What Is It?
The Altima is one of the most important models in the Nissan lineup — the popular four-door sedan is both the brand’s best-selling passenger car and one of the best-selling models in America. Altima benefited from a complete redesign a few years ago. The 2023 Nissan Altima gets a significant update with fresh exterior styling, an upgraded interior and more standard features. As successful as this sedan has been over the years, the Japan-based automaker hopes this refresh will keep the Altima’s sales momentum going well into the future.
Nissan provided us with a 2023 Nissan Altima 2.0 SR VC-Turbo, painted in a premium Scarlet Ember Tintcoat. The SR VC-Turbo resides at the top of the Altima lineup, so almost everything is standard — the only option on the test vehicle was floor mats. The total MSRP for the Altima as tested was $36,835. The sedan’s numerous competitors include the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Hyundai Sonata, Kia K5 and Subaru Legacy.
The most noticeable change to the 2023 Nissan Altima is up front; the car sports a new fascia showcasing a revised version of Nissan’s V-Motion grille. The larger grille gives the car a wider stance and features the new Nissan logo front and center. The top-level SR receives a special black chrome grille with a unique pattern to differentiate it from the rest of the lineup. Standard LED headlights flank the new grille, along with signature LED running lights.
In addition to the styling updates, Nissan also offers new wheels for the 2023 Altima to further vary the updated model from other recent iterations. These include a 17-inch wheel for the Altima SV as well as three 19-inch wheel designs for the SR, SL and SR VC-Turbo.
Looking inside the 2023 Nissan Altima, the most apparent update for the 2023 model year is a new 12.3-inch color touchscreen display that replaces the previous 8.0-inch screen. Optional on the lower trim levels but standard on the SR that we drove, the large screen is easy to navigate with a static menu remaining constant on the left side of the screen providing quick links to navigation, audio and the home screen. The display can be easily configured to display the driver’s preferred features and shortcuts. Multiple pages can be set, accessible by swiping left or right. Climate controls are kept separate for quick access, and a Bose premium audio system with nine speakers and active noise cancellation is also available.
Android Auto / Apple CarPlay
A welcome addition to the 2023 Altima is the addition of wireless Android Auto (wireless Apple CarPlay has already been available). Connecting to a Galaxy S21 Android phone is quick and easy, and Nissan allows Android Auto users to take advantage of all the larger screen’s real estate. With menu options remaining constant on the left side of the screen, it’s easy to switch to features in the Nissan system, then back to Android Auto with just one selection.
The test vehicle we drove also featured Nissan’s digital 7.0-inch display located between the speedometer and tachometer. A range of information pertinent to the driver can be selected via buttons on the steering wheel, providing information such as fuel economy, driving directions, vehicle status and adaptive cruise control settings.
The Altima SR VC-Turbo comes standard-equipment sport seats trimmed in leather with new dual stitching that carries into the center console and door trim. In keeping with other Nissans we’ve driven, the Altima has what the company calls Zero Gravity seats that feature dual-density foam and bolstering for better comfort and support.
The 2023 Nissan Altima’s rear seat offers plenty of space with decent legroom and headroom. Seats are nicely bolstered and are comfortable for two adults. And in keeping with the typical midsize sedan, the middle rear seat of the Altima is less comfortable with limited legroom and a harder seat cushion; however, it will work for an adult in a pinch. The new Altima has two USB ports — a USB-A and a USB-C — in the center console so rear-seat passengers can keep their devices charged.
It may not be an SUV, but the Altima can easily handle plenty of cargo thanks to its spacious trunk. We carried a few suitcases and backpacks with room to spare. Rear seats can be folded flat in 60/40 configuration to provide additional flexibility for oversized cargo items.
Under the Hood
Nissan offers two engines in the Altima, both of which carry over from the previous model year. The standard 2.5-liter direct-injection 4-cylinder unit producing 188 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque powers most of the lineup; however, the SR we drove had the innovative 2.0-liter Variable Compression Turbo powerplant that produces 248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. Both engines get teamed with Nissan’s Xtronic continuously variable transmission. The more powerful VC-Turbo engine is only available on the SR trim level and, unfortunately, it’s not available with all-wheel drive.
According to the U.S. EPA, the powerful VC Turbo engine delivers an impressive 25 mpg city / 34 mpg highway / 39 mpg combined. During our time in the Altima, which included a mix of highway and city driving, the trip computer indicated a bit over 29 mpg, so the EPA numbers seem accurate.
All 2023 Altimas come with Nissan Safety Shield 360, the brand’s suite of advanced safety features. This suite includes automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, automatic rear braking, lane departure warning, blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, and high-beam headlight assist.
Nissan continues to offer its ProPILOT Assist driver-assistance system for 2023. Standard on Altima SL and SR VC-Turbo (optional on SV), the ProPILOT Assist is Nissan’s first step toward autonomous driving. Employing cameras, radar and other sensors, the system provides steering assistance to keep the vehicle centered in the lane and maintain a preset distance behind the vehicle in front, matching speed as necessary. ProPILOT Assist can also slow the car to a complete stop and hold — a convenient feature during heavy stop-and-go traffic.
On the Road
We had the opportunity to test the Altima SR VC-Turbo for several days in the Pacific Northwest in a variety of weather and road conditions. The VC-Turbo provides excellent performance with quick acceleration off the line. The stability and traction control systems keep the front wheels from spinning without being overly intrusive in most situations. Even at highway speeds, the 2023 Nissan Altima has enough torque to push passengers back in their seats with a jab of the throttle.
On the highway, the Altima delivers a solid, comfortable ride. On rough roads occupants may detect a bit of road noise, especially on rough roads, but not enough to consider it annoying. The high-end Bose audio system with noise canceling helps with this issue and sounds excellent. Front seats offer great support; we felt no fatigue even after several hours behind the wheel. This Altima would make a great road trip car.
Nissan uses the “Four Door Sports Car” moniker on the higher-end Maxima, but that term could easily apply to the Altima VC-Turbo. The RS gets a sport-tuned suspension, and with its commendable steering feedback and impressive power the Altima is good fun on a long and winding road. Not quite a sports car, yet still an engaging drive.
In most situations, the 2023 Nissan Altima’s CVT works well, even simulating gear changes like an automatic transmission. However, on several occasions we detected a surge in power when it wasn’t expected, such as when accelerating out of a turn. After some time we were able to anticipate the issue and modulate the throttle; even so, we still prefer Nissan’s new 9-speed automatic to the CVT.
During our time with the Altima, the Pacific Northwest experienced an early snowfall with several inches of accumulation. Unfortunately the Altima VC-Turbo is FWD only and arrived for testing fitted with all-season tires. Of course this is no ding against Nissan; some cars are set up for snow better than others. When we inevitably found ourselves stuck in the snow, a shortcoming of the Altima revealed itself. Often the key to getting a vehicle unstuck is turning off the traction control so the wheels can spin. Most vehicles have a button to disable traction control; the Altima does not. Digging through the Vehicle Dynamic Controls menu can turn traction control off. However, this also turns off automatic emergency braking and rear automatic braking. Not ideal. A simple button like most other cars would suffice.
The midsize sedan market is very competitive with many models such as the long-running Toyota Camry and Honda Accord, but the Altima has done a great job holding its own against these well-known nameplates. With tasteful updates to the 2023 model inside and out, a comfortable cabin and the latest advanced infotainment and safety technology, the Altima has a lot to offer. Add in the excellent drivability and the choice of two fuel-efficient engines, including the powerful VC-Turbo, and the Altima should have little difficulty holding onto its spot as one of the best-selling passenger cars in America.