2020 Nissan Altima vs. 2019 Dodge Charger

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

For enhanced safety, the front and rear seat shoulder belts of the Nissan Altima have pretensioners to tighten the seatbelts and eliminate dangerous slack in the event of a collision and force limiters to limit the pressure the belts will exert on the passengers. The Dodge Charger doesn’t offer pretensioners for the rear seat belts.

In the past twenty years hundreds of infants and young children have died after being left in vehicles, usually by accident. When turning the vehicle off, drivers of the Altima are reminded to check the back seat if they opened the rear door before starting out. The Charger doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.

The Altima Platinum has a standard Around View Monitor to allow the driver to see objects all around the vehicle on a screen. The Charger only offers a rear monitor and rear parking sensors that beep or flash a light. That doesn’t help with obstacles to the front or sides.

The Altima’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Charger doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Altima and the Charger have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, rearview cameras, available daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems and rear cross-path warning.

A significantly tougher test than their original offset frontal crash test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety does 40 MPH small overlap frontal offset crash tests. In this test, where only 25% of the total width of the vehicle is struck, results indicate that the Nissan Altima is safer than the Charger:

Altima

Charger

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

MARGINAL

Restraints

GOOD

GOOD

Head Neck Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Head injury index

59

222

Peak Head Forces

0 G’s

0 G’s

Steering Column Movement Rearward

4 cm

9 cm

Chest Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Max Chest Compression

19 cm

28 cm

Hip & Thigh Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Femur Force R/L

.4/.5 kN

3.7/3 kN

Hip & Thigh Injury Risk R/L

0%/0%

1%/0%

Lower Leg Evaluation

GOOD

POOR

Tibia index R/L

.53/.45

1.21/.58

Tibia forces R/L

.9/.4 kN

3/4.7 kN

For its top level performance in IIHS driver-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, rear impact and roof-crush tests, with its optional front crash prevention system, its “Good” rating in the new passenger-side small overlap crash test, and its available headlight’s “Acceptable” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Altima the rating of “Top Pick” for 2019, a rating granted to only 88 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Charger was not even a standard “Top Pick” for 2016.

Warranty

The Altima’s 5 year corrosion warranty has no mileage limitations, but the corrosion warranty on the Charger runs out after 60,000 miles.

Reliability

For smoother operation, better efficiency and fewer moving parts, the engines in the Altima have an overhead cam design, rather than the old pushrod design of some of the engines in the Charger.

A reliable vehicle saves its owner time, money and trouble. Nobody wants to be stranded or have to be without a vehicle while it’s being repaired. Consumer Reports rates the Altima’s reliability 20 points higher than the Charger.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Nissan vehicles are better in initial quality than Dodge vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Nissan 7th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 4 more problems per 100 vehicles, Dodge is ranked 8th.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Nissan vehicles are more reliable than Dodge vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Nissan 15th in reliability. With 41 more problems per 100 vehicles, Dodge is ranked 28th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Nissan vehicles are more reliable than Dodge vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Nissan 7 places higher in reliability than Dodge.

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Altima gets better fuel mileage than the Charger:

MPG

Altima

FWD

S/SV/SL 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

28 city/39 hwy

SR/Platinum 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

27 city/37 hwy

2.0 turbo 4 cyl.

25 city/34 hwy

AWD

S/SV/SL 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

26 city/36 hwy

SR/Platinum 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

25 city/35 hwy

Charger

RWD

3.6 DOHC V6

19 city/30 hwy

5.7 OHV V8

16 city/25 hwy

6.4 OHV V8

15 city/25 hwy

AWD

3.6 DOHC V6

18 city/27 hwy

In heavy traffic or at stoplights the Altima’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. The engine is automatically restarted when the driver gets ready to move again. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) The Charger doesn’t offer an automatic engine start/stop system.

To lower fuel costs and make buying fuel easier, the Nissan Altima uses regular unleaded gasoline (premium recommended with the 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. engine for maximum performance). The Charger R/T Scat Pack/Daytona 392 requires premium, which can cost 20 to 55 cents more per gallon.

Environmental Friendliness

In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Nissan Altima higher (7 out of 10) than the Dodge Charger (3). This means the Altima produces up to 24.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Charger every 15,000 miles.

The EPA certifies the Nissan Altima as a “Super Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle” (SULEV). The Dodge Charger is only certified to “Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle” (ULEV) standards.

Transmission

The Altima has a standard continuously variable transmission (CVT). With no “steps” between gears, it can keep the engine at the most efficient speed for fuel economy, or keep it at its peak horsepower indefinitely for maximum acceleration. The Charger doesn’t offer a CVT.

Tires and Wheels

The Altima S’ standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 60 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Charger SXT’s standard 65 series tires.

The Altima has a standard easy tire fill system. When inflating the tires, the vehicle’s integrated tire pressure sensors keep track of the pressure as the tires fill and tell the driver when the tires are inflated to the proper pressure. The Charger doesn’t offer vehicle monitored tire inflation.

Suspension and Handling

For better maneuverability, the Altima S’ turning circle is 1.6 feet tighter than the Charger’s (36.1 feet vs. 37.7 feet). The Altima SR/SV/SL/Platinum’s turning circle is 1.3 feet tighter than the Charger AWD’s (37.4 feet vs. 38.7 feet).

Chassis

The Nissan Altima may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 800 to 950 pounds less than the Dodge Charger.

The Altima is 5.5 inches shorter than the Charger SXT, making the Altima easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

The design of the Nissan Altima amounts to more than styling. The Altima has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .26 Cd. That is significantly lower than the Charger (.304 to .335) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the Altima get better fuel mileage.

The front grille of the Altima uses electronically controlled shutters to close off airflow and reduce drag when less engine cooling is needed. This helps improve highway fuel economy. The Charger doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

The Altima SL/Platinum uses computer-generated active noise cancellation to help remove annoying noise and vibration from the passenger compartment, especially at low frequencies. The Charger doesn’t offer active noise cancellation.

Passenger Space

The Altima has .6 inches more front headroom, 2 inches more front legroom and .3 inches more rear headroom than the Charger.

Ergonomics

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts detailed tests on headlights for their range both straight ahead and in curves and to be certain they don’t exceed acceptable amounts of glare to oncoming drivers. The Altima’s available headlights were rated “Acceptable” by the IIHS, while the Charger’s headlights are rated “Poor.”

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the Altima owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the Altima will cost $275 to $7975 less than the Charger over a five-year period.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Altima is less expensive to operate than the Charger because typical repairs cost much less on the Altima than the Charger, including $31 less for a water pump, $706 less for a muffler, $84 less for front brake pads and $192 less for a fuel pump.

IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Nissan Altima will be $6458 to $13442 less than for the Dodge Charger.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends the Nissan Altima, based on reliability, safety and performance.

The Altima was chosen as one of Automobile Magazine’s “All Stars” in 2019. The Charger has never been an “All Star.”

The Nissan Altima outsold the Dodge Charger by almost three to one during 2018.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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