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Nearly everything but the engines is either all or substantially new, beginning with the Altima's "class-above" looks, inside and out, and extending to a raft of new features, some class-exclusive. The CVT automatic transmission, thoroughly revamped for pleaseability and efficiency, accounts for much of its class-leading fuel economy.
Changes for 2012 are limited to a new Value Package that includes Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, auto on/off headlights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, and HomeLink. Bluetooth is now standard on the 3.5 SR and available on the 2.5 S.
The base 2.5 model receives more standard features including new 16-inch wheel covers, a CVT automatic transmission, power side mirrors, a trip computer and outside temperature gauge. The 3.5 SE trim receives Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), HID headlamps, fog lamps and a rear spoiler.
Slightly smaller in this fourth generation, Nissan's midsize sedan can have an Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) for the first time. Striving for the best-performing front-wheel-drive sedan in the world, Nissan claims to have addressed perceived weaknesses of the 2002 through 2006 models, including interior quality, noise levels and steering effort.
When Nissan redesigned its midsize sedan for 2002, it turned out as big as the "flagship" Maxima. Because that Altima has sold strongly, Nissan kept the 2007 redesign evolutionary, concentrating on improvements. Lower engine mounting, for instance, aims to cut "torque steer" to near-zero. Either a six-speed manual gearbox or a continuously variable transmission (CVT) may be installed with the four-cylinder or V6 engine. This CVT, Altima's first, provides a kickdown comparable to regular automatics. Shift modes provide normal, economy and sport operation, with no strange "rubber band" sensation. A gasoline/electric hybrid sedan will arrive soon, followed by an Altima Coupe.