If we were limited to using just one word to describe the 2021 Nissan Altima, it would be diverse. Why? This year’s Altima is stacked with six different trims, three drivetrain options, and a whole host of add-on equipment and packages so that buyers can select – in laser-specific detail – the exact mix of features they want at a price they can afford. It’s a product strategy that works for a new car buyer that values choice.
Sedan buyers are bombarded with marketing and advertising extolling the virtues of crossovers. For many, even the idea of buying a sedan seems a little old-fashioned. The thing is, Nissan just invested millions in a complete Altima redesign, so the automaker might know something the rest of us don’t. It could be that buyers are tiring of the crossover’s boxy sameness, or they value a little more nimbleness.
We can’t help but notice that uber-cool Tesla has focused a substantial percentage of its product mix on the sedan segment, and at last count, the company enjoyed a 69% market share in the EV category. Bottom line: sedans aren’t going anywhere. Nissan knows this, and that’s why the Altima remains a popular, dynamic midsize alternative to yet another boring vanilla crossover. And it’s even better for 2021.
Here’s a comprehensive review of the entire 2021 Nissan Altima trim lineup, including all the technology, infotainment, and safety advancements woven into each level. It’s not your typical midsize sedan.
The Value Range: The S, SV, and the SR
The 2021 Nissan Altima is a great choice for first-time buyers or buyers on a budget. Starting at under $25,000, the Altima S is nicely equipped with a range of standard features that elevate it from a traditional ‘base’ model. One note: the S is the only Altima trim that isn’t available with Intelligent All-Wheel Drive. Aside from that, the Altima S is still a very well-equipped trim.
Standard exterior equipment on the Altima S includes 16-inch wheels, dual power outside mirrors, and automatic headlights. The S is powered by a 2.5-liter DOHC 4-cylinder engine that makes 188 horsepower and is paired with Nissan’s Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission. On the interior, you’ll find power windows and door locks, an in-cabin microfilter, and push button start. Standard driver-assist safety features include Intelligent Forward Collision Warning and Automatic Emergency Braking with Pedestrian Detection.
For a little over $1,000 more, you can move up to the Altima SV and get 17-inch wheels, LED headlights, and an 8-inch infotainment touchscreen (the S offers a 7-inch). You will also get even more standard driver-assist technologies, including Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Rear Automatic Braking. Finally, Intelligent All-Wheel Drive is available on the SV for an extra charge, giving it the same bad weather performance as an SUV.
Bump up to the Altima SR, and you’ll get a more sporty version of the Altima. Features include 19-inch aluminum wheels, a special sport-tuned suspension, steering wheel paddle shifters that lets drivers shift gear manually, a darker chrome version of Nissan’s signature V-Motion grille, and special sport cloth seats. Also standard is a plush leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob and lookalike carbon-fiber interior trim accents.
An available Premium Package for the SV and SR trims adds several additional driver-assist features, as well as ProPILOT Assist, part of Nissan’s semi-autonomous driver technology. Also included in the Premium Package is a power sliding moonroof, outside mirrors with LED turn signals, and – on the SR – heated outside mirrors and heated front seats.
The Performance Option: The SR VC-Turbo
Nissan offers a single standalone performance trim for the Altima. It’s the SR VC-Turbo, a go-fast version of the SR that adds a trim-exclusive 2.0-liter Variable Compression Turbo DOHC 4-cylinder engine that increases output to 248 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque. You’ll get the same sport-tuned suspension found on the SR, but the heated outside mirrors with LED turn signals and the power sliding moonroof become standard equipment, along with heated front seats and active noise cancellation for a quieter cabin.
The Altima SR VC-Turbo’s powertrain is designed for optimal performance and fuel economy. It’s the product of 20 years of Nissan design and engineering innovation. Dubbed one of the “most advanced internal combustion engines ever created,” the VC-Turbo differs significantly from a traditional engine. Because it constantly varies the compression ratio, the engine can adapt instantaneously to driving conditions, switching from high performance (low compression ratio) to high efficiency (high compression ratio) effortlessly.
The VC-Turbo claims 300 patents to its design, and many believe its capacity for achieving excellent fuel efficiency will help keep the internal combustion engine viable in this new age of electrified power and tight emissions standards. Nissan estimates the VC-Turbo is capable of achieving 27 percent greater fuel efficiency than the engine it replaced while also offering far more horsepower than most other 4-cylinder motors.
The Luxury Trims: The SL and the Platinum
If luxury is more your style, check out the 2021 Altima SL and Platinum trims. Sitting atop the Altima lineup, the SL and Platinum are where you’ll find the most standard luxury features. Interestingly, the Platinum is only available with Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive. With the SL, you can choose between front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive. The SL sits at just a hair under $30,000, while the Platinum creeps up into the mid-$30,000 range.
The SL features 17-inch aluminum wheels and a 9-speaker Bose audio system, along with NissanConnect Services, a connectivity platform that integrates your smartphone with the vehicle for app-based capabilities like remote start. Inside the vehicle, drivers have push-button access to emergency services as well as live agents that can help with everything from providing driving directions to automatically sending help if the airbags deploy.
The top-of-the-line Platinum is equipped with 19-inch aluminum wheels, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink, special interior accent lighting, and a Memory System for the driver’s seat and outside mirrors. Also included is an Intelligent Around View Monitor that displays a 360-degree bird’s eye view of the vehicle’s exterior right on the infotainment touchscreen.
Both the SL and the Platinum include luxurious black leather-appointed seats, along with heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. Special wood-tone interior trim accents level up the luxury feel of the cabin, and the 8-inch infotainment touchscreen comes complete with door-to-door navigation and Waze traffic monitoring for real-time updates. If you want a premium sedan with sharp looks and all-wheel drive performance, then these trims are hard to pass up.
The 2021 Altima Is a Breath of Fresh Air
Most midsize sedans don’t offer niche options, like performance-oriented trims or high-end luxury offerings. Generally, sedan lineups are value-priced and predictable. Within the spectrum of the Altima lineup, however, there is truly something for everyone. No wonder the Altima is Nissan’s best-selling sedan: it’s a well-thought-out product with a lineup that offers enough range to appeal to diverse budgets and personal tastes.
If you’re tired of seeing a crossover in every neighbor’s driveway, and you want a car that’s energetic, nimble, and fun to drive, consider the 2021 Nissan Altima. Don’t forget safety! The 2021 Altima earned an IIHS Top Safety Pick+, the independent agency’s top award. Not only does the Altima stand out in its category, but it is also well-positioned to take a bite out of the compact crossover segment and win over buyers who would otherwise default to yet another generic SUV.