Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Review: 2015 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL

Photos by Ulysses Ang
Perhaps it’s age, but there’s nothing more satisfying than driving an executive sedan after a hard day’s work. Though most will still dream about owning a Nissan GT-R or 370Z, they’re not exactly the best kind of car you’ll want to drive home in traffic after spending the day in meetings in a monkey suit. After all that work stress, you’ll want something that cushions and cuddles you as you drive through Manila’s horrendous traffic, commuting two hours in stop-and-go traffic just to get home. This is the sort of role the Nissan Altima fulfills and fulfills beautifully.

Behind the wheel, the Altima is a design marvel. The interior is well executed and feels positively lavish in both its looks and execution. It’s not as “in-your-face” as some of its rivals, but given its audience, this is quite acceptable. It’s beautifully laid out with the well-organized center stack, the legible gauges with a four-inch multi-function display sandwiched between the speedo and tach, and of course, the excellently placed controls. It also feels meticulously crafted with plush soft-touch plastics everywhere, high-quality leather on the steering wheel and seats, and high-gloss piano black applique instead of cheesy faux wood throughout. The crowning achievement though is the “Zero Gravity” front seats which mitigate and distribute body pressure providing all-day comfort. It works as advertised and becomes your single best ally in alleviating post-work stress on the road.

Crawling through EDSA and having to listen through the constant blaring of car horns, it’s immediately noticeable how quiet the Altima is. Quietness is one sure hallmark of luxury cars and on that aspect, the Altima nails it. It contributes to its class above impression reducing the hustle and bustle of city traffic into muted tones. And if you want to isolate the outside world even more, you can turn up the volume of the nine-speaker Bose sound system, one of the best sounding OEM audio systems you can come across. Not only does it deliver the bass to handle a bit of Daft Punk and Calvin Harris but it can offer the clarity for Adele and Lorde as well. Navigating through the city’s less than perfect roads, the Altima absorbs potholes very well thanks to its highly rigid body and strategically placed reinforcements. It manages to control and subdue impacts before they reach the cabin.

These very same engineering solutions also work well if you do decide to take the Altima on a weekend long drive. On open roads, the Altima transforms into a commendable sports sedan. It immediately outs itself as a great handler with steering that offers excellent directional accuracy and weighting. The chassis also offers nicely snubbed body control. It feels connected and composed through corners than its predecessor, the Teana, and takes switchbacks with minimal body roll. The Altima rides on the familiar front strut and rear multi-link set-up, but the later employs novel connected bushings for better camber supervision. It also comes with Nissan’s version of torque vectoring called Active Understeer Control which drags the inside front brake during hard cornering. It works well, enabling it to dig into corners with a bit more tenacity than you’ll expect. That said, the Altima’s still a front-wheel drive sedan and channeling some 270 horsepower and 340 Nm of torque results in copious amounts of torque steer when pushed.

Speaking of drivetrains, the Altima 3.5 SL employs Nissan’s venerated VQ35DE engine mated to an Xtronic CVT. This combination produces the smoothest of driving experiences whether stuck in traffic or pummeling the pavement on the expressway. Surprisingly, the stretched rubber band effect is nowhere to be found. Nissan has fought hard to develop this transmission and now it’s starting to pay off in the Altima. It keeps the engine in the meat of its power band and delivers pretty convincing performance even when subjected to aggressive throttle inputs. And during these sportier times, the CVT actually introduces virtual shift points that create a physical and auditory experience like that of a traditional automatic with or without the sport mode or paddle shifter engaged. All in all, Nissan quotes a 0-100 km/h time of around 6.2 seconds making the Altima 3.5 the fastest in its segment. The only drawback is that it does only 6.29 km/L in the city.

Style-wise, the Altima pretty much sticks close to Nissan’s family look. The overall appearance feels like the Sylphy subjected to growth hormones. It toes the middle ground in trying to be racy and sober. Still, the looks do grow on you, particularly the way sunlight plays on the car’s contours. Sadly, there seems to be an overreliance on chrome to communicate the car’s premium aspirations.

The top-spec 3.5 SL comes with items which are already considered as standard in this segment including automatic HID headlamps, powered leather seats, dual-zone climate control, moon roof, and keyless entry with push-button engine start/stop. It also comes with cruise control, the aforementioned kickass sound system, and a rear parking camera (no sensors). And since it’s sourced from North America, the Altima arrives here with features which are absolutely frivolous: heated steering wheel and seats. That said, at P 2,030,000, it’s still not the complete package either. For instance, it doesn’t have power folding side mirrors or more blatantly, Bluetooth hands-free.

Despite the absence of some luxury features, there’s no denying the new upscale character projected by Nissan’s executive sedan. Though the Nissan Altima 3.5 SL needs a bit more equipment for its asking price, it’s built on solid foundations of being fun-to-drive yet extremely comfortable. It’s also well-built and finished well enough to exceed the expectations of the executive sedan class. It most certainly isn’t a four-door GT-R, but for those who want plushness without compromising on good driving fun, the Altima may be worth considering. It’s a great companion especially if you’re coming home from work after a long day at the office.

2015 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL
Ownership 2015 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL V6
Year Introduced 2014
Vehicle Classification Executive
The Basics
Body Type 4-door sedan
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 3.5
Aspiration Normally Aspired, EFI
Layout / # of Cylinders V6
BHP @ rpm 270 @ 6,400
Nm @ rpm 340 @ 4,400
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission CVT
Cruise Control Yes
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,863
Width (mm) 1,830
Height (mm) 1,488
Wheelbase (mm) 2,775
Curb Weight (kg) 1,530
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-Link
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires --
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors No, Rear Camera
Exterior Features
Headlights HID
Fog Lamps Yes, Front
Auto Lights Yes
Auto Wipers Yes
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjustment Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment Electronic (f)
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat No
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes
Climate Control Yes, Dual
Audio System Stereo
No. of Speakers 9
Steering Wheel Controls Yes


  1. The previous Teana looked way better inside and out. It gave off a Benz-like vibe.

    This current model lacks the elegance and the high end luxury feel of the previous model.

  2. No bluetooth and rear parking sensors in a luxury car! These are essential accesories in any car today.

  3. Those 17-inch wheels look so small in this car. They shoould have at least included 18-inchers on the V6 model. Even the Sylphy has 17s.

  4. Good thing it doesn't look like it's made for daddies like most of its peers

    1. Wrong. From all midsize sedans, this one actually gives off a sugar daddy image. 2nd is the camry and a distant 3rd is the accord.

      The Mazda6 is the perfect fit for tge youth, not the Altima. Get your crap together man.

    2. I agree. The Mazda 6 beats all these other pretenders in the design category. The Mazda 6 just looks great at any angle.