NEW YORK – Nissan promises to “bring excitement back to the midsize sedan segment” with the sixth generation of the Altima sedan debuting this morning at the 2018 New York International Auto Show.

The segment in the U.S. was down last year and has been down in sales this year, as new-vehicle sales slow overall and Americans increasingly opt for light trucks.

“Our goal with the all-new Altima is to re-energize the sedan segment – in terms of design, driving feel and in making advanced technologies available and affordable for everyone,” Jose Muñoz, chief performance officer-Nissan, says in a statement released to media ahead of the car’s debut. “We want to energize drivers, helping make their lives safer, less stressful and more exciting.”

Based on last year’s VMotion 2.0 concept from the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, the new Altima has a lower and wider stance than the outgoing fifth-gen model, made possible partially by platform packaging and low-profile engines.

The ’19-model car grows from its predecessor in almost every dimension. It is roughly an inch longer and wider than the ’18 Altima, but lower in height and with a smaller front overhang thanks to a longer wheelbase enabling the rear wheels to be pushed into corners.

Nissan design chief Alfonso Albaisa credits clever packaging for making it possible to put larger, 19-in. tires on the car at the same time the hood and cowl were pushed downward.

Nissan’s signature V-Motion grille and boomerang lights are key design elements on the vehicle, which has a 0.26 coefficient of drag.

Available is a dark-chrome-finish grille and two chameleon-like paint colors, Scarlet Ember red and Sunset Drift orange. The red color changes hue with light, while the orange color uses a reflective pigment to emphasize sculptural elements in the sheet metal.

Nissan promises a near-luxury design and materials inside the car, which has a “gliding wing” instrument panel and high contrast.

“The idea is to engage the driver and passengers both visually and tactilely,” Albaisa says.

Nissan makes its new variable-compression turbocharged inline 4-cyl. from the Infiniti QX50 an upgrade engine on the ’19 Altima. A 2.5L 4-cyl. still is offered, with a claimed 80% change in parts from the current Altima’s 2.5L.

“Reflecting the Altima’s importance to the Nissan brand, the company is making its biggest investment ever in a new-model powertrain development – introducing for the first time two completely new engines for one model change,” the automaker says in a statement.

The VC-Turbo, which varies compression ratio from 8:1 to 14:1 via a multi-link that continuously raises or lowers pistons to provide performance or efficiency, makes 248 hp and 273 lb.-ft. (370 Nm) of torque in the Altima. That compares with 268 hp and 280 lb.-ft. (380 Nm) in the QX50.

Nissan foresees a double-digit increase in highway fuel economy in front-wheel-drive Altimas with the 2.5L. The current Altima 2.5L 4-cyl. achieves 38 mpg (6.2 L/100 km) for the metric.

The new 2.5L has direct injection unlike the current 2.5L and is rated at 188 hp and 180 lb.-ft. (244 Nm) of torque compared with 179 hp and 177 lb.-ft. (240 Nm) of torque in the outgoing engine.

Features of the new 2.5L are a thermal-insulated resin intake port, variable tumble control valve, mirror bore cylinder coating, a variable displacement oil pump and cooled external exhaust-gas recirculation.

Its lower profile is made possible with a reverse cylinder head that has an integrated exhaust manifold, as well as low engine mounting.

Both Altima engines are mated to Nissan’s Xtronic CVT, which it says is upgraded for ’19 with an expanded lock-up area for improved efficiency.

The Altima adds all-wheel drive for the first time, which Nissan says is a result of requests from buyers in the northern U.S., Muñoz notes, “The lack of available all-wheel drive has been a factor in buyers who prefer sedans switching to compact SUVs.”

Able to apportion torque 0:100 front and up to 50:50 front-to-rear, the system will be available on all grades of models with the 2.5L.

Suspension and steering-system changes to the car include a first use of monotube rear shocks and dual-pinion electric power steering. The latter reduces steering effort at low speeds and raises it at higher speeds for better control and feedback, Nissan says.

A variety of creature-comfort and safety technologies are on the vehicle, either as standard or optional.

In the safety category falls Nissan’s ProPilot Assist semi-automated system that combines adaptive cruise control and lane-keep assist functions and is standard on SV, SL and Platinum grades of the ’19 Altima.

Also standard on those same grades is a new rear automatic braking system, which applies the brakes during backup if a stationary object is detected.

A 7-in. (18-cm) drive assist display is standard, as is the NissanConnect telematics system with both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and an 8-in. (20-cm) infotainment screen. NissanConnect’s Services app also is compatible with Amazon Alexa Skills and Apple Watch and Android Wear smart watches.

The new Altima goes on sale in the fall in the U.S., with pricing to be announced closer to launch.

In addition to SV, SL and Platinum there are S and SR base trim levels, while a limited-edition Platinum VC-Turbo grade will be offered at launch.

Altima U.S. sales through February were down 12.3%, Wards Intelligence data shows, following 2017’s 17.0% volume loss. Whereas the car once was Nissan’s best-selling model, it now is the Rogue and Rogue Sport compact CUV, which outsold the Altima by nearly 150,000 units last year.

Nissan says it will begin expanding Altima sales outside the U.S. with the new sixth-generation car, although it doesn’t specify to which markets.

cschweinsberg@wardsauto.com