THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2008 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE midsize sedan.
DOWN THE ROAD: A carryover from 2007, when it underwent a major redesign, the Altima gets standard four-wheel antilock brakes this year. Otherwise, this four-generation front-wheel-drive sedan, which sits on a unibody structure, maintains its nimbleness, spaciousness and sportiness. The ride is responsive and handling is decent in the car.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: A 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 engine delivers a respectable 270 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 258 pounds-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. Power reaches the front wheels via a standard 6-speed manual or a seamless Continuous Variable Transmission. Suspension is handled by an independent front strut with coil springs and a rear multilink setup, both of which are equipped with stabilizer bars. The power rack-and-pinion steering is precise and linear, whether you are pulling into a tight parking spot or cruising the highway. Braking duties for the 17-inch alloy wheels are handled competently by a 11.7-inch vented disc in the front and an 11.5-inch solid disc in the rear. Nissan deserves kudos for offering four-wheel antilock brakes as standard equipment.
LOOK & FEEL: The front fascia of the Altima portrays an aggressive look with a T-shaped and chrome-tipped grille, fog lamps, optional xenon headlights and body-colored door handles and mirrors. A chrome finish also adorns the dual exhaust tailpipes. Step inside and you will find yourself ensconced in comfortable seats and grasping a solid four-spoke leather steering wheel. The three-pod instrument panel, with speedometer, tachometer, fuel and temperature gauges, is logically laid out. Three covered cup holders in the center console with six more throughout the cabin will come in handy during those long trips. As will the 15.3 cubic feet of trunk space and the 60/40-split fold-down rear seat for storing luggage. I liked the intelligent key with push-button ignition, which enables one to start the car with the key fob in the pocket.
SAFETY FIRST: Standard features include dual front and side airbags, side curtain airbag, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, front and rear crumple zones, front seat active-head restraints and front seatbelts with pretensioners.
OUT THE DOOR: $24,580, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. For $6,200, which includes the technology, premium and sport packages, you will get the navigation system, rearview camera and spoiler, power-sliding glass moonroof, leather seats and leather shifter knob and HID xenon headlights, among other amenities.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P215/55R17 all-season; wheelbase, 109.3 inches; length, 189.8 inches; weight, 3,358 pounds; fuel capacity, 20 gallons; highway, 26 mpg; city, 19 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: For several years now, the Altima has endured and survived fierce competition in the crowded midsize sedan segment. Redesigned last year, the car will appeal to buyers who are looking for powerful performance, bold looks, generous space and most of all, sportiness.