Home » The Nissan Altima Was A Hero Before It Was A Villain

The Nissan Altima Was A Hero Before It Was A Villain

Altima Ts2
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You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain. This is a line spoken by Aaron Eckhart’s Harvey Dent in the 2008 Batman film The Dark Knight. Anyone who has been online enough has certainly seen this quote in forum signatures and memes galore. Sometimes, this quote from a fictional movie can be accurately applied to situations in real life. Take the Nissan Altima. Today, it’s a sedan derided by enthusiasts for being the vehicle of choice of some (not all, but definitely some) people who like to beat traffic by threading the needle at 110 mph on two donut spares. But the Altima hasn’t always been the villain to enthusiasts. In the not-too-distant past, the Nissan Altima was a hero.

This morning, Nissan is celebrating 30 years of the Altima. Specifically, the automaker wants you to know that the 1993 Nissan Altima GLE in our topshot was “Nissan’s ‘Goldilocks’ of midsize sedans.” We agree. While the Altima of today is ignored by some and laughed at by others, there was a time when Nissan’s mid-size was a big deal. The Altima was even once named North American Car of the Year.

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If you’re like me and have spent many nights playing Forza Motorsport 2 and other driving games, maybe you’ve even sent a digital Altima around a racetrack. Those were great times.

Altima One Profile Copy 3

The pedants among you will point out that Nissan is technically over a year late on its own news, as production of the first-generation Altima began in June 1992. Nissan is celebrating 30 years of the Altima according to model years, which is fair. Let’s take a look into why the Altima was such an important vehicle for Nissan.

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Stanza Start

To understand why the Altima was such a big deal, we have to look at what came before it.

Japanese brands spent the latter half of the 20th century, and especially the final decades, working hard on planting strong roots in America. Honda started producing the Accord out of its plant in Marysville, Ohio in 1982. Acura was established in 1986 and Lexus followed in 1989. Mazda began U.S. manufacturing in 1987 in Flat Rock, Michigan. Toyota started American production at NUMMI and then had its first standalone plant running in Georgetown, Kentucky in 1988. Nissan was right there alongside them. Its first American plant opened in Smyrna, Tennessee, in 1983.

For these brands, it wasn’t good enough to just build some models here. Eventually, the United States branches of Japanese marques would move from just building cars in America to setting up design studios in the USA to pen cars just for Americans. For example, in 1996, Acura created the Acura CL Series, the Acura for America, rather than adapt an existing Japanese design to (hopefully) suit the tastes of North American customers. This strategy wasn’t limited to Japanese brands, either. If you drive a Volkswagen Atlas or a Passat made in 2011 or later, you’re driving a car crafted for your American tush. I’m getting too far ahead of myself here …

At the beginning of the 1990s, Japanese sedans were taking off in popularity and sales. Americans walked into Honda and Toyota dealerships and then drove out in a new Accord or Camry. As the midsize sedan segment heated up, this presented a problem for Nissan. It didn’t have a proper midsize sedan to compete with its peers. Sure, Nissan had the Sentra, but that was too small. On the other end of the spectrum sat the Maxima, but that was too expensive.

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Right in the middle was the Stanza. Sold elsewhere as the Bluebird, the Stanza was a fine car. The problem with the Stanza was, as Autotrader writes, that it wasn’t competitive with the power and refinement of the era’s new mid-sizers.

Unfortunately, struggling to compete in the showroom wasn’t a new problem for the Stanza. In 1985, one of the few years I could find sales data for the larger Japanese automakers, Nissan was getting beaten by everyone, including Mazda. That year, the Stanza sold 64,398 units. That’s not bad until you look at the competition. Mazda sold 92,839 examples of its 626 while Toyota moved 128,132 Camrys. Honda took the crown that year with 268,420 Accords finding a new home. As Curbside Classic notes, even domestic cars like the Ford Tempo and the Plymouth Reliant were wiping the floor with Nissan. Nissan’s own more expensive Maxima outsold the poor Stanza. Something had to change.

Nissan’s Turning Point

Altima One 3 4 (1)

Nissan wasn’t just taking the hits. Like the other Japanese brands, it focused on expansion. In 1990, the Nissan Pathfinder SUV gained a more appealing four-door option. In 1992, Nissan’s 1988 partnership with Ford paid off with the Mercury Villager and Nissan Quest minivans. Now, it was time for Nissan to battle the midsize titans.

To make this happen, Nissan invested heavily in its North American operations. It started with the Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corporation (NMMC) facility in Smyrna, Tennessee. Nissan says it spent $490 million ($1,072,380,541 today) on stamping, body assembly, painting, and trim plants at NMMC just for the Altima. Part of this huge investment included the addition of Nissan’s Intelligent Body Assembly System, which was designed to ensure tolerances within 0.1mm at 154 points on the body. Nissan says NMMC’s IBAS was the first time its system was implemented outside of Japan and the usage of the system would translate to a stronger and better quality car. Nissan’s investment in Tennessee also included a switch to a water-soluble paint system, which reduced the number of solvents used in painting.

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1993 Altima Sketch

Because of these improvements, Nissan said its Tennesee facility could build 450,000 vehicles a year. Back then, the plant was already producing the Sentra and the Truck, so the Altima was another large boost. Building the Altima also required a large workforce. Nissan said the facility would employ 6,000 people by the end of 1992, 2,000 of them would work on the Altima.

All of this was part of Nissan’s International Cooperation Program. The automaker, like its contemporaries, wanted to localize the development, production, and sales of vehicles in the markets that would receive them. For the Altima, this meant the vehicle would be penned by designers in its Nissan Design International, Inc. studio in California. And while the vehicle would continue to be based on the Bluebird, engineering was carried out by Nissan Research & Development, Inc. in Michigan. All of this would be wrapped up with a bow and punched out of Tennessee. A Nissan designed by Americans for Americans.

Altima Rear 3 4 4 Copy

Another benefit noted by Nissan is the fact that by shifting production, some 60 percent of the vehicles sold in America would be built here, reducing a trade imbalance between Japan and the United States.

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When the Altima made its debut in 1992, not everyone was convinced it was a rockstar. In a 1994 Car and Driver piece, journalist Don Schroeder recalled how the automotive press wasn’t impressed. Reportedly, car journalists of the day thought the Altima looked like a bar of soap, felt the lack of a V6 like its competition was a miss, and didn’t like the car’s automatic seatbelts. It didn’t matter what Car and Driver thought, because the public loved the Altima. 120,000 Altimas were sold in the 1993 model year, beating Nissan’s predictions by 20 percent.

Altima One Engine

It’s easy to see why people loved them. Take this feature list from my piece on the Altima SE-R:

Something notable about the first-generation Altima was found in its GLE trim level, which had a head-up display in 1993 and 1995. This HUD displayed speed, turn indicators, and warning lights. Nissan noted other luxury features like adjustable lumbar support in the front seats, digital automatic climate control, keyless entry, cornering lights, and a high-end sound system with metal speaker grilles. Furthering the luxury vibe was rosewood color [plastic] trim in 1993 and burl wood [plastic] trim in 1994.

Dash

The four-cylinder engine wasn’t a bad one, either. First-generation Altimas came equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder making 150 HP. Sure, the Altima didn’t have a V6 option, but back in those days, 150 HP was knocking on the door of V6 power. Consider that a fifth-generation Accord made 170 HP from its V6 and the Camry punched out 185 HP from its V6. The Nissan was down on power, but it wasn’t completely out of the race.

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One neat oddity about the first Altimas is the fact that they had a tiny sticker on the back with “Stanza” printed on them. Nissan says some sort of regulatory hurdle required it to call the car the Stanza Altima for a year and that’s how the automaker complied. Nissan also feared people wouldn’t be able to pronounce Altima, and Nissan distributed guides on how to say the car’s name.

Plate Name (2)

This red Stanza Altima here is what Nissan calls a “Job One” example, or a first production Altima. Anyway, the Altima seemed to impress Car and Driver in its long-term review:

At first, every driver here was strangely silent. Six thousand miles rolled up on the Altima’s odometer without any comments appearing in the car’s logbook. Quality and assembly flaws are usually the first to be noted, but staffers couldn’t seem to find any in our car, which was built in Smyrna, Tennessee.

[…]

As their logbook comments indicate, staffers thoroughly enjoyed driving the Altima despite its glitches. And the log was as revealing for what wasn’t men­tioned: no one grumbled about the auto­matic transmission, which seemed always eager to run with the Altima’s high-wind­ing 150-hp four-cylinder. Nor were there complaints about the motorized automatic shoulder belts or the lack of interior room, things we harped on the last time we looked at the Altima. It speaks well of Nissan’s small sedan that, given time and miles, these grievances seemed less important.

So, respecting the Altima’s popularity in the marketplace, it looks like Nissan slipped a curve ball past us car critics. A few more new cars like this one might have the embattled maker singing Bye‑Bye, Blues.

Smolaltimaenergy1

 

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Nissan sold the successful first-generation Altima until spring 1997, when it was replaced with a second-generation model. Unlike the first Altima, which was a leap forward for Nissan, the second Altima was largely a minor update. The vehicle received updated, more modern styling, and its engine now put out a maximum of 5 more ponies.

Reportedly, the first-generation Nissan Altima sold around 150,000 units each year. That was great for Nissan, which didn’t break six-figure sales in the past with the Stanza. The second-generation Altima didn’t move this needle forward. It was also still far lower than Honda and Toyota, which were selling a ridiculous number of their midsize sedans. In 1999, Toyota sold an incredible 445,696 Camrys and Honda was closely behind with 404,192 Accords sold.

Nissan needed another hit.

Altima Revolution

After the second-generation Altima failed to cause a sales sizzle, Nissan got serious about catching up to Toyota and Honda. This time, Nissan would give the Altima a total overhaul. Have you ever come across an old classmate for the first time in 20 years and they look so different they’re almost unrecognizable? That’s what happened to the Altima. I’ll let Nissan explain:

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It was the first mass-market product built on Nissan’s new FF-L platform, which was unique to North America and had no equivalent model in Japan. It was produced in model years 2002 through 2006. This new design had up to 18-inch wheels and was the first Altima series to offer a 3.5-liter V6 in addition to its 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. The Altima grew substantially for this generation, as interior volume expanded to 118.8 cubic feet. The Altima’s interior dimensions even surpassed that of the higher-end Maxima, so the 2004 Maxima moved more upscale into the full-size bracket. The new Altima also featured improved handling and more aggressive styling. Reviews were consistently strong by media and consumers alike as the Altima helped lead Nissan’s product resurgence in the early part of the new century.

I love how Nissan notes that the Altima got so big that the Maxima had to get bigger to maintain its higher place in Nissan’s lineup. In addition to growing up, the Altima embraced a new position in the midsize market. The Altima got so large that it ended up surpassing both the Accord and Camry in size. Nissan was no longer trying to copy Honda and Toyota. Instead, the new Altima jabbed at Honda and Toyota, as Nissan positioned the vehicle as the fun midsize choice.

Nissan’s marketing was aggressive and terribly-timed, with the automaker calling the new Altima ‘The Cure for the Common Car.’ Tired of losing your Camry in a parking lot? Buy a Nissan Altima, you won’t lose your Altima and its “Altezza Lights” jewel-like taillights in a garage. At least, that’s what Nissan wanted you to think.

The powertrain and platform also caught up, from my retrospective:

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The base engine in the Altima was a 2.5-liter four making 175 HP and 180 lb-ft torque. That was 40 more thoroughbreds in the stable than the Accord had and still bested the Camry by 18 horses. Backing up the power was a new chassis with torsional rigidity that was up by 70 percent. Meanwhile, usage of aluminum in the car’s suspension touted weight savings while adding strength.

Speaking of suspension, Nissan tossed out the torsion beam rear for a multi-link setup based on the one found in the Japanese market Skyline. Nissan even tossed in a 20-gallon fuel tank, giving the Altima long legs for its 29 highway mpg for the four cylinder and 26 highway mpg for the V6.

Initially, that 3.5-liter V6 dished out 240 HP and 246 lb-ft torque. That was good for a sprint to 60 mph in 5.9 seconds. It seemed the Altima made for a pretty decent sporty family hauler, one that Nissan was serious about using to beat Honda and Toyota.

Nissan captured lightning in a bottle with the 2002 Altima and it was rewarded with positive reviews. The new Altima scored the “North American Car of the Year” award that year as well as a “Best of the Year” nomination by MotorWeek. Check out MotorWeek’s review:

Later, Nissan would spice up the Altima with the SE-R, which bumped the V6’s output up to 260 HP and 251 lb-ft torque while adding Nissan Z-inspired styling bits, a sport suspension, and forged wheels. Nissan’s work also paid off in sales. By 2005, the Altima was selling 255,371 units a year. Sure, that’s still trailing behind the 429,519 Camrys and 369,293 Accords that sold that year, but far more than what Nissan used to sell.

Nissan Builds A Camry

In 2007, the Altima entered its fourth generation. This time around, the vehicle wasn’t a revolutionary change, but more evolutionary. The vehicle received a styling update and moved to the smaller Nissan D platform. The Altima lost an inch of wheelbase length but maintained a largely similar appearance and interior. A manual transmission stuck around as the default transmission, but a CVT appeared as the optional choice. A hybrid option also appeared in this generation.

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Nissan Altima 2007 1600 06

The Altima continued to be received well, with sales increasing to over 300,000 units for the first time in 2012. That year the fourth-generation Altima was selling 335,887 units, which nipped on the heels of the 353,204 Accords Honda sold in the same year.

Sadly, 2012 would mark the peak of Altima sales. The Altima has since been given a fifth and sixth generation, which came out in the 2013 and 2019 model years, respectively. The fifth generation brought on a major styling overhaul and the 3.5-liter VQ35 V6 even stuck around with 270 HP of output. Sadly, the manual transmission did not make a return. By the Altima’s sixth generation in 2019, even the V6 died off. The best engine is now a 2.0-liter turbo four with an output of 248 HP.

Nissan Altima Sedan 2013 1600 01

That’s not to say the Altima’s become a bad car. Instead, the Altima went from being the sporty option to being Nissan’s version of the Camry. In a way, you could probably argue that the Altima has come full circle. The 2024 Nissan Altima still generates positive reviews, with MotorTrend calling the car a bargain for people looking for a lot of tech in a mid-size sedan, before calling the CVT a horrible experience.

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Sadly for Nissan and pretty much every other automaker, midsize sedans don’t capture the public like they used to. In 2022, Nissan sold 139,956 Altimas just compared to 154,612 Accords and 295,201 Camrys. Yep, even the mighty Camry has lost some staying power.

Nissan Altima 2019 1600 07

It’s even worse for the Altima because, through all of this, it has become a bit of an Internet meme. Now, the Altima isn’t alone. You’ve probably heard them all, from Prius drivers being left lane-hogging treehuggers to Corvette owners being old guys with jorts and New balances. BMW owners don’t use turn signals, truck owners are compensating for something, and so on. The Altima is only the latest victim of Internet jokers. People have uploaded videos of clapped-out Altimas doing warp speed on busy interstates, Altimas crashing, Altimas on fire, and broken and beaten Altimas just generally engaging in shenanigans. That’s Big Altima Energy.

How true is it? Well, the Altima does frequently show up on lists of cars involved in most fatal crashes. Granted, those lists are also quite similar to the list of best-selling cars in America. The Altima also shows up on the IIHS list of cars with the highest rates of driver deaths. So, crashes are happening, but the Altima is not the worst car out there. Yet, you don’t see Big Silverado Energy or Big Mirage Energy.

Smolaltimaenergy

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I don’t think the Altima is deserving of its current reputation. It’s not the Altima’s fault that irresponsible people buy them and terrorize the streets with them. At the Altima’s best, it was a roomy sedan with a great V6 engine and even a manual transmission. At its worst, you’re looking the Nissan Camry, with isn’t really a bad thing. While we’re on the subject, the Prius is also not a bad car because some people hog the passing lane in them. Drive these cars, you might end up liking them!

The Altima marked Nissan’s turning point, but today it’s the crossovers that bring in the bacon. Now, the poor Altima is an Internet meme and punching bag. Today, Nissan celebrates 30 years of Altima, and I think it’s a celebration that was well-deserved. The Altima never succeeded in beating the sales of the competition, but it did help Nissan further drive its stakes into American soil. For a moment in time, it was also a bit of an enthusiast car, too. If recent reports are true, the Altima’s time may be coming to an end soon. If so, remember the Altima’s better days, not just the memes.

(Images: Nissan)

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The World of Vee
The World of Vee
6 months ago

we had a first gen altima after my mom traded in her sentra se-r (sads) because we were a family of four and a 2 door sentra seemed impractical.

It was a great car, I was too young to really remember the SE-R but we had that altima until we got a Windstar and never once do I remember it failing or having an issue.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
6 months ago

The Altima was even once named North American Car of the Year.

2002?! The same year as my turd?!???

How much shrimp did Nissan shove down the NACTOY judges’ holes?!

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
6 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

That’s not to say the Altima’s become a bad car.

It was already a bad car by the fourth generation. Then it got worse.

If recent reports are true, the Altima’s time may be coming to an end soon.

Good riddance, rot in peepee, thank heavens no one will be swindled into buying one of these befuddlingly fragile piles ever, ever again.

Maybe the first generation was fine, or whatever, but I take great delight in every Altima that gets fed to the crusher. It is one of those cars where I find no redeeming qualities whatsoever. It caused me great pain, and I hope it suffers.

Last edited 6 months ago by Stef Schrader
KCents
KCents
6 months ago
Reply to  Stef Schrader

Most people I hear complaining about these cars need to become more familiar with the service schedule and not allow problems that become exorbitantly complicated and expensive to arise. My Altima has been one of the best cars I’ve had, but I also get oil and CVT fluid changes regularly and have the tires changed, balanced, and rotated. In addition to being highly efficient, it is comfortable, particularly on long drives, and I am always getting compliments about how good it looks.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
6 months ago
Reply to  KCents

I feel like that’s a bit of a weakness, though. Someone didn’t get the design memo of “you’re selling this to basically everyone, a solid chunk of whom are bad at maintenance.” Mine came used, and I don’t know how the previous owners were using it, but no amount of me staying on top of things could keep it from eating its own head gasket. Repeatedly.

If you’re designing an enthusiast car, yeah, push the boundaries. My 944’s pretty bulletproof with the right amount of maintenance and attention, too, but I do have to warn future owners to mind the belts or they’ll have a grenade under the hood. But a mass-market sedan?

Last edited 6 months ago by Stef Schrader
MikuhlBrian
MikuhlBrian
6 months ago

When the Altima debuted, Nissan also released a commercial that took a swing at a very similar commercial from Lexus a couple years prior. The one with the wine glasses on the hood.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uH6_cMcTIcY

KevFC
KevFC
6 months ago

After my 85 year old mother had a stroke but then was recertified to drive, we went out looking for a car easier to enter and egress than the little things she had always had before. With just one “sit” and without even a test drive she wanted the 2002 Altima.

The sales guy assured us that the engine was good for 300,000 miles. Then in the obligatory exit chat the “manager” strongly recommended the extended warranty. I did all the talking with my mother sitting silently with cane in hand.

I pointed out that the extended warranty didn’t make sense because she drove about 3,000 miles a year, and things should be ticking along just fine 100 years hence. I wish I had a video of his reaction – as close to totally speechless as a fast talking dealer guy could get with the mouth opening and closing and no words coming out. After turning down the under coatings, special finishes, deals with the local bank (he knew this was a cash purchase) etc asked what he was doing wrong. To soothe his ego I said nothing wrong but nothing more was needed.

She died ~ 20,000 miles later, We sold/gave for about 1/3 book to a relative. For a long time it was used for big city commuting, and at well over 200,000 miles it’s still in use. Yes, it has had a few repairs along the way but nothing major AFAIK.

KCents
KCents
6 months ago
Reply to  KevFC

I am convinced that most people who complain about these cars have either owned one but never taken proper care of it or they have heard from third parties how horrible the vehicles allegedly are. Mine has been reliable, easy to own and operate, efficient, stylish, and comfortable, and I routinely get compliments on how well it rides and looks.

PresterJohn
PresterJohn
6 months ago

I mean, it’s not the Altima itself that’s at fault for Big Altima Energy, but it’s certainly Nissan’s. Their longtime lending policy is “has pulse”. The fact that they’re reliable just means they can go through several buy here/pay here places before finally dying. Dodge has the same issue to some extent.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
6 months ago
Reply to  PresterJohn

They do seem to go from new car status to clapped out beater status faster than anything else on the road, though. You see far more recent model year Altimas running around with missing bumpers and crushed in grilles than any other model. It’s like people run into a telephone pole as soon as they pull out of the dealership

PresterJohn
PresterJohn
6 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

It’s truly amazing. The running on two bald donuts thing is not a joke either. I’ve seen it.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
6 months ago
Reply to  PresterJohn

Yeeeeeah. I clown on this car because I hate it for other reasons, but a lot of people get into an Altima as a reasonably priced vehicle they can afford. It’s transportation. A new or lower-mile Altima might be less of an unknown than a different used car. (Might. Hard might. Mine was an unreliable, irredeemable pile, but it also had higher mileage and that turd of a QR25DE under the hood.)

Anyway, most Altima drivers are fine, but they sell a lot of those things. I think there’s a lot of weird classism that sneaks into the Altima memes based on the car’s most egregious drivers.

Last edited 6 months ago by Stef Schrader
Loudsx .
Loudsx .
6 months ago

I Had a 1993 in Australian Bluebird spec.

was a great commuter when I needed a cheap get around, then we got bored threw the entire whiteline suspension catalog at it and some semi slicks and went autocross in it.

was usually in top 20% as it was kina light and chuckable.

great little car.

ProudLuddite
ProudLuddite
6 months ago

The original Altima got pretty good press, and Nissan was considered by most on par with Toyota and Honda in the nineties. Considers buying one and we were kind of a Nissan family for a while, wife had a 240SX when I met her, I subsequently had an original Sentra SE-R, followed by a ’99 Maxima with a 5 speed.

Then the 2000s came and Nissan products didn’t really appeal to me anymore.

Anyway, I think Nissan tried to hit them where they ain’t with the original Altima, it was more than a Civic or Corolla, but less than a Camry or Accord, which made sense, as the Maxima was slightly upmarket from the Camry and Accord.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
6 months ago

I always wondered why Datsun/Nissan used the pointless dual name Stanza Altima when they could have just called the new model the new Stanza.

Stanza had equity, and Altima had so little going for it that they had to distribute pronunciation guides for it!

Nissan was once a near match for Toyota and Honda, other than the fact that the Maxima was never maximal and always noticeably too small to compete directly with similar priced vehicles.

I used to view their mid size and small cars as solid contenders looking for an opening until they started using CVTs, and now they’ve JATCO CVT’d themselves nearly to death.

Der Foo
Der Foo
6 months ago

In 2003 I was looking to get out of my 2000 Maxima (had an automatic trans that barely shifted and an engine that dieseled more than a Cummins). Looked at a new Maxima, but the build quality was poop and styling that made me pause. The Altima was a better car in a lot of ways to the Maxima. I think it was my pride saying I wasn’t moving down in the lineup.

Not even sure why I was looking at Nissan after my experience with the deeply troubled Maxima that Nissan techs said ran acceptably.

Ended up with an Acura TSX, that while it had some issues, was waaaayyyy more rewarding. Came –||– this close to a used BMW 328 (this was back when the 3 series was still a driver’s car), but for reasons I cannot remember now, probably sales price and repair costs, chose the Acura.

Stef Schrader
Stef Schrader
6 months ago
Reply to  Der Foo

Yeah, you dodged a bullet by getting something else.

J Money
J Money
6 months ago

As usual, great work, Autopian team. I love these detailed, nostalgia-stirring posts. My parents replaced a 1988 Volvo 740 wagon with the first, 1993 Altima SE. We loved that car.

Then in 2003, I got myself a 2003 Altima SE….I’ve owned a lot of fun cars and that one still holds a place because of how much of a sleeper it was. 0-60 in 5.9 in 2003 was insane for a mid-size, affordable sedan. God, we loved that car. My wife still claims it was her favorite. Did a lot of sleeping in that passenger seat.

They had some duds in there, for sure, but it wasn’t all bad and I’m glad to see it get this deep dive.

Pneumatic Tool
Pneumatic Tool
6 months ago

I remember the OG Altima very well. I was two years out of college, firmly embarked on my career, and almost married. I really was considering it as a vehicle until we decided on getting a house instead. Ultimately, a better choice, but seeing one now reminds me of how I felt about it back then.

Michael Beranek
Michael Beranek
6 months ago

I never drove or even rode in a first-gen Altima, but my wife had the Stanza that immediately preceded it. With a 5-speed, it was a fun car. The 2.4 made 140 and was enough for a car that barely weighed 2,900. But on the highway, it was a chore- too many revs, not enough wheelbase, and not enough weight. Still, on a curvy road, it was an absolute baller.
In 2004 I was shopping for a new car and I really liked the new-look Altima. I test drove a 2.5 5-speed, and while it was okay, I just wasn’t impressed. I went home and priced a 3.5, but it was in a much higher trim tier and cost over 25k. I thought, “how much more is a base Maxima?” and priced it at 27.5. There was a base one- no options whatsoever- at my local dealer, and even in my color. I was only about a mile into the test drive when I decided I wanted it. Way more refined than the Altima, with better handling, more sound insulation, and oh that VQ with a six-speed is magic.
Manual-trans Maxima is always the answer.

Fruit Snack
Fruit Snack
6 months ago

Some “Altima Energy” drivers seem to be graduating to new, fast Camrys and terrorizing the road with more comfort and confidence. In these recent years of recklessness you have to watch out equally for both.

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