Avg. Price Paid:$11,444 - $11,444
Original MSRP: $25,480 - $25,480
MPG: 35 City / 33 Hwy
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2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid Performance

This performance review was written when the 2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid was new.

Reviewers seem surprised by the 2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid's spunky performance. USA Today says the "Altima -- hybrid or not -- is sportier than Camry. It feels more agile in corners, has a firmer ride, is quicker to scoot when you nail the throttle."

But many are thrown off by the volume associated with the Altima Hybrid's performance. The Sacramento Bee finds "an occasional, pronounced 'thunk' when the powertrain switched between all-electric …and gas-fueled engine mode." The Los Angeles Times writes, "In keeping with the brand's sportier vibe, Nissan's engineers gave the Altima hybrid a slightly huskier exhaust note -- though the effect is somewhat akin to having someone in the trunk making motorboat sounds." Autosite suggests, "just turn up the nice Bose audio system and pretend you don't hear a thing."

Acceleration and Power

Test drivers are impressed with the Altima Hybrid's get-up-and-go despite its hybrid powertrain. The Sacramento Bee thinks "Acceleration from a standing start is not a rush, but the hybrid powertrain dishes up smooth, consistently increasing power." Meanwhile, USA Today asks, "Who knew hot-rodding would be one of the major temptations of an mpg-mobile?"

Nissan's Altima Hybrid has a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 158 horsepower and 162 pound-feet of torque. Borrowed from Toyota's hybrid power plant is an Alternating Current synchronous electric motor with 199 pound-feet of torque and a battery with 40 horsepower. Net horsepower is 198. To many, that's plenty of power. MSN says "in my test drive of an Altima Hybrid, I noticed the easy power of the car. At times, it felt like it had a V6 … The spunky feel also comes from the fact the Altima Hybrid is a bit lighter weight than the Camry Hybrid so the instantaneous torque of up to 199 lb-ft right at startup is palpable."

But others were distressed with the clunky transitions between engine and motor to power the car. Road and Track states, "We can't be as complimentary about the hybrid system's integration, as there's noticeable surging at cruising speeds, and more vibration when the engine awakens from 'auto-stop' mode than in the Toyota Prius and Camry hybrid." According to USA Today, "If your big issue is drivetrain smoothness, Altima's not for you. The gasoline engine shakes and shimmies when it automatically starts and begins augmenting the electric motor's power."

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the 2008 Nissan Altima Hybrid should achieve 35 miles per gallon in the city and 33 on highways. Opinions are split on the Altima Hybrid's gas mileage. While reviews like Forbes appreciate "Quite solid" mileage and MSN praises that the car "Can travel long distances between fill-ups," Car and Driver is disappointed, noting the EPA's numbers don't translate to the real world: "But as they say at the EPA, 'Your mileage may vary.' … The hybrid's average, which included test-track thrashing, was a dismal 23 mpg. We occasionally go the mpg gauge to nudge over 30 mpg, but not by much."

Auto writers generally find the Altima Hybrid's electronically controlled continuously variable transmission helps to smooth out some of the power plant's rough edges. The Sacramento Bee notes, "Even rolling up to highway speed from the on-ramp was butterlike, thanks to the car's standard continuously variable transmission. There are no jolts on the run up to 60 miles an hour and above." Meanwhile, CNET thinks the Altima Hybrid is happiest on city streets. "In urban driving in electric-only mode, the car displays impressive throttle response at low speeds, and we enjoyed the smooth ride courtesy of the electric motor and the CVT."

Handling and Braking

To many, the 2008 Altima Hybrid is an extremely competent handler -- complaints are few and far between. Car and Driver likes that "you get the Altima's athletic reflexes, quick steering, and, in this test car, excellent braking (167 feet from 70 mph) - dynamic distinctions worth having, hybrid or not." The Los Angeles Times gives a colorful comparison: "The Altima also shares Nissan's affection for crisper ride and hand-ling and more-vivid steering." By comparison, "The Camry hybrid drives a little bit like the world's most sophisticated hearse."

Autosite thinks the Altima Hybrid's suspension "absorbs bumps well while feeling crisp and planted during normal driving situations," and MSN reports "The electric steering in the Altima Hybrid is one of the best around. It has good on-center feel, and there's no sense of artificiality, like I've experienced in some other vehicles."

 The car's regenerative brakes -- normally a reviewer's hang-up with hybrids -- are also favorably reviewed. As Forbes explains, "Regenerative brakes help charge the battery pack whenever you coast or stop. Those brakes feel a bit unusual compared to the conventional type, but it's something many drivers quickly get used to." Says CNET: "Unlike other hybrids … the effect of the Altima Hybrid's regenerative braking is subtle enough to ensure that it does not significantly interfere with the feel of the brakes."

Review Last Updated: 3/10/09

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