2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid Test Drive – “A Better Alternative”
After seven days behind the wheel of the 2009 Nissan Altima Hybrid I enjoyed the ride and handling even more than when I tested the gasoline version of the Altima Sedan.
Combining true driving pleasure, its unique and sporty design, and a driver-oriented interior with excellent 35mpg/city and 33mpg/highway fuel mileage, the 2009 Nissan Altima hybrid is like no other hybrid that I have tested so far.
Even though fuel prices has dropped in recent months, they are on the rise again, and more consumers are focusing their purchases on high mileage, fuel efficient hybrid models to save money and help save the environment.
First introduced in model year 2007, Nissan engineers had the requirement to make it a Nissan-style hybrid, not just a fuel efficient car. This is a key reason why when compared to the competition from Toyota, Chevy and Honda, several automotive magazines have called the Altima Hybrid ‘the best’ among the hybrids tested.
The Altima hybrid powertrain mates a refined version of Nissan’s QR25 2.5 liter 4-cylinder engine and standard electronically controlled CVT (continuously variable transmission) with an advanced electric drive motor/generator that increases fuel economy while maintaining low tailpipe emissions. Altima hybrid is rated as an Advanced Technology-Partial Zero Emissions Vehicle and emits almost no evaporative emissions.
Altima hybrid’s drive system creates a synergy between its electric motor and its gasoline engine, offering both efficiency and excitement in the same attractive package. It is fun to drive and looks great, just like the gasoline version.
The advanced energy drive system shares duties between the gasoline-powered 4-cylinder and the emissions-free electric motor-allowing the Altima hybrid to run solely on electric power, especially during stop-and-go driving, and up to 35mph with light throttle on flat roads, or when driving down hill. When extra power is needed, the gasoline engine starts instantly and smoothly adds power as required.
Altima hybrid is estimated to have a hybrid system net power rating of 198hp, but I think it is more like 220hp at peak throttle. With its 20 gallon fuel tank, the Altima hybrid can drive up to 700 miles between fill-ups.
The Altima hybrid uses regenerative braking technology to recharge the hybrid system’s batteries and also when coasting with you foot off the throttle, so you don’t have to plug in the batteries to maintain a sufficient store of electric energy.
In order to recharge the battery, a generator places resistance on the driveshaft during braking. Altima hybrid’s Regenerative Brake System calculates braking force generated by brake pedal operation and controls the regenerative brake force to convert kinetic energy into electric energy, optimizing energy regeneration. The system converts the vehicle’s kinetic energy to usable electric energy that is stored in the system’s 244.8V Nickel Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) battery, stored behind the trunk wall, for eventual use by the electric motor.
The Altima hybrid utilizes the proven technology and components from Toyota Motor Corporation that are mated t Nissan’s refined 2.5 liter engine.
Helping to provide smooth acceleration and maximize powertrain efficiency is Altima hybrid’s hybrid system-specific eCVT, which works in conjunction with the Hybrid Vehicle-Electric Control Unit (HV-ECU) to determine which power source or combination of power sources will turn the wheels. Nissan’s CVT is one of the quietest and smoothest units that I have ever tested, gasoline model or hybrid model, and really makes the Nissan Altima hybrid one of the best to drive.
Altima hybrid’s electric motor produces high torque at low rpm’s, allowing it to utilize its Electric Vehicle (EV) mode to power the car from a standing idle, after sufficient warm-up, and through initial acceleration without the assistance of the gasoline engine. While this stage of acceleration is a typical gasoline-only powered vehicle’s least fuel-efficient stage, Altima hybrid offers much of its fuel-efficiency benefits here.
Altima’s hybrid’s all-electric mode, call Electric Vehicle (EV) mode, powers the vehicle in this initial acceleration phase. After the electric motor provides initial acceleration, the gasoline engine quietly starts and assumes the load of powering the vehicle. The gasoline engine works independently through cruising speeds until the vehicle reaches speeds at which fuel efficiency declines. When loads require, the electric motor restarts and aids the gasoline engine in powering the car. This allows the gasoline engine to remain in its ideal rpm range while the axle torque simultaneously increases due to extra power contributed by the electric motor. It almost feels that you have a turbocharger under the hood with little lag for the power boost.
A digital display on the speedometer indicates when the Altima hybrid is running solely on electric power. The car’s optional DVD navigation system also features a ‘real-time’ display showing how the hybrid system directs the flow of energy.
The car is remarkably smooth, most will never know of the transitions between electric and gasoline power sources. What I felt was highly responsive acceleration and a seamless delivery of power under most driving conditions.
A smooth, quiet ride with excellent responsiveness is assured because the foundation of all Nissan Altima’s is Nissan’s advanced ‘D’ platform. The platform includes a subframe-mounted front suspension, shocks absorbers with rebound springs and equal-length half-shafts that are nearly parallel to the ground-virtually eliminating the dreaded front-wheel-drive torque steer.
Altima’s exterior styling features an aggressive stance, strong wedge character line and signature Altima-style taillamps with dual exhaust tips down below.
Inside, Altima utilizes refined workmanship, high-quality materials and a long list of standard equipment. The Altima hybrid shares exterior and interior designs with the regular Altima sedan-with the exception of unique Hybrid badging on the fenders and rear trunk-lid cover.
Standard equipment includes comfortable and supportive front buckets seats, front console with sliding armrest and dual-level storage, push button start/stop, dual-zone electronic climate control, power windows/door locks, AM-FM/CD audio system with 6-speakers and an auxiliary input jack, cruise-control, variable-speed intermittent wipers, tilt/telescope steering column, dual map lamps, grab handles above each passenger door, dual 12-volt power outlets, three cupholders in center console, rear center armrest with dual cupholders, dual visor vanity mirrors, map pockets behind each front seat, and thick-cut pile carpeting. Options include a rear spoiler, 8-way power driver’s seat, automatic on/off headlamps, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls/cruise-control buttons, wood-tone trim, leather seats/shift knob, front heated seats, Bose AM-FM-CD changer with 9-speakers, MP3/WMA CD-ROM playback capability Radio Data System, speed sensitive volume control, XM satellite radio, heated/power remote, manual folding side mirrors, Homelink Universal transceiver, Bluetooth hands free phone system, auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear AC vents, power moonroof, Nissan Navigation System with TV parking assist, and floor mats.
Standard safety systems include front and side airbags, roof-mounted curtain airbags,
3-point safety belts for all five seating positions including front pretensioners/load limiters, vehicle dynamic control, traction control, child safety locks on rear doors,
front/rear crush zones, steel beams in each door, LATCH system for child seats, tire pressure monitoring system, vehicle security system and emergency inside trunk release.
When you are thinking about purchasing a hybrid sedan you must check out the Altima hybrid. When you drive one you’ll notice that you haven’t sacrificed any power, performance or interior comfort while enjoying a smooth comfortable ride, just like in an Altima gasoline sedan. Prices start at just $26,650.00.
COPYRIGHT: 2009:HARVEY SCHWARTZ
Price: MSRP $26,650
Type: Midsize Sedan
Where Built: United States
EPA Class: Midsize Cars
Length: 189.8 in.
Width: 70.7 in.
Height: 57.9 in.
Wheel Base: 109.3 in.
Ground Clearance: 5.6 in.
Curb Weight: 3471 lbs.
Gross Weight: 4537 lbs.
Front Head Room: 40.6 in.
Front Hip Room: 56.8 in.
Front Shoulder Room: 55.7 in.
Rear Head Room: 36.8 in.
Rear Shoulder Room: 55.5 in.
Rear Hip Room: 52.5 in.
Front Leg Room: 44.1 in.
Rear Leg Room: 35.8 in.
Luggage Capacity: 10.1 cu. ft.
Maximum Seating: 5
Base Number of Cylinders: 4
Base Engine Size: 2.5 liters
Base Engine Type: Inline 4
Horsepower: 198 hp
Max Horsepower: 5200 rpm
Torque: 162 ft-lbs.
Max Torque: 2800 rpm
Maximum Towing Capacity: 1000 lbs.
Drive Type: FWD
Turning Circle: 36.1 ft.
0-60mph: 7 seconds
Fuel Tank Capacity: 20 gal.
EPA Mileage Estimates: (City/Highway/Combined)
Automatic: 35 mpg / 33 mpg / 34 mpg
Range in Miles:
Automatic: 700 mi. / 660 mi. / 680 mi.