2019 Nissan Altima fights SUVs with AWD, new powertrain tech

The 2019 Nissan Altima debuts at the 2018 New York Auto Show with a difficult mission ahead. The Altima has never had the name recognition of its Honda Accord and Toyota Camry rivals, and the new version launches into a market where buyers are fleeing from sedans to SUVs. So can Nissan defeat both its traditional rivals and the upstart SUV contingent?

Nissan certainly tried to make a strong first impression with the styling. Where the last Altima was a bit pudgy, the new model has crisp lines and extroverted details like a massive grille that looks like it could double as a snow plow. The taillights and blacked-out sections of the rear pillars copy the larger Nissan Maxima. As with many recent Nissans, the Altima isn’t exactly pretty, but it’s far from anonymous.

While front-wheel drive remains standard, Nissan is adding the option of all-wheel drive to the Altima for the first time. The Altima isn’t the first midsize sedan to offer all-wheel drive (the Subaru Legacy and Ford Fusion already have it), but Nissan hopes it will keep buyers from defecting to SUVs.

“This is another opportunity to keep customers in the sedan segment,” Nissan’s Dereck Kramer told Digital Trends.

The 2019 Altima’s standard engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 188 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. A 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder using the variable compression-ratio technology first seen on Nissan luxury brand Infiniti’s QX50 SUV is also available with front-wheel drive only. This engine, badged VC-Turbo, can change its compression ratio on the fly, switching from a performance-oriented 8:1, to a more fuel efficient 14:1. It also produces 248 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are mated to Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission.

The interior design is a bit more subdued than the exterior, but the Altima offers a decent number of notable features. The “NASA-inspired” Zero Gravity seats return to give your back a break on long trips, and the Altima now boasts four USB ports, including two Type-C ports. The standard infotainment system includes an 8.0-inch touchscreen and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto compatibility, and owners can add an Amazon Alexa Skill through the NissanConnect Services app.

The 2019 Altima is also the latest model to get Nissan’s ProPilot Assist driver-assist system, which adds limited steering assist to adaptive cruise control for highway driving. New safety tech debuting on the Altima includes Rear Automatic Braking, which automatically applies the brakes to prevent collisions while backing up, and Traffic Sign Recognition. The Altima is also available with autonomous front emergency braking, rear cross traffic alert, lane-departure warning, blind-spot monitoring, and high beam assist.

The 2019 Nissan Altima goes on sale this fall. Pricing will be announced closer to launch.

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