Hey everyone, I know it's been some time since I've updated this thing. Remember when I said I'd update it every week? Well.....since my last post, I've.....
-- Flown to Florida for a few days.
-- Spent a few days in NYC.
-- Chaperoned students at TWO all-county festivals, one of which transitioned directly into a midnight-oil-burning jaunt to Syracuse for the annual NYSBDA symposium.
-- Conducted my first pops concert at the school since 2020.
-- Music-directed and conducted the pit in Germantown's production of Matilda (the kids did AMAZINGLY well!).
-- Etc. etc. etc.
Needless to say, I've been busy. It's no excuse, but here we are, and I'm back with the first of what will be a few reviews of various cars I've driven over the last few months. We're going to start with the 2022 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV sedan I rented in early February for an action-packed trip to the Syracuse Auto Show, followed by a kickass band director clinic at Frog Alley Brewing in Schenectady, followed by a trip to NYC to see Billy Joel perform at Madison Square Garden, and followed by the trip back home with a stop in Germantown on the way for a rehearsal. I put about 600 miles on that Altima over the course of two days, and I have some thoughts, so buckle up!
I was fairly underwhelmed when I got into the car for the first time, but this could have been because the fine folks at the Albany Airport Hertz kiosk didn't leave much space between the Altima and its neighboring car. Consequently, entering the Altima was an exercise in contortion, and it may have affected my immediate thoughts.
For context, the 2.5 SV version of the Altima is one step above the base 2.5 S version, and it's priced just under $26K before delivery. The base Honda Accord LX goes for just OVER $26K, and the base Volkswagen Passat SE goes for just over $27K, for comparison's sake. While the Altima is the least expensive of those three vehicles, it was missing quite a bit of content that is included in the base trims of the aforementioned rivals. Specifically, I would've really liked to have automatic climate control, heated front seats, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control, most of which are included in the Passat and Accord at that price point (the base Accord does not include heated seats). That said, the Altima did include a few goodies that would've cost extra on the other two cars, such as parking sensors (extra on both) and blind-spot monitoring (extra on the Accord). Still, given that I'd be driving 600 miles, mostly on the open highway, adaptive cruise control and lane assist would've been REALLY nice, and given New York's winter temperatures, heated seats and automatic climate control would've been appreciated.
Feature omissions aside, I noticed a few things pretty quickly, and some other things more gradually, as follows:
-- The car had the base powertrain -- a 2.5 liter naturally aspirated four banger with a CVT (continuously variable transmission). While it wasn't a screamer by any stretch, and while my 2003 Acura CL could SMOKE it in a drag race, not once did it feel underpowered, and not once did the CVT bother me. The latter point in particular is unusual, as CVTs tend to peg the engine near the redline under hard throttle, especially if the car is underpowered. This one was very smooth, and did a decent job mimicking a normal "stepped" automatic when I wasn't burying my right foot. It was not offensive, it got the job done, and if I was buying an Altima, I most likely would not splurge for the optional turbocharged engine.
-- Nissan hasn't quite figured out how to nail the ride/handling balance the way Honda has with their latest Accord. The Altima is less refined in its highway ride, and more easily disturbed in that setting, without returning any kind of appreciable handling benefit. Actually, the Accord out-handles it as well and even invites spirited driving, which is something the Altima just did not do.
-- All of that said, the Altima is pretty quiet on the open road, and maybe even more so than most Honda products. In that sense, it was quite relaxing.
-- Ergonomics and driver comfort are a couple other things Nissan got VERY right with this one. In particular, the door armrests and center armrest were all very well-padded, and set at an ideal height for meaningful elbow rest. The controls generally fell to hand quite readily, and a particular shout-out goes to the in-dash information screen, which displayed just about every piece of pertinent information in a clear fashion without looking cluttered or being hard to read. That, and it was easily adjustable via the steering wheel controls. The center infotainment screen also worked quite well, and I got the hang of it pretty quickly.
-- Building on the driver comfort accolades, Nissan's Zero Gravity seats were outstanding. The premise is that the seats are supposed to make you feel like gravity isn't a thing, and while that's an unattainable objective overall, they came damn close. Not once did my ass get sore after all of that time on the road, even after repositioning following the expected Roy-Rogers-cheeseburger farts. My only beef with the seats was the inadequate lower back support, and the lack of a power lumbar adjustment through which I could remedy it. Overall, though, the front seats were excellent.
-- A couple other beefs: Some of the switchgear, while perfectly functional, felt cheap (map lights, window switches, wiper and headlight stalks). The cupholders were small and couldn't easily accommodate my good-sized water bottle. The trunk wasn't huge, and neither was the resulting pass-through when the back seats were dropped. The backup camera seemed to pick up dirt more easily than most I've experienced (why more automakers haven't adopted Volkswagen's brilliant hide-away camera is beyond me!). The passenger's power window didn't have auto up-down. The parking brake was a geriatric foot-pedal design.
-- A couple other accolades: Fuel economy was pretty darn good. I averaged somewhere around the mid 30s for the trip (including nearly 40 mpg for the leg out to Syracuse), which wasn't bad given the weight of my right foot and the abundance of stop-and-go traffic in NYC. Also, the base audio system wasn't terrible. It clearly wasn't a premium system (Nissan offers a Bose setup in the higher trim levels.), but it did the job, and it wasn't offensive, unlike some other base audio systems (Volkswagen Jetta S, I'm looking at you.).
Overall, the car grew on me throughout that weekend. Would I buy it over an Accord? Probably not. Would heated seats, auto climate, radar cruise control, and lane assist have helped my trip be even more relaxing? Undoubtedly. Should those features be included (or at least available as options without jumping all the way up to nearly the top of the trim latdder)? Most definitely. (Some of the features can be added as options on the SV trim.). But ultimately, will those who buy it end up with a solid car that'll do its intended job quite well? Absolutely.
Happy Sunday, everyone!