The high-performance version we'd love to see again.
There was a time when the Nissan Altima literally helped save the brand. At present, Nissan has once again found itself in a troubling financial position, though a turnaround plan is currently being enacted. The Japanese automaker last experienced difficult times in the early 2000s when competition from fellow domestic automakers like Honda and Toyota was fierce. Some industry watchers were concerned Nissan wouldn't survive, at least in the US. But the third-generation Altima helped change things.
Wider, longer, and much sportier-looking than its predecessor, the 2002 Altima was Nissan's first mass-market car built on its then-new, America-only FF-L platform. There was no JDM equivalent model. This new Altima even had larger interior dimensions than the Maxima at the time, which is why Nissan turned the latter into a full-size sedan beginning with the 2004 model year.
Since then, the Altima has managed to capture a decent chunk of Maxima customers. But it was in 2005 when the third-gen model received a facelift, did the high-performance Altima arrive. The Altima SE-R came powered by a naturally aspirated 3.5-liter V6 rated at 260 horsepower and 251 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission (or an optional five-speed slushbox) routed power to the front wheels only. Other additions included better brakes, 18-inch wheels, a stiffer suspension, and a high-flow exhaust.
Designers added a few minor exterior styling cues, such as a rear spoiler and leather seats with embroidered "SE-R" on the headrests, but the forged alloy wheels are definitely the best touch. Zero to 60 mph happened in around 5.8 seconds. When the third-gen Altima was discontinued for 2007, the SE-R died with it. No other high-performance version has arrived since.
Unfortunately, we doubt it will, not only due to Nissan tightening its financial belt but also because sedan demand, in general, is nowhere what it once was. There are plenty of used Altima SE-Rs out there, but many have well over 100,000 miles and, in some cases, have been modified. This one has neither issue.
Up for sale at Compass Volkswagen in Middletown, New York is this one-owner 2005 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE-R with just 63,937 miles on its odometer. Priced at $8,193, the Sheer Silver Metallic exterior paint is in good shape, as are the two-tone leather seats. The only downside is that this is a five-speed auto-equipped car, but it's still the coolest Altima variant to date.