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The 2019 Nissan Altima will be the first mainstream model available with the company's variable-compression 4-cylinder engine (image: Bill Visnic).

Nissan variable-compression engine gets first shot at volume with new 2019 Altima

Nissan’s all-new, sixth-generation Altima midsize sedan arrived at its 2018 New York auto show reveal with several innovations, but probably its most significant is the availability of the company’s recently launched variable-compression four-cylinder engine. To now, the so-called VC-Turbo powerplant ( was offered exclusively by Nissan’s Infiniti premium brand for its 2019 QX50 crossover, but the engine’s new application for the Altima offers the potential for markedly expand the reach of Nissan’s variable-compression technology.

Revealing the new 2019 Altima, Nissan said the VC-Turbo engine will be offered as an option for the sedan’s SR and Platinum trim levels. With 248 hp and 273 lb·ft (370 N·m), the VC-Turbo supplants the previous Altima’s 3.5-L V6; that engine generated 270 hp and 251 lb·ft (340 N·m). For the VC-Turbo, effective compression ratio can be varied between 8:1 and 14:1 and premium-unleaded gasoline is recommended. Nissan said a display in the digital gauge cluster will indicate the VC-Turbo’s operational state.


The 2019 Altima continues with a normally-aspirated 2.5-L DOHC I-4 that generates 188 hp and 180 lb·ft (244 N·m). There are numerous engineering upgrades that include direct injection, intake variable-valve timing, a tumble-control valve, a variable-displacement oil pump and cooled external EGR.

The transmission for both engines is Nissan’s long-established Xtronic continuously-variable transmission, with SR-trim models including manual-shaft capability.

With sales for the all-new Altima not beginning until this fall, Nissan officials said the company is not yet ready to project fuel-economy ratings for the new VC-Turbo engine. The previous-generation Altima with the 3.5-L V-6 is rated at 22 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined.

More size, first time for AWD

To accompany the 2019 Altima’s powertrain changes is the model’s first-ever fitment of all-wheel drive. The company said the Intelligent All Wheel Drive system can apportion drive torque in a range from 100% to the front axle to a 50/50 split between front and rear axles. In a release, Nissan said AWD will answer demand from customers in foul-weather regions—and suggested its availability may help buffer the buyers’ accelerating shift away from sedans in favor of crossover body styles:

"The lack of available all-wheel drive has also been a factor in buyers who prefer sedans switching to compact SUVs,” said José Muñoz, chief performance officer, Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. The AWD system will not be available with the VC-Turbo engine, however.

As might be expected, the sixth-generation Altima grows slightly. Wheelbase is up from 109.3 in (2776 mm) to 111.2 in (2824 mm) and overall length stretches from 191.9 in (4874 mm) to 192.9 in (4900 mm). There are numerous revisions and upgrades to the front strut and rear multilink suspension, as well as the model’s first availability of 19-in wheels.

Advanced electronics

The 2019 Altima is equipped with Nissan’s ProPILOT Assist advanced driver-assistance system, which Nissan said “is the foundation for the autonomous vehicles of the future, helping drivers stay centered in the lane, navigate stop-and-go traffic, maintain a set vehicle speed and maintain a set distance to the vehicle ahead.” ProPILOT Assist employs a forward-facing camera and radar and other sensors, as well as a dedicated ECU, to help keep the vehicle centered in the driving lane, as well as maintain the set speed with adaptive cruise control that can react to leading vehicles in the same lane. The system is standard for SV, SL and Platinum trims.

The 2019 Altima also has standard Rear Automatic Braking to apply the brakes when reversing if an object is detected. Also new for 2019 is a traffic-sign recognition system.

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