Sport models typically promise enhanced performance, but the 2016 Nissan Altima SR takes the premise and wraps it in a value proposition. Unlike other sport models that may bump the engine's output, the SR model, which is new to the Altima range, confines most of its enthusiast oriented tweaks to things like a tauter suspension and visible cues like the 18-inch alloy wheels, smoked headlamps housings, foglights and rear decklid spoiler. Inside, the SR is distinguished by a leather wrapper steering wheel and shift knob and large column-mounted paddle shifters.

The SR trim level is part of a mid-cycle refresh that features new styling on the Altima that gives it a more distinctive face, crisper character lines and additional brightwork that contributes its upscale look. Inside, the interior has also been updated and brings the general look in line with other recently redesigned vehicles like the Maxima and Murano. The changes are much needed at a time when key competitors in the segment, such as the Honda Accord, Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima have undergone similar upgrades.

Sport and value

The retuned suspension gives the 2016 Altima SR a firmer ride and the paddle shifts give the continuously variable transmission (CVT) seven steps that enables the driver, in manual mode, to make it act more like a traditional step gear transmission. Left in automatic mode, however, there is a bit of an elastic feel to the acceleration and the engine can drone a bit at constant speeds. Nissan has made strides in making its CVT less obvious, though it's not quite as refined as those found in Hondas.

Power comes from a 182-horsepower 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine driving the front wheels. The output is just fine for a mid-size sedan of this ilk, but the sport intent from the SR comes more from its more nimble handling than from pavement-ripping power. One of the approaches in making a sport sedan is shedding weight and features, and the SR takes its cue from that in offering fewer accessories than models further up the Altima range. This is where value enters the proposition. Our SR was equipped with cloth seats, a simple center screen that featured a backup camera, but no nav or satellite radio. The driver does get an 8-way power seat along with the requisite keyless entry and power window and door looks. But that's about it.

This limited equipment set, however, is reflected in the base price which is $24,470. The SR we drove had only two options, a $600 LED headlamp appearance package and $220 worth of floor mats. With $825 destination, the out the door price is just $26,115, which is highly competitive for a roomy 4-door sedan in the mid-size segment. 

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