Although not the most glamorous segment, the family sedan class is undeniably very important to carmakers due to its high volume and high visibility. Nissan played it safe with the first Altima (which debuted in the early '90s) with modest dimensions and four-cylinder power only. Five years ago Nissan gave the Altima an extreme makeover that turned it into the sport sedan of midsize family cars, thanks to a well-sorted suspension and the availability of Nissan's potent and refined 3.5-liter V6. Sadly, the cabin wasn't as highly polished, filled as it was with a lot of hard plastic and bland design. That all changes for this year, as the all-new 2007 Nissan Altima adds a healthy dose of style and refinement to go along with its sporting character.
This year's styling revamp, which features 350Z-style headlamps and a sweeping roof line, gives the Altima a more hunkered-down, sportier stance than before. The Altima's previous big weakness, its rather downmarket interior trim, has been fully addressed. The use of more supple and richly grained materials in the cabin goes a long way toward giving the 2007 Altima's cabin a polished, refined and much more welcoming ambiance.
Already a highly respected engine in terms of refinement and performance, the "VQ-series" 3.5-liter V6 gains more power this year. The stats are 270 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, giving it considerably more output than most competitors. Also noteworthy is the Altima's new continuously variable transmission (CVT). Nissan has been building CVTs for a few years now but this is the first one we've sampled that works well enough to justify its existence in lieu of a traditional automatic.
Overall, we believe the 2007 redesign has established the Nissan Altima as a premier choice once again. It bests the Mazda 6, another sporty favorite of ours, in terms of passenger room and power. It's also more refined than other midsize sedans like the Mitsubishi Galant and Chevy Malibu. And while the Accord and Camry are as accommodating as the Altima, they don't quite match the Nissan in terms of overall driving enjoyment. For family sedan shoppers interested in a vehicle that brings some enthusiasm to the daily grind, the new Altima is one of our top recommendations.