Nissan Altima is full of vim and vigor
THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2007 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE midsize sedan. DOWN THE ROAD: Redesigned for 2007, this fourth-generation Altima has a shorter wheelbase of nearly an inch and is 2½ inches shorter in length while offering the same amount of interior space as its predecessor. Handling is responsive in this midsize sedan, which comes in four trims. Overall, this brisk car exhibits vim and vigor even around sharp corners and turns. TECH & PERFORMANCE: The 3.5-liter V-6 engine is mated to an effortless Continuously Variable Transmission with manual-shift capability. It puts out a healthy 270 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 258 pounds-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. The SE model is outfitted with a sport-tuned suspension, which results in a well-damped and sure-footed ride. A power-assisted, speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering makes the Altima a breeze to drive at highway speeds or while parking in a tight spot. The 11.7-inch front vented and 11.5-inch solid rear disc brakes operate inside 17-inch alloy wheels. LOOK & FEEL: Based on a unibody construction, the Altima SE shows off a T-shaped and chrome-tipped grille flanked by xenon headlights and fog lamps, Altima-style tail lamps and dual exhaust pipes with chrome finishes. The cabin is spacious with a three-pod instrument panel displaying the speedometer, tachometer, coolant temperature and fuel level. The controls for temperature and audio are logically laid out and simple to use. The unique triple front cupholders housed in the center console caught my eye. Believe it or not, there are a total of nine cup/bottleholders throughout the cabin. To turn on the car, just push the start button while keeping the key in your pocket. An eight-way power driver's seat, tilt/telescoping steering column, four-spoke leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, power windows and automatic on/off headlights are some of the standard features.SAFETY FIRST: As of 2007, Nissan has made the front side airbag and side curtain airbag for both rows standard features in the Altima. Also available at no extra charge are dual front airbags, traction control, front and rear crumple zones, four-wheel antilock brakes, front-seat active head restraints and front-seat belts with pretensioners. OUT THE DOOR: $24,500, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges. Opt for the $4,400 premium package, which will fetch you XM satellite radio, Bluetooth hands-free phone capability, Bose audio with six in-dash CD player, xenon headlights, leather seats, power sliding-glass moonroof, dual-zone automatic climate control and other amenities. BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P215/55R17 all-season; wheelbase, 109.3 inches; length, 189.8 inches; weight, 3,055 pounds; fuel capacity, 20 gallons; highway, 28 mpg; city, 22 mpg. WHY DIG IT: If you are looking for a little pep in a midsize sedan, the Altima will fill the need. With snappy acceleration, bold styling and several comfortable features, it should be an easy and rewarding decision. Nitish S. Rele is an advertising staff writer for The Tampa Tribune.