The Nissan Altima may not cause car enthusiasts’ hearts to flutter, but mainstream auto buyers see much that they like.
It’s Nissan’s second most-popular U.S. model with 106,122 units sold in the first three quarters of 2022. Only the Nissan Rogue, at 130,135 units, outsold it during that time. In fact, of the six car models it sells stateside, the Altima accounts for 65% of them.
Given its popularity, it’s necessary to keep the Altima current, and Nissan has done just that for 2023 model year.
The Altima receives a midcycle refresh, with a freshened face and a revised interior. It’s offered in S, SV, SR and SL trims powered by a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder, or in 2.0 SR trim with Nissans turbocharged 2.0-liter variable compression, or VC-Turbo, engine. Both front-wheel and all-wheel drive versions are offered, Prices start at $26,385, with our nicely loaded 2.0 SR VC-Turbo topping out at slightly more than $37,000.
The front end remains unmistakable, yet attractive, with the 2023 Altima wearing a modified front fascia with the new V-Motion grille and a new brand logo. The SR grade has a “black chrome” grille treatment, and the appearance changes depending on the trim. With integrated turn signals and daytime running lights, LED headlights are now standard, along with new wheel designs and exterior colors.
The rest of the vehicle’s exterior wardrobe remains unchanged, particularly the blackout roof pillar, which visually swoops around the bottom of the rear window imparting a sense of movement, a feeling enhanced upswept lip of the trunk lid.
The revised infotainment system is the centerpiece of the updated instrument panel, finished with dual-stitching. An 8-way power driver’s seat and leather trim is available. Controls are easy to use and understated, but the weather warning system proved maddening.
Having received the car just after Hurricane Ian left town, the radio continued to warn me of its presence 45 miles away. Listening to music of any kind was ridiculous, as every minute, I received hurricane warnings, storm surge warnings and other warnings. And there seemed no way to stop it. So, listening to music proved impossible, as this warning overrode any song I played no matter what the source. It’s a well-meaning bit of technology that would make me not buy the buy the car due to its relentless intrusiveness.
But the cabin seems appropriately trimmed for its price. There was ample space front and rear. The seats were flat up front, but soft, offering little side bolstering in corners; and this was sporty the SR trim.
Payload is 980 pounds. Cargo space seems larger than its 15.4 cubic-foot rating, although the gooseneck trunk hinges intrude on trunk space.
Most Altimas come equipped with a 2.5-liter double-overhead-cam, direct injection 4-cylinder engine rated at 188 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque with front-wheel drive, 187 hp and 178 lb-ft. with all-wheel drive, which is not available on base S models. If you want a bit more performance, the 2.0 SR VC-Turbo is your option. Offered solely with front-wheel drive, the VC-Turbo generates 248 hp and 273 lb-ft, but requires premium 93 octane fuel.
All Altimas come with a continuously variable automatic transmission.
Nissan’s Advanced Drive-Assist package is optional, and features forward-facing cameras and radar sensors to keep the car centered in its lane, although it’s not a handsfree system. The active cruise control maintains its pace in traffic flow and can bring the vehicle to a stop if needed.
Safety and Technology
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gives the Nissan Altima five stars for its overall crash protection. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has not yet crash-tested the 2023 model.
When it comes to safety, Nissan offers their Advanced Drive-Assist package, which features forward-facing cameras and radar sensors to keep the car centered in its lane, although it’s not a handsfree system. The active cruise control maintains its pace in traffic flow and can bring the vehicle to a stop if needed. Nissan’s Safety Shield 360 suite of advanced driver assistance systems is standard, and includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, high-beam assist, lane-departure warning, rear cross-traffic alert, automatic rear braking and blind-spot warning.
The tech package gets an upgrade with a new 12.3-inch HD color multimedia screen, navigation system, Android Auto, wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless phone charging pad and a Wi-Fi hotspot. It’s standard on SL and SR VC-Turbo models and optional on the SV. A nine-speaker Bose Premium Audio system is optional and features available Active Noise Cancellation.
The Nissan Altima we drove is the one most consumers will never drive nor buy: the SR VC-Turbo. Given its 248 hp, it has 60 extra ponies under the hood, which makes it fastest new Altima you can buy. And once accustomed to the slight turbo lag and sluggish response from the CVT, you can get this puppy to handle fairly well.
But there are times when you need a quick burst of power, and the Altima doesn’t provide the razor-sharp surge of power in a timely fashion. Its steering seems slow considering the VC-Turbo’s performance. There is some body lean while cornering, although overall body movement is well controlled whether cornering or cratering through potholes. Ride is fairly comfortable most of the time.
As for the variable compression turbo engine, its exotic engineering does provide slightly better fuel economy while furnishing good power. But Nissan’s V6s have always been wonderful, and the lack of one in the Altima is a miss. And the VC-Turbo requires premium fuel. One suspects a gas-electric hybrid could match its performance and exceed its fuel economy. Whatever benefits it delivers do not seem to justify its price, or thirst for premium fuel.
2023 Nissan Altima 2.0 SR VC-Turbo Specifications
|Dimension||L: 192.9 inches/W: 72.9 inches/H: 56.8 inches/Wheelbase: 111.2 inches|
|Powertrain||2.0-liter turbo variable compression 4-cylinder engine, continuously variable transmission and front-wheel drive|
|Fuel Economy||25 mpg city/34 mpg highway/29 mpg combined|
|Performance Specs||248 horsepower and 273 pound-feet of torque|
|Price||Base price: $34,990; As tested: $37,060 including $1,095 destination charge.|
|On-Sale Date||Available now|
The 2023 Nissan Altima 2.0 SR with the VC-Turbo engine is a good car in a class surrounded by great ones. It’s not as much fun to drive as a Honda Accord and lacks the Toyota Camry’s quality feel. But it’s fun enough and spacious enough to consider if your local Nissan dealer is offering a good deal. However, if Nissan wants to recapture their former popularity, their midsize sedan needs to be more special. The odd, and almost pointless VC-Turbo isn’t enough to make it stand apart in the midsize crowd.
2023 Nissan Altima — Frequently Asked Questions
What new package is in the 2023 Altima?
A revised tech package that offers a 12.3-inch high-def multimedia touchscreen with navigation, Android Auto, wireless Apple CarPlay, wireless phone charging pad and a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Is Nissan redesigning the Altima?
The updates to design are relatively minor, as it gets a midcycle freshening for 2023.
Is Altima a luxury car?
No, it’s a mainstream, midsize sedan.