Is the Nissan Altima front- or rear-wheel drive?

Short answer: It’s a front-wheel drive sedan that you can (soon) buy from Nissan Australia and which competes with the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Mondeo (Fusion in the US) and Mazda 6. BUT …

Long answer: In the lead up to the Altima actually going on sale in Australia, Nissan Australia decided it needed a little more street cred for its soon-to-be family car competitor, so it got involved in V8 Supercars. Unfortunately for Nissan it had no ready-to-go rear-wheel drive sedan that wasn’t an Infiniti or confined to the Japanese market.

Thankfully, though, the V8 Supercars management team had their collective spidey sense on and could see that the rear-wheel drive Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore were ultimately as going the way of the dinosaur. So, they created created the Car of the Future, which, despite its name is not an electric car, like the Tesla Model S or Nissan Leaf. Heck, it’s not even a plug-in hybrid, such as the Holden Volt. Gods be damned, it’s not even a regular hybrid, like the Toyota Prius. Look, it’s not even a diesel.

What it is is a fixed chassis design that all V8 Supercars competitors use. It’s meant to even out the competition, lower the cost of entry for both teams and car companies, and reduce repair costs because most of the parts are shared. In effect all the cars on V8 Supercars circuit have the same wheelbase, same suspension design, same electronics setup, same transmission and same braking package. The location for the engine is also the same, but manufacturers and teams can drop in an engine of their choice.

Despite sharing the same wheelbase and layout (front engine, rear-wheel drive), each manufacturer is able to fit its own body design over the top. To make the FG Ford Falcon, VF Holden Commodore, Nissan Altima and W212 Mercedes-Benz E-Class bodies marry up to same dimension chassis requires a bit of creative metalwork, but under all the garish layers of sponsorship it’s hard to see.

So, yes, there are rear-wheel drive Altimas out there. Unfortunately you can’t buy one, unless you own V8 Supercars racing team, nor can you drive one, unless you’re V8 Supercars driver.

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Derek Fung

Derek Fung

Derek has a lifelong love for all things automotive, from the dullest Camry to record shattering Bugattis. Prior to starting up Between the Axles he was a reviewer for CNET Australia and the founding editor of its Car Technology channel. [Read more]