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2006 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE

Written April 2006

The Good :)  Sporty exterior style. Powerful engine.

The Bad :(  Low quality interior parts.  Seats do not provide enough support.  High sticker price. 

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            The Nissan Altima was originally launched in 2002 and has quickly become Nissan's best selling vehicle.  The 2006 model tested here is the third generation Altima and soon Nissan will release a newly designed replacement.  Available with a wide variety of trim choices as well as engine choices, the Altima is a very versatile vehicle available in many price points. 

            On the outside the Altima 3.5 SE has a low and fast appearance even standing still.  The sporty character emanates from the low handing face, to the large 17-inch five spoke wheels through which you can see the brake calipers, and finally to the rear deck wing.  This grown up look with a stronger body design makes the Altima look more like a Maxima from pervious years.  The rear end features a large wrap around bumper and dual exhaust tips.  The clear taillights give the Altima a sports tuner feel and the large clear headlamps with Xenon bulbs look great at night. 

            Inside the Altima's overall design is similar to that found in the Nissan and Infiniti lineup.  The dash is low with a downward slant that makes you feel as if it is under you rather than enveloping you.  The instrument cluster is set deep in three dials and the main audio controls as well as climate controls are in a pod like unit in the center console.  You generally sit high with a clear view of the outside but you feel open, not safe, and this in a vehicle that already feels light to the touch as you open its doors.  

            At the drivers seat a multifunction three spoke tilt and telescoping leather wrapped steering wheel greets you.  Control stalks on both sides of the wheel are large and have a solid feeling.  Door window switches with automatic down for both front windows as well as mirror adjustment is to your left.  The switches themselves are hard plastic with a dated appearance, something that you could find in a car from 1995.  Their shiny appearance also makes them look as if they are worn or used.  Interior door handles have a chrome covering but feel like plastic with a distinct plastic sound.  Door paneling has a fuzzy suede-like trim, which just looked very dated in our car, and it was not pleasing to the eye.  All doors lack an ergonomic grab handle to hold onto while the driver makes use of the powerful engine in twisty curves. 

            There are loads of storage areas from a bin in the upper dash console, to one below the ventilation controls, and also one in the armrest which is quite deep. Dual cup holders are found under a cover just next to the emergency brake handle. Yes nissan still has this here in the center of both front seats.   Our car did not have the optional navigation system which would fit in place of the storage area above the stereo system.  We found the center armrest to feel very light and flimsy, and would expect more from a car in the $28,000 price range.  The climate control system in its 'auto' setting was very loud.  The fan speed always stayed too high and was not quiet.  Headlights are automatic on our model which is an option as is the dimming rearview mirror all rolled up in one large package. 

            Leather seating surfaces on our test car felt good and were perforated for a nicer style.  The seats however were very uncomfortable.  The lacked any lateral support and did not fit well to the various drivers we put through the Altima.  A slight tilt in the rear seats was helpful but overall comfort was not achieved on long drives.  The passenger seat in front is not height adjustable and was too high for comfort.  The driver's seat was uncomfortable for one tester who noted that it could not be lowered enough to sit in line with the steering wheel which also sat too low for him. 

            Our sunroof equipped Altima still had an old quality sunroof with two buttons for use and no 'one touch' operation.  The sunroof was part of the Leather Sport Package.  The paneling around the sunroof controls was low quality plastic.  We would like an improvement in the quality of parts used throughout the interior and some more ergonomic improvements for different sized drivers.  

            We also feel the need to complain about the design of the doors on the Altima.  As you open the doors, the handles seem to slip out from your fingers as it does not have a deep enough grip area.  The door itself feels very light and moves too freely.  The doors also have a tendency to close when pushed open, instead of staying open when you want to exit the car.  This leads to a feeling of a poorly built car from the first moment you touch the car.  The Volkswagen Passat we recently tested had much higher quality parts with strong German feeling doors all for a lower base price.  Upon closer inspection of the Altima we found the doors lacked notches on the hinge that helps keep the door open on a hill.  Touch the rear trunk cover and you can see this again, with a very light weight feeling.  At least the trunk was a nicely sized trunk at 15.6 cubic feet.  

            An 8-speaker stereo system from Bose was an option on our car and featured an in-dash six CD changer.  Also optional was the XM Satellite radio on our tester.  The sound quality was quite good with the Bose speakers. 

The 3.5 SE features several exciting equipment packages to group options together.  A Sport Package includes sunroof and spoiler.  A Sport Plus Package includes sunroof, spoiler, Bose audio system and Xenon headlights.  The Leather Package includes a Bose audio system, sunroof, heated leather-appointed seats, automatic temperature control, HomeLink Universal Transceiver, auto-dimming inside rearview mirror and heated outside mirrors.  The Leather Sport Package, includes the Leather Package, spoiler and HID xenon headlights.  A separate Navigation package offers a DVD navigation system.  The fully equipped 3.5 SL offers a single option, the Navigation Package, with DVD-based navigation system and speed-sensitive wipers.

            The Altima 3.5 SE features a 250 horsepower 2.5 liter DOHC six cylinder engine.  It produces 249 lbs.-ft. of torque.  A 5-speed automatic transmission with gated shifter and manual shift mode is matched to this engine.  The engine features continuously variable valve timing, microfinished crank journals and cam lobes, molybdenum coated lightweight pistons and electronically controlled throttle.  Traction control is also mated to the automatic transmission to help stop wheel spin.  However stability control is not offered, which really does help you stay on the intended course if a wheel begins to spin.  Power is sent to the front wheels.  As for fuel mileage, our test revealed a 22.3 mpg average for both city and highway driving. 

            Suspension components use aluminum parts extensively which is good for reduced weight. The rear multi-link independent suspension was adapted from the Japanese-market Nissan Skyline supercar and is similar to Infiniti's flagship Q45 sedan.  The rear shocks and springs are separated for reduced friction and the shock is in line with the center of the rear wheels, providing better damping and less harshness.  The V6 model also offers 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels and 215/55 R 17 tires.

Driving around town the Altima offers a nimble ride with a very sporty engine.  The suspension is comfortable without being overly slushy and body lean and bounce is controlled well.  Using all the power in this lightweight car felt unnerving as each time you pushed hard on the pedal the whole car would jerk into a lower gear and pull forward strongly.  Power delivery was not very smooth.  At highway speeds the Altima we tested had jitter and shakiness at speeds of 75mph.  This could have been due to an unbalanced tire.  We did not get the feeling of confidence that we do get in a German car, which easily climb past triple digits.  In the Altima you also sit with a high view of everything around you.  The dash, and doors do not envelope you and thus you have a feeling that you are going faster than you really are.  Stopping power is also quiet strong and good as in most Nissan cars. We really think that not much has changed in teh driving feel from a 1990 Nissan Maxima to this Altima.  We hope the new upcoming redesigned model will make large leaps forward in all aspects of the Altima.

            From a safety standpoint, Altima comes equipped with the Nissan Advanced Air Bag System (AABS), which includes dual-stage front air bags, seat belt sensors with front-seat passenger classification sensor, front-seat side supplemental dual-stage air bags and available side curtain air bags.  Front-seat active head restraints, 3-point rear seat belts for all seats with adjustable upper anchors, pretensioners and load limiters, emergency inside trunk release, front and rear crushable zones and the LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children) child seat anchors and tether system are all included in Altima's long list of safety features.  ABS is optional and we highly suggest it.  Stability control is not offered. 

Every Nissan is backed by a 36-month/36,000-mile limited vehicle warranty which is lower than the four year warranty most manufacturer's offer. A 5-year/60,000-mile limited powertrain warranty covers the engine.

            The base price of our Altima 3.5 SE starts off at $24,150.  XM satellite radio adds $350.  Side airbags as well as front and rear curtain side air bags and the traction control system are an $800 option.  Leather sport package with rear spoiler and Xenon headlights, as well as the Bose audio system, sunroof, auto climate control, dimming rearview mirror and heated outside mirror was $3,900.  Add $605 for destination charges and the total comes to $29.805.  This price does appear to be high for a vehicle that doesn't quite have the updated interior styling of some of its closest rivals.  For instance, we found the Volkswagen Passat to have a better engine response with less horsepower, better handling and far better interior layout and design.  Until the next generation Altima hits showrooms, buyers should carefully way their options and test drive a few cars in this segment before making a long term commitment.



Base Pricing 22,427 24,250
Destination 605 605
Leather Sport Package 3,546 3,900
Navigation Pkg SE  - Includes All Models Equipment Plus Sport Leather Pkg 5,093 5,700
Traction Control & Side Air Bag Pkg 694 800
Radio Equipment, Sirius Feature 304 350


  2006 Nissan Altima
3.5 SE 4dr Sedan (3.5L 6cyl 5A)
2006 Chevrolet Malibu
LT 4dr Sedan (3.5L 6cyl 4A)
2006 Chrysler 300
Touring 4dr Sedan (3.5L 6cyl 5A)
2006 Mazda MAZDA6
i Grand Touring 4dr Sedan (2.3L 4cyl 5A)
2006 Volkswagen Passat
3.6 4dr Sedan (3.6L 6cyl 6A)
MSRP $24,250 $19,865 $27,825 $24,710 $29,950
Invoice $22,427 $18,773 $25,883 $22,812 $27,513
Basic 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 4 yr. / 50000 mi. 4 yr. / 50000 mi.
Drivetrain 5 yr. / 60000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 4 yr. / 50000 mi. 5 yr. / 60000 mi.
Roadside 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 3 yr. / 36000 mi. 4 yr. / 50000 mi. 4 yr. / Unlimited mi.
Rust 5 yr. / Unlimited mi. 6 yr. / 100000 mi. 5 yr. / 100000 mi. 5 yr. / Unlimited mi. 12 yr. / Unlimited mi.
Base Engine Type & Cylinders V6 V6 V6 inline 4 V6
Base Engine Displacement 3.5 liters 3.5 liters 3.5 liters 2.3 liters 3.6 liters
Valvetrain 24 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
12 Valves
overhead valves (OHV)
24 Valves
single overhead cam (SOHC)
16 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
24 Valves
double overhead cam (DOHC)
Horsepower 250 hp @ 5800 rpm 201 hp @ 5600 rpm 250 hp @ 6400 rpm 160 hp @ 6000 rpm 280 hp @ 6200 rpm
Torque 249 ft-lbs. @ 4400 rpm 221 ft-lbs. @ 3200 rpm 250 ft-lbs. @ 3800 rpm 155 ft-lbs. @ 4000 rpm 265 ft-lbs. @ 2750 rpm
Tires P215/55HR17
all season
all season
all season
all season
all season
Air Filtration interior air filtration Not Available interior air filtration - Optional interior air filtration interior air filtration
Anti - Lock Brakes 4-wheel ABS 4-wheel ABS 4-wheel ABS 4-wheel ABS 4-wheel ABS
Traction Control Optional Standard Standard Standard Standard
Stability Control Not Available Not Available Standard Not Available Standard
Xenon Headlights Optional Not Available Not Available Not Available Optional
Headlight Auto Delay Standard Standard Optional Standard Optional
Headlight Dusk Sensor Standard Standard Optional Not Available Optional
Parking Assist Not Available Not Available Not Available Not Available front and rear parking sensors - Optional
Watts 100 Not Published 276 - Optional 200 600 - Optional
Navigation System DVD navigation system - Optional Not Available CD navigation system - Optional DVD navigation system - Optional DVD navigation system - Optional
Turning Circle 38.7 ft. 36 ft. 38.9 ft. 38.7 ft. 35.8 ft.
City 20 mpg. 22 mpg. 19 mpg. 24 mpg. 19 mpg.
Highway 30 mpg. 32 mpg. 27 mpg. 31 mpg. 28 mpg.
Length 192.3 in. 188.3 in. 196.8 in. 186.8 in. 188.2 in.
Width 70.4 in. 69.9 in. 74.1 in. 70.1 in. 71.7 in.
Height 57.9 in. 57.5 in. 58.4 in. 56.7 in. 58 in.
Weight 3299 lbs. 3315 lbs. 3758 lbs. 3166 lbs. 3576 lbs.
Wheel Base 110.2 in. 106.3 in. 120 in. 105.3 in. 106.7 in.
Front Shoulder Room 56.3 in. 56.7 in. 59.4 in. 55.9 in. 55.7 in.
Rear Shoulder Room 56 in. 56.1 in. 57.7 in. 55.2 in. 54.6 in.
Front Leg Room 43.9 in. 41.9 in. 41.8 in. 42.3 in. 41.4 in.
Rear Leg Room 36.4 in. 38.5 in. 40.2 in. 36.5 in. 37.7 in.
Maximum Luggage Capacity 15.6 cu.ft. 15.4 cu.ft. 15.6 cu.ft. 15.2 cu.ft. 14.2 cu.ft.


2006 Nissan Altima Specifications



2.5 / 2.5 S / 2.5 SL

3.5 SE/3.5 SL/SE-R




Cam design




Cylinders / configuration



Block / head composition


Displacement (liters)




175 @ 6,000 RPM

250 @ 5,800 RPM

260 @ 6,000 RPM (SE-R)

Torque (lb-ft)

180 @ 4,000 RPM

249 @ 4,400 RPM

251 @ 3,600 RPM (SE-R)

Bore & stroke (mm)

89.0 x 100.0

95.5 x 81.4

Compression ratio (:1)



Maximum engine speed

6,200 RPM

6,600 RPM

Induction system

Sequential multi-point electronic fuel injection


4 valves per cylinder; w/CVTC

Engine cover

S (except 2.5)

Engine mounts (4 mounts per vehicle)

4 fluid filled

V6 A/T - 2 electronically controlled, fluid filled; 1 fluid filled, 1 rubber

V6 M/T - 3 fluid filled, 1 rubber

Recommended fuel

Regular unleaded

Premium unleaded

Emissions system

Oxygen sensor, catalyzer

Emission certification level

Tier2 Bin5, PZEV

Tier2, Bing5, CAL:



Single exhaust

Dual exhaust




Ignition system

Electronic (direct ignition)


1.4 kW


110 amp



Transmission and Drive System


Drive configuration

Front-engine / front-wheel drive

Transmission type               5-speed manual

                                         6-speed manual

                           4-speed auto w/ overdrive

             5-speed auto w/ manual shift mode

Standard on 2.5, 2.5 S, 3.5 SE

Standard on SE-R

Standard on 2.5 SL, Optional on 2.5 S

Standard on3.5 SL, optional on 3.5 SE, SE-R

Gear ratio








5M/T 4-cyl.     5M/T V6      4A/T 4-cyl.     5A/T V6      6M/T V6   5A/T V6 SE-R

   3.416            3.153           2.785           4.657          3.153          4.657

   1.944            1.842           1.545           3.033          1.944          3.033

   1.258            1.258           1.000           1.982          1.392          1.982

   0.947            0.947           0.694           1.342          1.055          1.342

   0.772            0.772               -              1.018          0.809          1.018

      -                   -                   -                 -              0.630              -

   3.252            3.002           2.272           5.144          3.002          5.114

Final drive

ratio (:1)

   4.133            3.812           4.425           2.269          4.133          2.440





     Front                                             Type

         Rotor size diameter and thickness (in.)

Vented disc

11.7" x .94t" / 12.6" x 1.10t" (SE-R)

     Rear                                              Type

         Rotor size diameter and thickness (in.)

Self-adjusting, solid disc

11.5" x .35t"

Brake control                                   w/ABS


                                                    w/o ABS

Power-assisted with Brake Assist and

   Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD)


Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)             M/T



     Number of wheels

     Number of channels

     Number of sensors

Optional on 2.5 S, 3.5 SE; Standard on SE-R

Optional on 2.5 S, 2.5 SL; Standard on 3.5 SE, 3.5 SL, SE-R




Parking brake

Hand brake on center console


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