There was a time, not too long ago, when American cars were designed
with Jet-Puffed suspensions designed by sadists. The cars, with very few
exceptions, would bounce along on a cushion of creme, which was great
for comfort, but unfortunately came with the side effect of making them
handle like the Lincoln Memorial.
Japanese cars took the
opposite approach. Their springs and shocks were made of concrete so you
could feel every pebble on the road, which made for excellent handling
but, at the same time, some extremely sore backsides.
More recently the
Japanese discovered that some people like cars that float and Americans
figured out that some drivers like to feel the road, their roles have
started to reverse. Today you see cars like the Ford Fusion, which
drives like a skateboard, and the Toyota Camry, which drives like a 1986
You also see the
smooth-as-silk 2008 Nissan Altima. And it's a real shocker.
Until now the Altima
has always been a fairly sporty car, at least as far as dull, four-door
family cars go. It had the concrete suspension, sensitive steering and
instant-on brakes that make it fun to drive, keeping the driver closely
connected to the road.
The latest Altima seems
to throw all that out the window now. Oh, it's got plenty of
performance, but it also seems to say, "I've grown up. I'm past that
whole 'sporty' stage. Now I want to be a luxury car."
In standard trim, the
new Altima's suspension does a perfect Cadillac Fleetwood impersonation.
It makes the car feel like it's floating in a sea of Cool Whip, always
smooth and silent. It's still precise and allows for great handling, but
it smoothes out the bumps better than Altimas ever did in the past.
The transmission does
the smooth thing, too. In fact it's so smooth it doesn't even shift.
Called a continuously variable transmission (CVT), this ingenious device
eliminates the need for shifting gears like in a normal automatic
transmission. The CVT constantly adjusts the gear ratio based on how
fast you're driving and how hard you're pressing the throttle. I don't
really understand how it works, I just know it never shifts gears and
sounds like it belongs in a sci-fi movie.
continues the luxury-car impersonation with plenty of room to stretch
out. The materials and construction seem nice with only one exception:
the plastic covers that cover the cubbyholes near to the driver's seat.
They feel like they're designed to last all of 10 minutes, or less.
As in the past the
entry-level Altima comes with a very pleasing price, starting at $18,230
with a four-cylinder engine. The powerful V6 version starts around
$24,000, and the top-of-the-line Altima with a few option packages will
reach well over $30,000.
Compared with other
popular Japanese sedans like the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, the
Nissan Altma has fairly sporty, aggressive styling with nice body
creases and a sloping roofline. And the new Altima is almost luxurious
in its cabin space with both the front and back seats having plenty of
leg, hip, shoulder and headroom.
What was tested?
The 2008 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE with a base price of $24,580. Options on
the test car are: Splash guards $135, floor mat set $175, premium
package $4,200, vehicle dynamic control $900.
Total MSRP Price as
tested including the $625 destination charge: $30,615.
Why avoid it?
The high-end models can get pricey, and the options are packaged into
Why buy it? It
has the sporty looks and excellent driving dynamics the Altima has come
to embody, but it also has a surprisingly smooth suspension and CVT
By Derek Price ©
AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Byline: Car Review
provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Nissan Home Page
Column Name: Smooth
moves from Nissan
Topic: The 2008 Nissan
Word Count: 674
Photo Caption: The 2008
Photo Credits: Nissan
Altima Internet Media
Series #: 2008 - 49
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2008 Nissan Altima
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2008 Nissan Altima