Skip to main content

“Are you driving that Nissan? That thing looks like a rental car,” my friend said.
“Maybe, but it’s actually pretty nice,” I replied.

To clarify, my friend didn’t know that the Nissan Altima SR VC-Turbo I was driving was revised for the 2023 model year. The Altima now has a bolder front fascia with LED headlights, and the SR trim comes with aggressive 19-inch wheels to match. Overall, the Altima may still look like a rental car to curious onlookers, but in my initial impressions, it’s much more than that.

2023 Nissan Altima front angle in the sun
2023 Nissan Altima | Nissan

What’s so special about the 2023 Nissan Altima SR trim?

2023 Nissan Altima rear view
2023 Nissan Altima | Nissan

The main feature that separates the 2023 Nissan Altima SR trim apart from the others is its engine. Under the hood of this sporty trim level is a turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 236 hp and 267 lb-ft of torque. But the best part is that the “VC” designation in the trim level stands for “variable compression.”

This means that the engine can vary its compression ratios to deliver the best power and efficiency throughout the rev range. Essentially, it has the power of a V6 engine when it’s at a lower compression and the fuel-sipping ability of a four-cylinder at high compression.

On the road, it’s hard to tell that all of that engine trickery is going on when driving the car. But I can say there’s plenty of power and torque when needed. Although, it takes a hot second to get going as there seems to be a lull when you bury the gas pedal. I’m unsure if this pause could be from the turbo spooling up or the CVT.

Speaking of the transmission, I would personally prefer a traditional geared transmission for a sportier execution. But as long you’re not trying to carve up canyon roads like a pretend racecar driver, the CVT works fine in everyday situations.

I imagine it’s much better than the base 2.5-liter engine, which is what you would find in a rental car version of the Altima.

Is the Nissan Altima VC-Turbo comfortable?

2023 Nissan Altima front interior space
2023 Nissan Altima | Nissan

The interior of the Nissan Altima VC-Turbo is comfortable and spacious. The leather-wrapped, NASA-inspired Zero Gravity seats are supportive in all of the ways they move, but I wish they had a little more thigh support. I also like the new 12.3-inch touchscreen, which is crisp, clear, and easy to use. However, the 360-degree camera view looks grainy, but it’s still helpful.

Additionally, the visibility out of all four corners of the car is good, but the rear sits a little high, so seeing out the rear window could be a little challenging for short drivers. It’s also interesting that my tester didn’t come with an auto-dimming mirror, which is something I would expect a nearly $37,000 car to be equipped with – but maybe I’m just spoiled.

Is the Nissan Altima SR with the VC Turbo engine the best trim level to buy?

2023 Nissan Altima infotainment system
2023 Nissan Altima | Nissan

I haven’t tried out the other trim Nissan Altima levels, but considering SR trim level with the VC engine comes with everything you need, it seems like it’s worth the extra cash. And by “everything you need,” I mean tech features like heated seats, a heated steering wheel, and wireless Apple Carplay/Android Auto. There’s a power moonroof, too, which is great on sunny days.  

Ultimately, for an MSRP of $36,440, the Altima VC-Turbo is a comfortable and somewhat sporty ride with a lot of value – I wish it came with a different transmission. One thing is for sure, though, the Altima in SR guise is definitely not a rental car.