Sedans & Coupes

The 2020 Nissan Altima’s Engine Was Good Enough to Win It an Award

The global recession took its toll on the auto industry. Some high-volume automakers fared better than others. As one of the “Japanese 3,” it puzzled many how much Nissan declined. Especially when you consider the quality of the comprehensive line of vehicles Nissan produces.

But Nissan recently won an important award for one of its engines. What was the award? What’s special about the engine?

WardsAuto’s 10 Best Engines & Propulsion Systems

Each year, auto industry analyst WardsAuto names its 10 Best Engines and Propulsion System awards. Formerly Wards 10 Best Engines, they expanded the scope of their awards to include systems that aren’t really engines. 

In a year when electrification is emerging and there was great diversity in the lineup, the Nissan Altima’s 2.0-liter variable compression turbocharged four-cylinder engine made the list of winners. It’s impressive when you consider it was one of 26 eligible new or substantially improved engines and electric propulsion systems evaluated to put together the list of the best 10. In 2020, eligibility also required that vehicles have a base price below $65,000. 

The Nissan Altima’s 2.0-liter VC-Turbo I4

According to WardsAuto, the 2020 Nissan Altima offers a powertrain that will please those wanting a smooth ride in a sedan or power combined with outstanding responsiveness for real performance.

RELATED: How Reliable Is the Nissan Altima?

Last year, the Japanese automaker equipped the Infiniti QX50 with its innovative 2.0-liter variable compression turbocharged four-cylinder engine that made WardsAuto top 10. They think this year’s Altima with its second application of the engine might be even better.

The Nissan Altima’s version of the engine constantly modifies compression while in use. Thanks to the continuously variable transmission, the front wheels get plenty of smooth power as it cycles from idle to the redline, according to WardsAuto. The vehicle feels like it’s being launched with the CVT producing 248 hp and 273 lb-ft of torque. 

The Altima’s version of the engine is detuned from the version used in QX50, and according to the WardsAuto judges, it’s all for the better. They explained it felt like a V8 with strong fuel economy at 30 mpg. Using a trick crankshaft mechanism, the engine is able to change the compression ratio within the engine. You can raise it under low-throttle conditions to increase efficiency. You can lower it so the turbo kicks in for a real boost.

Great power with fewer stops at the gas pump? That’s why the Nissan 2.0-liter VC-Turbo is a winner.

Welcome recognition for the Nissan Altima

With sales slumping in North America, Nissan Motor Company has been making changes in 2020. With the coronavirus pandemic only making things worse, the company is restructuring its global business. First-quarter sales were down 30 percent in 2020 with only 257,606 vehicles sold.

Nissan continues its efforts to reinvent itself in the luxury car market and has some worthy vehicles to do just that. Still, they haven’t had the luck that Lexus has. Both brands launched in 1989, but they’ve had very different journeys. In 2019, Lexus sold its 10 millionth vehicle. Infiniti has sold only about 2.6 million.

The automaker’s lineup is strong; they have an entry in most segments. All but the fairly new Kicks lost sales in 2019. The Rogue and Rogue Sports shed 15 percent of their sales, and the Murano dropped 18 percent. Trucks are selling well, but the Nissan Frontier was down 9.1 percent in 2019 and the Titan was down a whopping 37.5 percent.

What’s going wrong? A reluctance on Nissan’s part to push the technology that consumers want. Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are just now being introduced in the brand’s premium Infiniti lineup. Their all-electric Leaf started out strong, but the automaker has failed to do more than making small changes to the offering.

The award from WardsAuto will hopefully draw some attention to the quality that Nissan offers. In the meantime, Nissan needs to find a way to compete in any of the market segments before they run out of options.