2019 Nissan Altima AWD First Drive: Your All-Weather Nissan Family Sedan

The 2019 Nissan Altima attempts to battle the growing number of SUVs that dominate American roads by taking a page from their book and offering all-wheel drive, one of the key capabilities that make SUVs so incredibly popular. Does this SUV-lite transformation work? And has the Altima AWD become a value-conscious family sedan with go-anywhere capability?

A drive along the snow-covered roads north of Montreal, Quebec, Canada proves the answer to both questions is a resounding “yes.” A $1,350 option regardless of trim level, adding all-wheel drive to the Altima is only possible with the standard 188-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. To put that premium into context, the Altima AWD starts at $25,250. A Nissan Rogue, with the same all-wheel-drive system, a less-powerful 2.5-liter engine, and the same continuously variable transmission starts at $26,270.

Of course, if you want the more powerful turbocharged, 2.0-liter, 236-horsepower, variable-compression four-cylinder, you’re out of luck. That engine is available only in front-wheel drive format. It’s a shame, too, because the added grip from this powertrain encourages drivers to nudge further against the car’s lateral limits. Towering snow banks along the two-lane roads that took north toward the Mecaglisse race circuit were always present, eager to punish us for exceeding those limits.

2019 Nissan Altima AWD: First Drive

Located two hours north of downtown Montreal, a wintry...