The Nissan Altima undergoes numerous changes for 2005. There are new headlamps and taillights, a restyled front fascia and new grille, and a raised hood design. Inside, there’s a new instrument panel and centre console, three-spoke steering wheel, upgraded cloth upholstery and headliner, and extra chrome accents and chrome door handles.

The base 3.5-litre V6 has been increased to 250 horsepower from 245 hp, and an optional five-speed automatic transmission with gated shifter and manual-shift mode replaces 2004’s four-speed automatic.

There are two new lines: the base 3.5 S model is aimed at entry-level buyers who want a six-cylinder, while the new SE-R is a tuner version.

The base 2.5 S features a 2.5-litre inline four-cylinder engine with five-speed manual transmission, and includes air conditioning, power windows, heated power mirrors, cruise control, cloth seats, CD player with six speakers, floor mats, 16-inch steel wheels, four-wheel disc brakes, power locks with keyless entry, and variable intermittent wipers.

The 3.5 S has the same features as the 2.5 S, but comes with a 250 hp, 3.5-litre V6 with the new five-speed automatic transmission.

The 3.5 SE comes in base form with a manual five-speed – one of the few six-cylinder midsize cars to have one – and adds climate control, leather-wrapped wheel, power adjustable driver’s seat, trip computer, woodgrain trim, and 17-inch alloy wheels.

The SE-R has the SE’s convenience features, but its 3.5-litre makes 260 hp and it comes with a six-speed manual transmission, plus leather interior, rear spoiler and unique front and rear fascias, compact fog lights, Bose stereo with six-CD player and eight speakers, heated sports seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, projector beam Xenon headlights and an auto-dimming rearview mirror.

The 2005 refinements add to a family sedan that’s already a fine machine, with lots of power and elegant road manners. It’s roomy for its size, even in the back seat. It falls just shy of being a long-distance hauler, lacking a toe board that would make a front-seat passenger that much more comfortable. Even with the upgrades, the Altima’s interior seems a bit brittle; storage covers and hinges don’t have the heft associated with long-term use. Toyota and Honda have better fit-and-finish, but the Altima’s driving experience rates it up there with its competition.

The Altima is made in Smyrna, Tennessee.

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