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Old 11-07-2001, 05:22 PM   #1
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2002 Nissan Altima: Updated.





I know it's lengthy.


It's easy to attack the two best-selling Japanese midsize sedans as being bland when you're a struggling competitor with a new model: Order your designers to draw a bit outside the familiar three-box lines of the favorites, and you can claim your four-door has 'tude others lack. Nissan is the latest to announce a breakaway from the boring sedan mold. For '02, the all-new Altima moves up from the so-called lower-middle sedan-size category and into the same size/price class as the huge-selling Toyota Camry and Honda Accord (it's actually a bit bigger in most dimensions). Better yet, it has a V-6 option for the first time, a powerful new 3.5L/240-hp powerplant based on Nissan's exceptional VQ engine family.

Let's start with the fun part: the kick-ass acceleration of the new V-6. With a ready 246 lb-ft of torque awaiting the call of your right foot, this unassuming sedan turns from econocar to hot rod in an instant, torque-steering you 0-60 mph in 6.28 sec and besting the new 345-hp Infinti Q45 by over two-tenths. Blazing through the quarter mile in 14.72 sec/96.82 mph lets you pick on Porsche's Boxster!

You'll fight a bit of torque steer on full-throttle launches, at least in the five-speed-equipped version; the optional traction-control system seems like a good idea. Power delivery is smooth and linear. It's not super strong below 3000, but from that point to redline, it delivers a healthy, velvety rush. Use the gearbox to keep the revs up a bit, and it makes a credible play at sport-sedanship. The shift linkage on our preproduction tester felt strange, however. It was light in between the gates, yet notchy at the same time. We'll reserve judgment until we drive a series-production vehicle.

This 3.5 SE with a five-speed manual is the most enthusiast-oriented of the new Altimas, but any variant will be fairly satisfying for the family that needs a roomy sedan to garage next to the sports car. The all-new standard 2.5L twin-cam four makes 180 hp at 6000 rpm and 181 lb-ft at 4000 rpm. A 2.5 SL with an automatic feels about as quick as a 170-hp VW Passat 1.8T, without the turbo lag, of course. The four is much noisier than the V-6 in getting up to speed on full-throttle launches. It feels strongest in the upper rev ranges, but it's not devoid of low- and mid-range torque like so many Japanese four-cylinder engines.

Steering is light, too, much lighter than an Accord's, but feels very precise. The Altima, whether equipped with the 2.5L engine and 16-in. wheels or the 3.5L engine and 17-in. alloys, is one of the better-handling sedans in this segment. The car goes where pointed, fast, and it's pretty neutral until you push it to the limit, where front-drive understeer can give way to a bit of lift-throttle oversteer. Nissan says its internal benchmarks were the aforementioned VW Passat 1.8T for the 2.5L Altima and the Audi A4 for the 3.5L Altima. The A4 is a bit of a stretch, but the 2.5L isn't far off the Passat's mark. In our slalom test, the Altima racked up a 62.3-mph best pass. The brakes are big and strong, although not quite Germanic, with a four-wheel-disc optional ABS package that includes electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, stopping our test car from 60 mph in 125 ft.

The styling also is stunning for a car in this category. Volkswagen Passat-like in countenance, it also recalls cousin Q45 in its broad shoulders and roofline, which slopes gracefully from its B-pillar to its abruptly notched C-pillar. With trendy round parking, tail- and headlamps (high-intensity discharge optional) under clear covers front and rear, the Altima's styling suggests something far more special than anything in its segment. It sits on an all-new platform with MacPherson struts up front and a multilink setup with isolated cradle frame and extensive use of aluminum for the rear suspension. At 191.5 in. overall, it's 5.7 in. longer than the previous Altima, with 7.1 in. more wheelbase (to 110.2) and 1.3 in. more width (to 70.4). Height is up 2.0 in. (to 57.9).

Aiding handling prowess as well as aesthetics, the previous car's 15-in. wheels have been replaced with standard 16-inchers in the four-cylinder models; V-6s get 17s. Weight ranges from 2998 lb for the base four-cylinder model with five-speed manual gearbox to 3244 for an SE 3.5 V-6 with the automatic. It seems light, perhaps a bit too light in the weight and feel of some of its interior panels that appear to have been cost-cut a bit too far.
Inside, the low-cowl feel of the Accord obviously was a benchmark, while Nissan aimed at the taller new Toyota sedans for seat height. If not for the height-adjustable driver's seat and the tilt steering wheel, it would feel as if the dashboard were at your knees. The instrument panel, with its three large round pods, looks late-'60s retro cool (almost VW New Beetle in some areas), but with thoroughly modern, vibrant yellow-orange electroluminescent gauges. Stereo controls placed above climate controls in the center stack are very accessible and easy to reach and use. Pedals are perfectly spaced for heel-and-toe shifting. The front buckets need more support, especially in the side bolsters, and the bottom cushion could be a bit longer. Rear-seat room is excellent, and Nissan claims the Altima delivers the best legroom in its class.

This platform will spawn other new Nissan and Infiniti sedans in the future; most important, the next all-new Maxima, due in about two years, and the more luxurious Infiniti I35. The current Maxima and I35 get a 260-hp version of the 3.5L V-6 to keep those sedans above the Altima in the Nissan sedan pecking order. Maxima is a costlier car with slightly less interior space than the '02 Altima, and has a less-sophisticated beam axle rear suspension, so it gets a gift of an extra 20 horses to help even the mix. And the Maxima manual has six cogs versus the Altima's five. Nissan feels there's room in the lineup for both (just as the Pathfinder and Xterra both sell well).

Pricing had not been finalized as of our presstime, but we estimate the base Altima will have to list for about $17,500, with the high-volume 2.5 S model (cruise control, six-speaker stereo with CD, 60/40 split rear bench, power mirrors, and keyless remote) stickered near $20,000. The 2.5 SL four-cylinder (leather-trimmed seats and leather steering-wheel cover, eight-way power driver's seat, Bose eight-speaker stereo, and more) should be in the low $20s, and the 3.5 SE, with alloys and foglights, will be somewhere in the $23,500-$27,000 neighborhood, depending on options. Along with the more powerful engine and the six-speed, Nissan is working hard to maintain the Maxima's sport sedan image to separate the two cars. It expects to sell about 190,000 Altimas per year beginning this September, and as noted, some 20 percent will be V-6s. That's up from 130,000 four-cylinder-only '01 Altimas.

The '02's suggestion of something special is delivered upon. This larger Altima is indeed more stylish, more powerful, and more sporting than those big-two competitors-cars that, combined, account for roughly 20 percent of an annual market of four-million mid-priced sedans in this country. While the new Altima isn't a giant step past the finely honed competition-Camry/Accord is a lofty target-Nissan deserves credit for solidly hitting the mark, and it belongs on your shopping list. And if your criteria for this market/price class is a 240-hp V-6 screamer, you're down to a choice of one.
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Old 11-08-2001, 02:09 PM   #2
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cool

cut-N-paste oWnZ
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Maxima parts for sale:
http://home.comcast.net/~luisrx7/MaximaParts.htm
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Old 11-09-2001, 11:51 PM   #3
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How much power was the 2.5L Altima able to get on Dynojet?
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Old 12-18-2001, 03:25 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by F20C
How much power was the 2.5L Altima able to get on Dynojet?
Sorry I didn't respond sooner to this. That information is not available yet or I don't know where to find it. I will have to see if at sometime I can find some info on that.
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Old 04-13-2004, 01:13 PM   #5
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Re: 2002 Nissan Altima: Updated.

Q45 does 0-60 in 6 sec, and is much heavier.

Personal Q45 site:

http://get.to/q45
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