2020 Nissan Altima vs. 2020 Acura TLX

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 Acura TLX 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 TLX doesn’t offer a back seat reminder.

Over 200 people are killed each year when backed over by motor vehicles. The Altima SV/SL/Platinum has standard Rear Automatic Braking that uses rear sensors to monitor and automatically apply the brakes to prevent a rear collision. The TLX doesn’t offer backup collision prevention brakes.

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 TLX doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Altima and the TLX have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, driver knee airbags, side-impact head airbags, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, rearview cameras, available daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, blind spot warning systems, around view monitors 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 TLX:

Altima

TLX

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Restraints

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Head Neck Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Head injury index

59

250

Peak Head Forces

0 G’s

0 G’s

Chest Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Max Chest Compression

19 cm

23 cm

Hip & Thigh Evaluation

GOOD

GOOD

Femur Force R/L

.4/.5 kN

1.6/2.1 kN

Hip & Thigh Injury Risk R/L

0%/0%

0%/0%

Lower Leg Evaluation

GOOD

MARGINAL

Tibia index R/L

.53/.45

1.15/.91

Tibia forces R/L

.9/.4 kN

4.4/5 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 TLX was not even a standard “Top Pick” for 2016.

Warranty

There are over 4 times as many Nissan dealers as there are Acura dealers, which makes it much easier should you ever need service under the Altima’s warranty.

Reliability

A hardened steel chain, with no maintenance needs, drives the camshafts in the Altima’s engine. A rubber cam drive belt that needs periodic replacement drives the TLX’s camshafts. If the TLX’s belt breaks, the engine could be severely damaged when the pistons hit the opened valves.

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 Acura vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Nissan 7th in initial quality, above the industry average. With 24 more problems per 100 vehicles, Acura is ranked 24th, below the industry average.

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 Acura vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Nissan 15th in reliability. With 34 more problems per 100 vehicles, Acura is ranked 26th.

Engine

The Altima’s optional 2.0 turbo 4 cyl. produces 6 lbs.-ft. more torque (273 vs. 267) than the TLX’s optional 3.5 SOHC V6.

As tested in Motor Trend the Nissan Altima 2.0 VC turbo is faster than the Acura TLX 4 cyl.:

Altima

TLX

Zero to 60 MPH

6.1 sec

7.2 sec

Quarter Mile

14.6 sec

15.6 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

97.4 MPH

91.1 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

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

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

TLX

FWD

2.4 DOHC 4-cyl.

23 city/33 hwy

A-Spec 2.4 DOHC 4-cyl.

23 city/32 hwy

3.5 SOHC V6

20 city/31 hwy

A-Spec 3.5 SOHC V6

20 city/30 hwy

AWD

3.5 SOHC V6

20 city/29 hwy

Regardless of its engine, the Altima’s engine automatically turns off when the vehicle is stopped, saving fuel and reducing pollution. (Start/Stop isn’t accounted in present EPA fuel mileage tests.) Acura only offers an automatic engine start/stop system on the TLX SH-AWD.

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 Acura TLX (3). This means the Altima produces up to 24.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the TLX every 15,000 miles.

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 TLX doesn’t offer a CVT.

Brakes and Stopping

The Altima stops shorter than the TLX:

Altima

TLX

70 to 0 MPH

172 feet

179 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

118 feet

124 feet

Motor Trend

Suspension and Handling

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Altima’s wheelbase is 1.9 inches longer than on the TLX (111.2 inches vs. 109.3 inches).

The Altima Platinum handles at .91 G’s, while the TLX V6 SH-AWD pulls only .82 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The Altima Platinum executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the TLX (26.3 seconds @ .68 average G’s vs. 27 seconds @ .74 average G’s).

For better maneuverability, the Altima S’ turning circle is 2.7 feet tighter than the TLX V6’s (36.1 feet vs. 38.8 feet).

Chassis

The Nissan Altima may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 300 to 400 pounds less than the Acura TLX.

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 TLX doesn’t offer active grille shutters.

As tested by Car and Driver while at idle, the interior of the Altima Platinum is quieter than the TLX (40 vs. 42 dB).

Passenger Space

Because it has more passenger and cargo room, the EPA rates the Altima a Mid-size car, while the TLX is rated a Compact.

The Altima has 7.5 cubic feet more passenger volume than the TLX (100.8 vs. 93.3).

The Altima has 2 inches more front headroom, 1.2 inches more front legroom, .7 inches more front shoulder room, .2 inches more rear headroom, .7 inches more rear legroom and 1.7 inches more rear shoulder room than the TLX.

Cargo Capacity

The Altima has a much larger trunk than the TLX (15.4 vs. 14.3 cubic feet).

Economic Advantages

Insurance will cost less for the Altima owner. The Car Book by Jack Gillis rates the Altima with a number “1” insurance rate while the TLX is rated higher at a number “10” rate.

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Altima is less expensive to operate than the TLX because typical repairs cost much less on the Altima than the TLX, including $46 less for a water pump, $313 less for a muffler, $501 less for a starter, $315 less for fuel injection, $89 less for a fuel pump, $98 less for front struts and $765 less for a power steering pump.

IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Nissan Altima will be $4993 to $6260 less than for the Acura TLX.

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 TLX has never been an “All Star.”

The Nissan Altima outsold the Acura TLX by almost seven to one during 2018.

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

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