Details on the 2011 Nissan Altima 2.5S sedan

Sunday, January 30, 2011; 9:00 AM

Bottom line: As indicated by the 2011 Altima and the many compact sedans on display at the Washington Auto Show, competition in the family-sedan segment has grown more intense. The Honda Accord and Toyota Camry remain good. But they are no longer necessarily the best, especially when it comes to value for dollar. Serious comparison shopping is needed here.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Dry-road ride is very good. Handling is excellent on dry roads and surprisingly good - self-corrective - in snowy, slippery weather. Dry-road acceleration is good.

Head-turning quotient: Sporty, attractive; mainstream minus the boredom.

Body style/layout: The Nissan Altima is a compact front-engine, front-wheel-drive gasoline-fueled car with four side doors and a traditional notchback trunk. The Altima also is available as a coupe. Trim levels include the base 2.5, mid-level 2.5S and top-of-the-line 3.5SR. A hybrid Altima (gas and electric) is available.

Engine/transmission: The car comes with a standard 2.5-liter, 16-valve direct-injection in-line four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing and lift (175 horsepower, 180 foot-pounds of torque). It is mated to a continuously variable (no fixed gears) automatic transmission.

Capacities: There are seats for five people. Luggage capacity is 15.3 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 20 gallons of gasoline (regular is recommended).

Mileage: The federal rating is 23 miles per gallon in the city and 32 on the highway. Waste: I burned five gallons idling in snow-trapped traffic.

Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes (ventilated front, solid rear), anti-lock brake protection, electronic brake-force distribution, side air bags, rear head air bags, and electronic stability and traction control.

Price: The base price on the 2011 Nissan Altima 2.5S is $22,070. Dealer's invoice price on that model is $20,692. Price as tested is $24,610, including $3,020 in options (onboard navigation with high-definition backup camera, premium sound system, Bluetooth connectivity, Sirius satellite radio) and a $760 destination charge. Dealer's price as tested is $22,995. Consumer rebates were available at this writing. Check with your local dealer.

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