• All-wheel drive is brand new for the midsize sedan
  • $1,350 upcharge on all trim levels
  • 2.5-liter 4-cyl models only
  • Part of Altima’s 2019 redesign

 

Marketers have done an exceptional job convincing buyers in northern climates that conquering the winter commute is only possible from behind the wheel of an all-wheel drive vehicle. Although the trend began in the luxury segment, it has quickly trickled down to even more modest fare like the 2019 Nissan Altima, which now gains AWD as an option for the first time in its nearly 30 years of production.

AWD in the family

The redesigned Altima cribs its all-wheel drive system from SUV sisters Rogue and Murano, with very few changes made to accommodate the system after being ported to the sedan. The design is intended to actively manage torque, providing it 'on-demand' in situations where grip is limited.

Specifically, the Altima's AWD sends power exclusively to the front wheels during highway cruising or low-speed driving over dry pavement. Should slippage be detected, the system can send as much as 50 percent of engine torque to the rear axle to maintain forward momentum and improve stability. Spirited driving is also enhanced by a 30:70 front/rear shift through corners, an assist that is aided by a brake biasing system that helps pivot the car.

Transparent and (relatively) efficient

There's a catch with the 2019 Altima's AWD option: you can have it with any trim level as long as you stick with the base 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine (which is shared with the Rogue AWD). It’s rated at 188 horses and 180 lb-ft of torque and matched with a continuously-variable automatic transmission. Those dreaming of a variable-displacement turbo Altima will have to pester Nissan about investing development dollars to add 4-wheel grip to the mightier motor. Fuel mileage for the car remains acceptable despite the extra set of drive wheels, with a rating of 26 city / 36 highway falling only 2 and 3 mpg behind the front-puller, respectively.

Also: Get your first look at the new and redesigned cars of 2019

Traveling down roads bracketed by snowbanks as tall an NBA center, the Altima AWD displayed confidence-boosting calm and poise on our journey north of Montreal, Quebec, despite the near constant surface shift from gravel to powder to ice and then back again. Some wheel tug is noticeable when flooring the accelerator from a stop, but in general the 2.5-liter's modest output isn't enough to upset the balance of the sedan, even when driven quickly. The system felt largely transparent during its reallocation of torque in search of traction, especially in the steering department, and although the CVT occasionally spiked engine noise levels, there was little other than the lack of wheel-spin to give away the car's AWD character.

How much does the 2019 Nissan Altima AWD cost?

Nissan has kept pricing for the Altima AWD simple. Available now and starting with the $23,900 S trim and stretching all the way up to the $31,930 Platinum trim, AWD is a $1,350 add to the MSRP. This means you can also get it with the Altima SR ($25,250 + $1,350), SV ($28,080 + $1,350), and SL ($29,990 + $1,350), putting the cheapest all-wheel drive Altima S AWD at just a hair over $25k with the most expensive Platinum AWD checking in at $33,280.

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Of note, there are few similarly-sized sedans at the Altima's price point that make all-wheel drive available at all. Ford's aging Fusion provides AWD for both its turbo-four Titanium trim and turbo-V6 Sport, each of which is priced considerably higher than the Nissan, while the Subaru Legacy continues to offer standard all-wheel drive at a more comparable cost to the Altima.

Final Thoughts

If you regularly encounter snow-covered roads during your winter drives, and are content with the Altima's base motor, then $1,350 is not a lot to spend for the occasional traction boost brought on by all-wheel drive. In fact, it's only slightly more expensive than a set of winter tires for the sedan.

RELATED: 2019 Nissan Altima AWD Ownership Review

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