In a flurry of robots and futuristic music, Nissan introduced the 2019 Altima today at the New York Auto Show. With available all-wheel drive and a variable compression engine, the sixth-gen Altima has a couple of tricks up its sleeve to take on the Accord and Camry.
Writers in different corners of the internet have been, rightly or wrongly, sounding a death knell for the traditional three-box sedan, citing sales declines for most models in the segment. For certain, Altima sales are off by about 100,000 units since its 2014 peak, but over a quarter-million buyers did drive off in a new Altima last year. That is not a number at which to sneeze.
Tellingly, the words â€œIntelligent Mobilityâ€� were the first ones shown on the screen behind the shiny new red sedan on stage in New York. The company was quick to tout the availability of its oddly-capitalized ProPILOT Assist technology, a suite of safety nannies that appeared on the new Leaf in December.
For now, Nissan is calling ProPILOT Assist a single-lane “hands-on” driving assistance technology that eases driver workload by reducing the amount of acceleration, steering and braking input under certain driving conditions. Your author has tried the system firsthand, finding it to generally play within lane boundaries so long as the markings are clear. Driving still requires plenty of attention with ProPILOT Assist, as it should.
Taking oneâ€™s hands off the wheel for an extended period of time triggers a claxon not unlike the Red Alert sound on the USS Enterprise. Fail to grab the wheel at this point and the system gradually applies the brakes, bringing the car to a full stop. Iâ€™m not entirely sure what to think about that last feature, as coming to a dead stop in an active motorway doesnâ€™t rank too high on my Top 40, even if I am incapacitated for some reason. Better than sailing off into the weeds at 60 mph, I suppose. ProPILOT Assist will be standard on the 2019 Altima SV, SL and Platinum grades. Base S and sporty SR trims will do without.
Denis LeVot, chairman of Nissan North America and a former engineer at Renault, introduced the car on stage in NYC. He addressed the continuing market shift to crossovers and said he hopes the new Altimaâ€™s all-wheel-drive feature will capture some of those customers who truly want a sedan but feel the need for extra traction. The system, which can send up to 50 percent of the engine’s power astern, will certainly give the Altima a unique selling point against the other two top sedans in the market â€“ Accord and Camry.
Two engines are deployed in the new Altima. Replacing the previous-generation Altima’s 3.5-liter V6 engine is the company’s unique 2.0-liter variable compression turbo inline-four. It makes 248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of twist. The inner workings of a variable compression engine makes this authorâ€™s head spin like a tumble dryer, so I encourage you to check out our previous explanations of the technology.
Standard on all 2019 Altima grade levels is a 188 horse 2.5-liter inline-four with direct injection. Buried in the press release but not mentioned on stage is that the Altimaâ€™s unique selling point, all-wheel drive, will only be available with the base engine. This is Nissan we’re talking about, so I don’t need to tell you what type of transmission it has.
The interior gets a rethink, opened up by way of a tablet-style infotainment system and relocated controls. Photos show a dash top thatâ€™s lower than the doorâ€™s beltline, a feature that â€“ at least in other cars deploying this architecture â€“ goes a long way in making the interior feel more spacious and airy. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are said to be standard equipment on all models.
Year to date in 2018, the Altima trails only the Camry in Americaâ€™s midsize car gladiator ring, selling 39,888 cars through the end of February. Toyota showed 55,503 Camrys to the door while Honda found 37,430 buyers for its Accord. A new Altima, then, is a bigger deal than most people realize.
The 2019 Altima goes on sale in America this fall.