2010 Nissan Altima 3.5SR
2010 Nissan Altima 3.5SR. Click image to enlarge
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2010 Nissan Altima

Oshawa, Ontario – These days, Nissan is focused on electricity, as it prepares for the upcoming global market launch of its all-electric Leaf. But it certainly hasn’t forgotten its gasoline offerings, and for 2010, it sends out a refreshed version of its mid-size Altima sedan.

Also available as a two-door coupe and a four-door hybrid sedan, the Altima sedan starts with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder version. My tester used the larger 3.5-litre V6, offered with the sole choice of a continuously variable transmission (CVT), and was outfitted in top-line SR trim.

The changes to the 2010 model are relatively minor: this is a tweaking rather than an overhaul. The most noticeable change is in the front end, while the rear end styling carries over. The V6 sedan, which used to base with a stick shift, now offers only the CVT (the sportier coupe still lets you row manually through six gears if you prefer, and the CVT is optional on that model). Stability and traction control are standard on all Altima models, and last year, my SR trim line would have been called the SE.

The four-cylinder model starts off at $23,798, while the base V6 S trim line is $28,298. That S includes such features as steel wheels, a/c, heated mirrors, pushbutton ignition, cruise control, and heated cloth seats.

2010 Nissan Altima 3.5SR
2010 Nissan Altima 3.5SR
2010 Nissan Altima 3.5SR
2010 Nissan Altima 3.5SR. Click image to enlarge

My SR started at $31,898, building on the S with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, fog lights, sunroof, leather-wrapped steering wheel and a sportier performance suspension. To that, my tester was also further equipped with a $3,550 Leather Package, which added the expected cowhide seats, along with upgraded stereo, Bluetooth, iPod connectivity, garage door opener, auto-dimming rearview mirror and a compass. On my car’s “Blond” interior trim, that package also added fake wood accents; had mine been “Charcoal,” they would have looked like metal.

I’ve always found the Altima to be a very competent performer, and that continues through with this newest adaptation. The 270-horsepower engine is more than up to the task of pulling it around and offers impressive acceleration, and while I’m still not entirely sold in CVTs in larger vehicles – the way they roll up and down the tach in seeming defiance of the speedometer always feels more suited to an economy runabout to me – the unit in the Altima is among the better ones available. You can also put it into sport or manual mode, which lets you “shift” it sequentially through pre-set points, but you have to do it via the gearshift lever: there are no paddles mounted on the steering wheel.

It seems I’m not the only one not quite sold on the CVT: Nissan has doubled the warranty on its continuously variable transmissions for all vehicles so equipped with them, model years 2003 through 2010. Coverage is now ten years or 200,000 kilometres, whichever comes first, and is reimbursing any customers who have paid for an out-of-warranty repair that would have been covered by the new policy. The company said that there isn’t anything wrong with the transmissions, but has extended the warranty to demonstrate its confidence in the technology, in light of the fact that some customers with earlier models had concerns regarding the cost of repairs.

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