No, you don’t need an SUV to get through snow, mud or climb steep hills.
We love sedans. But they can be impractical, especially when the weather turns nasty and the forecast necessitates early school closings and grocery store milk and bread raids.
A simple fix is to put winter tires on any sedan for added traction and capability. But the reality is, very few people do this. It’s just not practical or economically feasible for those few times you need winter tires: they have to be switched out for all season tires in warmer weather and can cost $800 or more, plus the cost to install and uninstall them each winter. It can add up.
Enter the All Wheel Drive Sedan
In modern cars the computer takes the lead on maintaining traction, sending power to each wheel as needed. This is not what winter tires, do, mind you; winter tires are still preferred in truly snowy climates and where snow and ice are a regular part of the weather forecast (think: Canada, northern New England, northern Michigan, Minnesota, the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming).
But for those days when snow and freezing rain cloud the horizon and coat the roads, AWD is ideal. And, for steep grades and rutted, gravel or muddy roads, AWD is perfect. It can keep you from being stuck or sliding off the road.
We had a chance to drive the 2019 Nissan Altima AWD on a snowy June afternoon in Colorado (yes, you read that right. Snow in June). We were also at a high elevation, about 6,000 feet, with lots of hills, and curves that also made AWD a great thing to have. We were able to drive as we would on any road, not compromising time or safety for the weather or terrain.
For $1,350, Upgrade to AWD in Any Altima Model
As AWD systems go, Nissan’s is well priced. Typically AWD can add $2,000 or more to the cost of a car. But compare the Altima’s AWD option to the cost of winter tires— perhaps $800 for the tires and installation— or the cost of an insurance deductible if you have an accident that AWD could have prevented, and it’s a no-brainer. AWD makes perfect sense.
And, Altima offers AWD on any model, from the base model to the premium trim. This system does not offer different drive modes (such as snow, mud or sand) but it does have sport mode, which when engaged gives a sportier drive feel (another benefit of AWD, which is becoming common on more and more performance cars!).
What You Get in the 2019 Nissan Altima
We test drove the Altima SL, a mid range model, which carries a price of $32,900 with delivery charges. The base model starts at about $29,000, and there are two higher trims: Platinum and Edition One, the highest end of Altima with 50 more horsepower, exclusive design details and a suite of concierge services.
The SL is equipped with most of the features on the Platinum edition, which is distinguished by more premium finishes and an upgraded around-view camera system. The SL what you want in a compact sedan (which, frankly does not feel all that compact):
- Nissan’s most advanced safety system, Pro Pilot Assist. This system of dedicated cameras, radar and sonar essentially:
- Watches the road and applies the brakes before you do on the highway (pre-emergency braking, which works at speeds between 45mph and 80mph)
- Looks for pedestrians about to cross your path
- Helps to keep the car centered in the lane—called Steering Assist, which also demands you have your hands on the wheel
- Adapts your speed to flow with the traffic, or adaptive cruise control, which will even come to a full stop; if traffic is stopped for more than 3 seconds you’ll have to tap the accelerator to resume
- Blind spot monitors, with indicator lights that are inside the vehicle not outside on the mirrors, so they are not obscured by rain or snow
- Automatic high beam headlights—set ‘em and forget ‘em and don’t worry that you’ll blind oncoming drivers
- A standard size sunroof, leather upholstery with heated power front seats, a Bose premium sound system, Japanese maple-inspired wood accents, soft touch materials on the dash, door panels
- 4 cylinder 182 horsepower engine with ride control and traction control
- Remote start with climate control options
- Auto hold— a feature we LOVE: turn this on and once you come to a stop and fully press the brake you can take your foot off the brake and the car won’t move until you tap the accelerator
- Four USB ports, each illuminated so they are easy to find in the dark
I know it’s hard to think about winter driving in the middle of summer heat waves. But that first frost or freezing rain can be a rude reminder that summer is over and serious weather is ahead. And to have a car that just rolls with it is precious. And that’s why we love all wheel drive, especially when it’s affordable and available in a fun-to-drive sedan.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Rocky Mountain Redline’s Redline Rally, where I was able to test drive the Nissan Altima AWD. Travel and accommodations were provided but all opinions are my own.