Caraganza First Drive Review 2021 Nissan Altima SR: Sort of sporty



I’m an unabashed fan of all things James Bond; have been for most of my life. I love all things 007, the action, adventure, gadgets, girls, and of course the cars. Like many, I sometimes dream of doing Bond things: jumping from a plane into Dr. No’s lair; calmly walking away as a huge explosion behind me ends a threat to the entire world while Honey Rider waits in the passenger seat of a DB 5 with the top down.

The truth is of course that I wouldn’t be able to do any of those things. In fact, if I was suddenly thrust into a Bond movie, I wouldn’t be a double O anything, not even Q the gadget guy. No, I’d be one of the anonymous paper pushers working at a non-descript government issued desk way in the background. Maybe filing expense reports or something tedious and boring.

That’s true for most of us. Because for most of us life isn’t filled with spy stories and saving the world from some madman. Nor are all of our driveways filled with DB 5’s.

We are all bit players, living in the background in an otherwise mundane world.

Maybe that’s why sedans like Nissan’s Altima are so popular. The Altima has never been flashy, not in your face, nor even particularly noteworthy. It just exists in the background, doing what it needs to do to get the job done.

Nissan sent me a 2021 Altima for a recent week. I had a 2019 SV a couple of years ago. Sure, it was okay, but not really outstanding. That wasn’t a bad thing, not at all. The Altima did what was advertised, and not much more.

For this go-around I got a 2021 SR, billed as the sporty version of the lineup. I was curious then to see if it could somehow make the Altima a bit more noticeable. A little more power might be just what was needed to take the otherwise dull, but good, Altima to the next level, even if that level wasn’t really all that high to begin with.

The sixth generation of the Altima debuted in 2019. For 2021 the Altima variants gets tweaked. They’ve eliminated a few of the trim and powertrain combinations, the Platinum no longer can have a VC-Turbo, the 2.5-liter Platinum is all-wheel drive only, and the base S model is front-wheel drive only. So then my tester, the sportier SR model is now the only one available with Nissan’s 2.0-liter turbo engine and front wheel drive, leaving the top of the line Platinum with the base 2.5-liter naturally aspirated engine.



On the outside, the SR gets 19-inch wheels, a dark chrome grill, a rear spoiler, black accents and a badge. Inside the SR there is an all-black décor with orange contrast stitching along with carbon fiber trim. The SR is nicely equipped with such things a keyless ignition, power-adjustable driver’s seat, 8-inch touchscreen, satellite radio along with safety features like a blind-spot monitor, rear cross traffic alert and parking sensors, and automatic braking.

The SR also gets the features in the optional SV Premium package including heated mirrors, a sunroof, a leather wrapped steering wheel and perhaps best of all Nissan’s ProPilot Assist system with adaptive cruise control and lane keeping assist which in my Nissan experience is very good.

Yes the SR gets a sport-tuned suspension and a transmission paddle shifter, but of course, when any model is advertised as sporty, one thing that really matters is what’s under the hood. While the rest of the lineup gets a 2.5 inline 4 with 188 horses and 180 lb-ft of torque, the SR has a 2.0 turbocharged inline 4 with 236 horses with regular gas and 248 using premium fuel with 267 or 273 lb-ft of torque.

There is however, one annoying problem. Nissan’s continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). Now when I first drove a Nissan, I found the CVT (a transmission I normally am not a fan of) to be somewhat surprising. The Nissan CVT has a system that simulates stepped gear changes which allows the CVT to not feel like a CVT, which in my mind is a very good thing. However, when trying to do anything sporty, the stepped CVT just can’t keep up. Without the 8 or more speeds of a high-performance transmissions the sportiness under the hood just seems wasted.

Sure there is a bit more power, and that’s a very good thing, but without a proper way to deliver that power to the road, it seems kind of wasted. All of that is not to take away from a pretty good sedan, which is what the Altima is.

At the end of the day, the Altima is a decent affordably priced sedan that gets the job done. Dropping the CVT in favor of a normal transmission would certainly up the game for the SR. But for what it is, it’s pretty alright. A nice sedan for those of us in the background.

No the Altima isn’t a DB 5, nor will machine guns pop out from grill, but part of me secretly wishes there was at least an ejector seat.

The 2021 Nissan Altima SR (FWD)
MSRP: $ 30,650
MSRP (as tested): $32,905
Engine: 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder 236 hp (regular gas, 248 premium) @5600 rpm 267 lb-ft torque (regular gas, 273 premium) @3600 rpm
Transmission: CVT shiftable
Fuel Mileage (EPA): 25 city, 34 highway, 29 combined
Fuel Mileage (as tested, mixed conditions): 33 mpg
Base Curb Weight 3425 lbs.

Exterior dimensions

Wheelbase (in):  111.2 in
Length, Overall (in): 192.9 in
Height, Overall (in): 56.8 in
Width, Overall (in): 72.9 in

Interior dimensions

Headroom (w/o moonroof) Front 39.2 in back 36.9 in
Headroom w/moonroof Front 38.0 in Back 36.7 in
Rear head room    36.7 in
Rear leg room    35.2 in.
Legroom Front 43.8 in Back 35.2 in
Shoulder room Front 58.2 in Back 57.1 in
Maximum cargo capacity    15.4 cu.ft.
EPA interior volume    116.2 cu.ft.


Basic: 3 Yr./ 36000 Mi.
Drivetrain: 5 Yr./ 60000 Mi.
Roadside: 3 yr./ 36000 mi


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Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.