This 2013 Nissan Altima is a bit bigger, roomier, nimbler, quicker and more feature loaded than the strong-selling 2012 it replaces, yet it’s also some 80 lb. lighter and more fuel efficient. And while most midsize competitors have moved away from optional V6 engines in favor of turbocharged fours to ensure Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) compliance, Altima still offers the choice of a standard four or an available V6, both driving through the industry's best continuously variable transmission (CVT).
About the same length as the outgoing 2012, the new Nissan Altima sits on the same wheelbase but with 1.4-in.-wider tracks and 0.8-in.-deeper fenders to accommodate larger wheels and tires, which improves its agility and gives it a strong, athletic stance. Its windshield is “faster” and its A-pillars a bit more angled, its rear roofline pours gracefully into a taller rear deck, its large taillights flow smoothly into its bodysides, and its drag coefficient (Cd) is a slick 0.299.
Its nicely appointed interior compliments that handsome "class-above" look and offers a plethora of new features, some class-exclusive. It is finely crafted with plenty of soft-touch materials, but its prime attraction is a pair of NASA-inspired "zero gravity" front bucket seats, which Nissan says approach the relaxed “neutral posture” that the human body assumes in a weightless environment. Cloth seats and piano-black trim with chrome accents are standard, leather and metallic trim are available with a charcoal interior, or faux wood with blond.
The standard 182-hp 2.5-liter four is redesigned for lighter weight and higher efficiency, while the 270-horse 3.5-liter V6 is also improved to reduce its fuel consumption. Both power the Altima's front wheels through the only gearbox offered, Nissan's next-generation Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT), which has a wider ratio spread, improved control logic and 40 percent lower friction than the one it replaces. It helps the four deliver 27 mpg city and 38 mpg highway EPA ratings, the latter rating best in class for a gasoline engine, and the V6 a still-impressive 22 city, 30 highway.
Thanks largely to its new multi-link rear suspension and the much-improved CVT, this is the finest-driving Altima yet. Around town, on freeways and on twisty back roads, it feels tight and nimble yet comfortable and quiet on all but the nastiest surfaces. Much appreciated were the electro-hydraulic power steering, more precise than typical electric boost yet more energy efficient than pure hydraulic, and Active Understeer Control, which brakes the inside front wheel slightly to help get you around a curve you may have entered a bit too fast. The 3.5-liter V6 is strong, but the upgraded 2.5-liter four is more than adequate (Nissan says it will accelerate from rest to 60 mph in 7.1-seconds), at least with light loads on fairly level roads.
In 2011, the previous-generation Altima beat out Honda’s Accord and a host of other excellent entries to rise to second best-selling midsize sedan behind only Camry, so we don’t see why this all-new, all-ways-better 2013 Nissan Altima can’t complete the job by taking over leadership in class. We’ll see in time.
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