Shifting Into Second: The 2016 Nissan Altima 2.5 SR

Front 3/4 view of 2016 Nissan Altima SR
The 2016 Nissan Altima 2.5 SR.
The Nissan Altima was the third-best selling mid-size sedan in America in calendar year 2015, behind Toyota Camry and Honda Accord.  But for the first two months of 2016, it's been in second place, outselling the Accord.

That might have something to do with the significantly refreshed 2016 model, which improves on what was already a very good car.

Rear 3/4 view of the 2016 Nissan Altima SR
2016 Nissan Altima 2.5 SR.
For 2016, the Altima gets bolder, more dramatic styling inspired by (but not quite as outlandish as) its big brother, the Nissan Maxima.  The changes are also functional, lowering the Altima's drag coefficient by 10 percent.  That means it takes less energy to overcome wind resistance...resulting in impressive EPA fuel economy estimates (27 city/39 highway---26/37 for the 2.5 SR model we tested).

A 2.5-liter normally aspirated four-cylinder engine, with 182 horsepower and gas-sipping numbers like those usually doesn't sound like a recipe for excitement, but the Altima, as it always has, punches above its weight, feeling like a much more powerful car.  This year, the transmission includes third-generation D-step Shift Logic (also in the new Maxima), which creates a more responsive acceleration feel both in passing maneuvers and from a standing stop.

And the new SR model is specifically intended to bring even more sporting feel to the game.  It adds 18-inch wheels, revised damper tuning and an increase in front and rear stabilizer bar stiffness. Altimas are generally good-handling cars to begin with, but the suspension tweaks in the SR dials up the fun quotient.  If you simply need more power, there is a 3.5-liter, 270 horsepower SR available as well.

Interior view of 2016 Nissan Altima SR
2016 Nissan Altima SR interior.
Inside, SR models are treated to an 8-way power driver's seat with two-way power lumbar support, with contrasting blue stitching on the black seats, steering wheel and shift knob.

Best of all, Nissan has priced the SR at $24,470...just $1,970 more than a base Altima. For that price, you get keyless entry, pushbutton start, a decent audio system with a built-in rear-view camera, cruise control and Nissan's innovative tire pressure monitoring system that honks the horn when you've pumped the right amount of air into each tire.

Our tester had only two options...an upgrade to LED headlamps ($600) and floor mats ($220), so with $825 destination and handling charges, the bottom line was $26,115.  That's serious value for an already-good car that keeps getting better.