regardless of powertrain, Nissan will continue to promote the 2015 Altima as a sporty front-wheel-drive midsize sedan. Front-drive helps packaging efficiency. And by concentrating weight of the powertrain over the tires that also propel the car, it aids traction in rain and snow. That weight balance, however, isn’t ideal for sporty handling. And by requiring the front tires to both steer and drive the car, front-drive can’t match the all-around road manners of rear-wheel-drive cars like BMWs.
Unlike the Fusion, Legacy, and Buick Regal, the 2015 Altima won’t be available with all-wheel drive. AWD would restore some handling balance and also absorb some of the torque steer – pulling to the side in rapid acceleration – that can tarnish the experience of driving a V-6 Altima.
Features: The 2015 Nissan Altima isn’t as likely to introduce new features as to continue to spread the most popular ones throughout the model line. With the 2013 redesign, Nissan brought Altima apace with leading rivals by offering for the first time such features as lane-departure and blind-sport warning systems, plus smartphone integration, including text-message reception.
For model-year 2014, it made improvements to existing features. For example, models equipped with the navigation system were upgraded with NissanConnect Apps for iPhone and Android smartphones. This included SiriusXM links to information on travel, weather, fuel prices, movie times, stock updates, and sports scores.
Nissan also expanded availability of modern essentials like a USB iPod connection beyond SV and SL models to the 2.5 S and 3.5 S. That came courtesy of a new display Audio Package that bundled such desirable items as NissanConnect, a 5-iinch color dashboard display, and a rearview monitor. And comfort-enhancers like rear air-conditioning vents were extended beyond the SV grade to become part of the Convenience Package option available on other models.
The 2015 Altima should maintain that trend while at the same time continuing to equip every model with features such as Bluetooth hands-free mobile-phone connectivity with streaming audio capability. Air conditioning, height-adjustable driver’s seat, tilt/telescoping steering column, outside-temperature indicator, and power windows, locks, and mirrors also will return as across-the-board standards.
Again on tap as standard or optional depending on the model will be leather upholstery, an eight-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar, a moonroof, heated front seats, dual-zone automatic climate control, remote engine start, and keyless entry with pushbutton ignition. Among notable returning features will be Nissan’s Easy Fill Tire Alert that toots the car’s horn to signal when proper pressure is reached during inflation.
The 2015 Altima’s navigation system will again use the 7-inch dashboard touchscreen, feature 3D mapping, and respond to voice commands and steering-wheel controls. It’ll incorporate NissanConnect, which enables smartphone-linked Pandora Internet radio reception and allows the audio system to read aloud incoming texts and the driver to respond with pre-set answers such as “driving, can’t text,” “on my way,” “running late,” “OK,” or a custom message.
All conventional-powertrain 2015 Altimas will again come with split/folding 60/40 rear seatbacks to enhance cargo versatility. The compact nature of the lithium-ion battery pack allowed Nissan to retain the full cargo volume and seat-folding capability of the Patherfinder crossover. Whether the 2015 Altima Hybrid will sacrifice folding rear seatbacks or cargo volume was an open question at the time of this review.
2015 Nissan Altima Prices back to top
Prices for the 2015 Nissan Altima were unavailable in time for this review. But Altima has been priced very competitively in a hotly contested market category. And Nissan has made deals even more attractive with relatively generous factory cash-back incentives. That formula is likely to hold for the 2015 Altima and should compel a wide range of midsize-car buyers to include it on their shopping list.
Estimated base-price range for the 2015 Altima is $23,000-$32,000 for gas models. Figure the 2015 Altima Hybrid to start around $30,000, depending on the available trim grades and equipment level. (Estimated base prices in this review include the manufacturer’s mandatory destination fee; Nissan’s fee for the Altima was running around $780.)
In general, expect the least expensive 2015 Altima to be the 2.5 model, but it’ll again be aimed primarily at rental fleets. The retail-volume-leading 2.5 S should start around $24,000, with V-6 Altimas priced from around $27,000.
2015 Nissan Altima Fuel Economy back to top
EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2015 Nissan Altima were unavailable in time for this review. With carried over gas powertrains, however, 2015 Altima ratings should continue at 27/38/31 mpg city/highway/combined with the 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and 22/31/25 mpg with the V-6. That would maintain Altima among the more fuel-efficient midsize cars.
Fuel-economy ratings for the 2015 Nissan Altima Hybrid almost certainly will equal or exceed those for the conventional four-cylinder powertrain, thus furnishing six-cylinder muscle with four-cylinder frugality.
2015 Nissan Altima Release Date back to top
Look for the 2015 Nissan Altima in showrooms by late summer 2014.
What's next for the 2015 Nissan Altima back to top
The 2015 Nissan Altima’s likely updates will occur a little earlier than the usual midcycle refresh. A midcycle update is intended to sustain interest as a vehicle begins the latter phase of its design cycle. This fifth-generation Altima was introduced for model-year 2013. If Nissan sticks with a six-model-year lifecycle, it would launch an all-new Altima for model-year 2019.
That schedule could include a traditional midcycle refresh for model-year 2016. It might include more extensive cosmetic and mechanical updates. One advantage would be a twice-freshened fifth-generation Altima before Nissan incurs the major expensive of a full redesign. This is the automaker’s top-selling car and it can’t risk falling off the pace of fast-moving rivals by delaying improvements.
Nissan probably is studying whether Altima’s image would benefit from the return of a coupe variant; only the Accord currently offers both a sedan and coupe. A station-wagon body style is unlikely. Nissan already uses Altima’s basic architecture for the Murano crossover, which fills that role.
As for future Altima engine, a possibility is the turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder found in the Nissan Juke compact SUV. This engine has direct fuel injection and achieves power equivalent to that of the 2.5-liter four but with the fuel efficiency of a 1.8-liter four.
2015 Nissan Altima Competition back to top
Toyota Camry: Reliability, refinement, roominess, and resale value are selling points of America’s best-selling car. Camry will get a midcycle freshening for model-year 2015, but should retain its traditional virtues, making it a must-see for anyone in the midsize-car market. Driving excitement isn’t on the menu. But every powertrain is a gem, with the hybrid an unexpected overachiever.
Honda Accord: Like Altima, Accord was redesigned for model-year 2013. That deft redo successfully defended this car’s status as the all-around leader in the midsize category. Spacious and solid, packed with useful features, it’s everything a family car ought to be. Accord’s extra edge is how it combines those attributes with driving sophistication, a balance rivals can’t quite match.
Ford Fusion: Easily the top U.S.-brand midsize car overall, with European-bred road manners that contend for best in class. Fusion doesn’t offer a six-cylinder engine but has an impressive selection of naturally aspirated and turbocharged four-cylinders -- plus hybrids. Shortfalls include an over-styled interior and rear-seat room tight enough to detract from its appeal as a genuine family car.