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Kelley Blue Book ® - 2004 Nissan Altima Overview

Vehicle Overview from Kelley Blue Book

KBB.com 2004 Nissan Altima Overview

Gold Standard Performance at a Tin Cup Price

For years, people with modest means who needed the practicality of a four-door sedan were offered little more than a series of generic-looking, colorless, gutless rental car clones. Riding to their rescue is Nissan's Altima, a car that puts the "fun" back in fundamental transportation.

For 2004, the spirited Altima line continues to offer a wide variety of trim levels and engine/transmission choices. The 2.5, 2.5 S and 2.5 SL are all powered by an impressive 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that seems to be laboring under the delusion that it is actually a small V6. You'll find the 2.5-liter's ample torque (181 lb-ft. at 6000 rpm) allows it to accelerate briskly, pull with vigor and run like the wind—all while sipping fuel at the miserly rate of 23-mpg city and 29-mpg highway. The 2.5 and 2.5 S come standard with a quick-shifting five-speed manual transmission and offer the option of a four-speed automatic; the 2.5 SL is available only with the automatic.

The last trim level in the Altima arsenal is by far the best. The 3.5 SE comes with a long list of standard and optional equipment, all of which becomes secondary once you've experienced the potent output of the car's 3.5-liter V6 engine. Rated at an astounding 245-horsepower, the 3.5 SE is clearly equipped to outrun many high-end sports sedans costing tens of thousands more. Whether starting from a dead stop or passing up slower moving traffic, the 3.5 SE delivers instantaneous bursts of speed that generate enough g-forces to merge body with seat.

All that power does come at a price, and you'll feel it mostly in the form of pure torque steer, a term used to describe a front-wheel-drive car's tendency to pull in the direction of the wheel getting power. Beyond this one minor observation, everything else about the 3.5 SE's handling abilities shine brighter than a mirror pointed at the sun. You can run the Altima through the tightest of turns, wrenching the steering wheel back-and-forth in a furious attempt to make the rear-end break loose, but it will all be in vain. The sport tuned suspension and independent rear-end are clearly resolute in their mission to keep the Altima connected to the road.

As for the handling of the four-cylinder models, you'll find it is almost as good as that of the 3.5 SE and certainly light years ahead of your average family sedan.

Performance and handling are only part of the Altima success story; the rest can be found inside the car. Slip inside the Altima and you'll find a roomy cabin with ample legroom for both front and rear passengers. The driver is greeted by a sophisticated dash design highlighted by a pod-like instrument cluster that moves in conjunction with the tilt/telescopic steering wheel. At the center of the dash you'll see an oval panel that houses the audio and ventilation controls, all of which are illuminated by warm orange back lighting. Though soothing to view at night, some may find that the digital readouts become washed out in bright sunlight making them somewhat difficult to see. Nissan has improved the quality and texture of the interior plastics, but the Altima's interior is still not up to par with cars like the Honda Accord and the Volkswagen Passat.

Though comfortable for passengers, some drivers may find the Altima's seats a bit on the soft side and could do with a bit more side bolstering, especially during sporting drives.

Creature comforts are plentiful in the Altima. The base 2.5 comes standard with 4-wheel disc brakes, rear defroster, power door locks, tilt/telescopic steering wheel, split-folding rear seats, one-touch up/down power windows, 16-inch wheels with covers and illuminated entry. The 2.5 S adds air conditioning, keyless entry, dual power mirrors, speed control, upgraded audio and a longer options list. The 2.5 SL adds such luxury items as leather seats while both the SL and 3.5 SE offer heated outside mirrors, automatic day/night rear-view mirror, power driver's seat, AM/FM CD audio and much more. Options include a power moonroof, alloy wheels, side-impact airbags and a Bose audio system.

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