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I was one of the first to own a 5-speed Altima 2.5S with conveinence package and OEM leather interior in our city (didn't want an auto tranny with the 4cyl engine). We were replacing our 2000 Dodge Grand Caravan as we had come to the end of needing a mini-van.

Generally speaking the performance of the car is good - I love the way the engine revs freely - but have become very disappointed with a number of items:
1. Quality of interior. The OEM leather is excellent, but little annoyances like the hard plastic arm rest of the door handle which iritates the left elbow when rested on it during longer trips. In general - the quality of interior plastics just isn't that good all around. Supposedly this is fixed on later models.
2. The manual gear-box is way below par for the engine - shift throws are way too long, and clunky. Apparently this is finally fixed in the 05 SE-R Altima.
3. Tons of torque steer on the manual box - very annoying because in the end it impacts overall driving experience of the car.
4. Steering wheel ergonomics - no matter of playing with the telescopic/tilt wheel and the multi-adjustable (electric) seat will allow me to actually see the top of the instrumentation and have the steering wheel in a comfortable setting. Either the wheel is too high for my liking or I lose sight of the top of the speedometer and tach.
5. There is way too much torque steer - you have to fight the steering every time you take it off the mark agressively. It is especially bad on wet pavement at normal speeds.
6. The ride is really choppy ride for a mid-size vehicle - and I don't mean 'sporty'.

On the upside - it's a very comfortable vehicle. The seats could use a bit more thigh length up front, but the comfort of the back seat beats any other vehicle I have ever driven or owned (including a recently rented Cadillac deVille). The trunk is adequate, although the lid hinges impede on space when closing it. Doors open nice and wide - and I do mean wide.

We have just over a year left on our lease, and will definately be turning the vehicle in even though there are some real upsides from a performance standpoint. I'd love to move up to the Infiniti FX35 but I don't like the idea of spending more on a car payment than on my mortgage - somehow that just doesn't seem right. I like the X-Trail but the headrests are poorly positioned, which is a big bug-a-boo for my wife - we'd like tilt-adjustable headrest like virtually all of the cars have had in the UK and Europe for the past several years.

Cheers. ...jww
 
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