Test Drive: 2014 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL car test drives nissan
Test Drive: 2014 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL car test drives nissan
2014 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Haney Louka

My first Altima review was way back in 2001, and even though it wasn’t a class leader, I was smitten by Nissan’s ability to produce a small, sporty sedan that was efficient and responsive without trying too hard to stand out from the pack. It outperformed rival four-banger sedans and had value as another feather in its cap.

Times quickly changed, and Nissan responded to North America’s hunger for larger cars with more power with a complete redesign in 2003 and commensurate change in focus. Legroom and power were the new magic words, and this combination elevated the Altima’s image in its target market and Nissan has never looked back.

As with so many model lines from various manufacturers, the Altima has grown over the years and others have stepped in below to fill the gaps. The current Sentra is actually larger and more fuel efficient than that first Altima I reviewed.

2014 sees little in the way of changes since the Altima was completely redesigned last year. One new feature is the NissanConnect Apps system that allows integration of supported smartphone apps with the vehicle’s infotainment system. I downloaded the app in “demo” mode and found that the only apps available were Facebook and Google online search. This is the start of something good, but it should be noted that the aftermarket is ahead of the curve on this one: have a look at our review on the Pioneer Appradio 3.

One thing that hasn’t changed is Altima’s value proposition. Of course, in this cut-throat class, it has no choice. The base 2.5 model starts the bidding at $23,698 and includes a healthy dose of standard kit: a healthy four-banger/continuously-variable transmission combo, independent suspension and disc brakes all around, fog lights, dual exhaust tips, Bluetooth connectivity, push-button ignition, wheel-mounted cruise control, tilt/telescoping wheel, sunglass storage, map lights all around, four-speaker audio with Bluetooth streaming capability, and an econobox-like fuel consumption rating of 7.5 L/100 km city and 5.1 on the highway.

Throw in another $1,200 and you get the S: remote start and a rear-view monitor top the list of desirables, along with USB iPod interface, satellite radio, hands-free text messaging, and more.

As in other Nissan models, the SV manages to pull together most of the features people want in a well-priced package. The Altima SV is $26,198 and adds 17-inch alloys (16-inch steelies are standard on lesser models), heated front seats, a leather-wrapped wheel, power sunroof, dual-zone climate control, and some other goodies.

The 2.5SL furthers the luxury focus with leather upholstery and a premium audio system, choice of wood or metallic trim (both reasonable facsimiles of the real thing), and more for $28,898.

Our tester was the full-load 3.5 SL and is the only V6-powered model in the lineup. In addition to the 270-hp V6 humming under the hood, the $32,998 3.5 SL Tech gets 18-inch alloys. Interestingly, my spec sheet from Nissan shows the Tech package as a $1,100 factory option over the $31,898 3.5 SL, but Nissan.ca simply shows the 3.5 SL at $32,998 with the Tech package included.

Test Drive: 2014 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL car test drives nissan Test Drive: 2014 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL car test drives nissan
2014 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL. Click image to enlarge

Regardless of whether Nissan will let you order the car without the Tech package, that group includes navigation with a 7” touch display, nav controls on the wheel, blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning, and moving obstacle detection system.

Including a $135 charge for our tester’s Cayenne Red paint and $120 for carpeted floor mats (a bit inconsistent with our test subject’s value proposition), our tester tipped the scales at $33,253 plus freight and taxes.

Nissan has stopped offering the V6 in SV trim (available last year), which is unfortunate for power-hungry fools such as myself, but something tells me that not many customers will miss it. If they really want the power, they’ll pony up the extra three grand for the SL.

It’s not surprising that the V6 options are limited, as some competitors have canned the V6 option altogether. It’s becoming more common now to find a four-cylinder offering as well as a hybrid or diesel model, and in some cases a turbocharged four as the performance model. But Nissan is going a bit old-school here, and I’m thankful for it. After all, with EnerGuide consumption ratings of 9.4 L/100 km in the city and 6.2 on the highway, this V-6 consumes just marginally more fuel than the Hyundai/Kia 2.0L turbo-four.

For the record, there are still six-pots available in this class from Honda, Chrysler, Subaru, Toyota, and VW, but the selection is dwindling.




About Haney Louka

A lifelong car nut, Haney Louka has been a journalist member of AJAC since 2001. He is a professional engineer and has been on AJAC’s Technology of the Year panel since 2010.