The latest version of the Nissan Altima is now entering its third year, yet it still looks quite fresh inside and out, with a distinctively sportier appearance throughout. The standard 2.5 and 2.5 S versions of the 2009 Nissan Altima are powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing 175 horsepower. Underneath the hood of the 3.5 SE and 3.5 SL models is a 270-horsepower version of Nissan's well-regarded 3.5-liter DOHC V-6; it's the most powerful Altima ever. Both powerplants can be paired with a six-speed manual transmission or the Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT).
TheCarConnection.com's editors especially like the "shiftless" CVT, which operates seamlessly, reduces noise in cruising, and actually seems more responsive than a normal automatic. With a rather taut suspension, the 2009 Nissan Altima feels especially sporty, yet it rides well enough to soak up most bumps.
The 2009 Nissan Altima has an interior that comes across as positively functional, rather than gimmicky, with neat, attractive styling and nice materials, but its backseat could be tight for taller adults. The instrument panel brings some of the more intimate look and feel of a sports coupe without seeming tight.
There's also a coupe body style of the Altima, but it's considerably shorter and thus feels different inside and on the road. The coupe also has a very quiet interior, although there can be some road noise on coarse surfaces. Front seats are unique to the coupe, with sportier contouring and more support than those in the sedan. The backseats are split 60/40 and fold forward to expand the trunk area, which has an admittedly small opening due to the very sloped back window. Like the sedan, the coupe sports sharp response from the front strut and multilink rear suspension.
Crash-test results have been mostly good for the Altima, with top five-star results in the federal tests and Good ratings from the insurance-affiliated IIHS--except for Marginal ratings in the seat-based rear-impact test. All model levels get front, side, and curtain airbags, and anti-lock brakes are now standard across the line. Electronic stability control is still not offered on the four-cylinder models.
For 2009, standard equipment has been bolstered on the Nissan Altima, with all models receiving a new automatic door lock system. Refinements to the base model Altimas include black grille highlights, a new 16-inch wheel cover design, dual power remote-controlled side-view mirrors, speed-sensitive variable intermittent windshield wipers, and a standard trip computer. 2009 Altima 2.5 S models feature revised Connection Package content. The Altima 3.5 SE gets standard Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC), High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlights, fog lights, and a rear spoiler, while the 2009 3.5 SL receives new VDC packages.
Bluetooth is an option, and a rearview monitor and navigation system are also available. Factory-installed XM Satellite Radio is another option on the 2009 Nissan Altima. The Intelligent Key with Push Start Ignition--a system that allows you to keep the "key" in your pocket and use an ignition button to start the engine--is now standard.
The Bottom Line:
The 2009 Nissan Altima has a sportier look and feel than most other mid-size sedans, but it's just as practical.