2021 Nissan Altima
The 2021 Altima is a key member of the fuel-efficient and tech-laden Nissan lineup. This sharp-looking midsized sedan wears a few different hats, with versions ranging from a no-nonsense front-wheel drive base model to the weather-ready AWD version to the athletic VC-Turbo SR. Each incarnation of the ’21 Altima can be set up with a satisfying slate of standard safety features, state-of-the art technologies for both driving and connectivity, and upscale interior comforts.
While all-wheel drive availability is a rarity for vehicles in this segment, the variable-compression turbocharged (VC-Turbo) engine for the SR is a Nissan exclusive. Unlike most engines with a fixed compression ratio, the VC-Turbo is constantly adjusting to find the ideal balance between the lower compression ratio for maximum performance and the higher compression ratio for more efficiency at cruising speed. For 2021, the Altima’s trim lineup has been shuffled. The SR is now recognized as the mid-level trim, where it previously was the SV. The SV has been bumped down a rung and gets a slightly lower starting price. It can be ordered with the all-new SV Premium Package, however, to add some top-notch amenities.
Trims and Powertrain
The five trim levels of the 2021 Nissan Altima are the S, SV, SR, SL, and Platinum. Most of them get the base engine, a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine (188 hp and 182 lb.-ft. of torque) mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT). The SR is eligible for the VC-Turbo 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine with its attention-getting 248 hp and 273 lb.-ft. of torque (with premium fuel; with regular unleaded it makes 236 hp and 267 lb.-ft. of torque). While front-wheel drive is the default, Nissan’s Intelligent All-Wheel Drive system is available for all Altima versions except the S and VC-Turbo SR. AWD is standard on the Platinum.
According to EPA estimates, the S trim returns a very attractive 28 mpg around town and 39 mpg on the highway, owed in part to the standard active grille shutters, which increase aerodynamics at higher speeds. The FWD SV, the SR with the base engine, and the SL get 27 city/37 highway. If the SV and SL are configured with AWD, this changes to 26 city/36 highway. The AWD SR and the Platinum both achieve 25 city/35 highway. The zesty VC-Turbo SR is rated for 25 city/34 highway – good numbers for a performance-oriented powertrain.
Comfort and Convenience
The base S is provided with remote start, automatic halogen headlights, Nissan Intelligent Key with push-button ignition, piano-black trim, a power-adjustable driver’s seat, a 60/40 split fold-down rear seatback, and a rearview camera. The SV yields LED headlights and daytime running lights; the optional SV Premium Package will add a driver’s seat with power lumbar support, side mirrors with integrated LED turn-signal indicators, a moonroof, heated front seats, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. The leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob are standard on the SR, but the remaining niceties can be added through the SR Premium Package, which also includes heated side mirrors. The SR also gets trim-specific style accents, carbon-fiber interior trim, and steering-wheel-mounted paddle shifters for a more engaging ride.
The SR with the VC-Turbo receives the SR Premium Package’s features as standard, along with active noise-canceling technology. The SL returns the piano-black trim and also gets the items from the SR Premium Package, plus LED fog lights, dual-zone automatic climate control, back-seat air vents, remote start with Intelligent Climate Control, a power-adjustable front passenger’s seat, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel, and wood trim. The Platinum is loaded with an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a HomeLink universal transceiver, interior accent lighting, and memory functions for the driver’s seat and side mirrors.
Safety and Technology
All 2021 Altimas are equipped with a series of standard and optional driver aids through Nissan’s Safety Shield 360. This includes ProPilot Assist (adaptive cruise control), Intelligent Forward Collision Warning (which monitors the vehicle ahead of the one immediately in front of you), automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, high beam assist, and Intelligent Driver Alertness (helps monitor driver fatigue and sounds a warning to keep you focused). Blind-spot warning, rear cross-traffic alert, rear automatic braking, and rear parking sensors are all available within the Driver Assist Package. These features are standard on the SV, which also gets Intelligent Trace Control (applies the brakes automatically to help keep the vehicle stable during cornering). The SL receives traffic sign recognition, while the Platinum adds a surround-view camera system.
The S gets an infotainment system with a 7-inch touchscreen and voice recognition, Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming, a six-speaker audio system, an auxiliary input jack, and a USB port. The SV upgrades its system with an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, two USB ports, and satellite radio. The SL adds navigation and a premium nine-speaker Bose audio system.
2021 Altima Trims
Power and Performance
The S, SV, SR, SL, and Platinum all come with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. In the S, SV, SR, and SL, this powerplant makes 188 hp and 180 lb.-ft. of torque, but in the Platinum, it produces 182 hp and 178 lb.-ft. of torque. The SR VC-Turbo gets a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder with a pleasing output of 236 hp and 267 lb.-ft. of torque (248 hp and 273 lb.-ft. of torque with premium fuel). Both engines work with a continuously variable transmission (CVT). Front-wheel drive is standard on most trims; all-wheel drive is available on the SV, SR, and SL, but it’s standard on the Platinum.
The S returns an EPA-estimated 28 mpg in the city and 39 mpg on the highway. The FWD SV, SR, and SL get 27 city/37 highway. With AWD, the SV and SL achieve 26 mpg around town and 36 mpg on the highway, while the AWD SR and Platinum are rated for 25 city/35 highway. The SR VC-Turbo gets 25 city/34 highway.
The base S has plenty of great features for its occupants to enjoy, highlighted by remote start. It also has 16-inch wheels, automatic headlights, keyless entry, push-button ignition, a USB port, a 5-inch multi-informational display, cloth upholstery, and a 60/40 split fold-down rear seatback. The infotainment system has a 7-inch touchscreen, voice recognition, a six-speaker audio system, and Bluetooth hands-free phone and audio streaming. Several advanced driver aids are issued, too, such as forward collision warning, automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, lane departure warning, automatic high beams, and driver attention warning. A Driver Assist Package is available and will supply a power-adjustable driver’s seat, blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert, rear automatic braking, and rear parking sensors.
The SV gets the features just listed as options on the S, in addition to LED headlights, a 7-inch Advanced Driver-Assist Display, an 8-inch touchscreen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, another USB port, two USB-C ports, and SiriusXM satellite radio. A Premium Package is offered, which outfits power lumbar support for the driver’s seat, side mirrors with turn-signal indicators, dual chrome exhaust finishers, a moonroof, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, ProPilot Assist adaptive cruise control with steering assist, and intelligent lane intervention.
SR and SR VC-Turbo
The SR gains the aforementioned dual chrome exhaust finishers and leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob. It even has a unique exterior look and sportier cloth upholstery. Buyers can add the SR Premium Package, which will bundle most of the features from the SV Premium Package (power lumbar support for the driver’s seat, side mirrors with turn-signal indicators, a moonroof, and heated front seats), plus heated side mirrors. ProPilot Assist and intelligent lane intervention are not included. The VC-Turbo grade receives the more robust engine, in addition to the items from the SR Premium Package and active noise cancelling technology.
The SL has the features from the SR Premium Package, as well as ProPilot Assist and intelligent lane intervention. On top of those, it adds LED fog lights, chrome exterior accents, dual-zone automatic climate control, rear passenger air-conditioning vents, remote start with intelligent climate control, a power-adjustable front passenger’s seat, leather seats, a heated steering wheel, integrated navigation, NissanConnect remote services, a nine-speaker Bose sound system, and traffic sign recognition.
The Platinum is the most luxurious of the bunch, and it gets standard AWD, as mentioned. It also comes with an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a universal garage door opener, interior accent lights, position memory for the driver’s seat and side mirrors, and a surround-view camera system.