Auto Review: A surprisingly new Altima

By Bill Heald - ReminderNews
Featured Article - posted Thu., Aug. 8, 2013
- Contributed Photo

At the top of a Nissan Altima press release, we have the following: “Challenging the Theory of Mid-Size Sedan Evolution with Innovative Technology.” In promoting the top-to-bottom revision of one of the most popular sedans on the market, Nissan wanted to stress that this is a form of evolution, and the “soul” of the Altima is still intact. This means the unique feel of this sporty sedan that has distinguished it from the competition (especially the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord) is a big part of the package, while upgrades and improvements are found throughout the car.

Nissan’s “evolution to the extreme” makes the car even more engaging and entertaining, yet familiar enough that you know from the minute you slide behind the wheel, you’re in an Altima. This is one of those rare rides that makes a great all-around familiar car, yet is a real ball to drive – especially when equipped with the smooth, potent V6 engine.

The 2013 Altima comes with an extensively redone body design that resembles the previous iteration but is lighter, more rigid and more aerodynamic than before. The new base engine is a 2.5-liter Inline Four that develops a very respectable 182 horsepower, while the 3.5-liter V6 model puts out 270 horsepower. Both engines on this front-drive sedan are matched to a Continuously Variable Automatic Transmission (CVT) that is engineered to increase both performance and fuel economy, and our 3.5 SL tester had a sporty manual mode with paddle shifters located on the steering wheel. Acceleration with the V6 was very impressive, with 60 mph arriving in just over six seconds. This engine is remarkably smooth at idle, and one reason is sophisticated electronic engine mounts that help quell vibration. The CVT is smoother and quieter than previous units, and also aided in the car’s excellent fuel economy numbers.

Improved structural rigidity, as well as a new rear suspension along with retuned shocks and enhanced electronics, sharpens the handling of what was already a great back-road companion, and the brakes are also excellent. All in all, this is a sports sedan in a class where most of the competitors are more relaxed in terms of driving dynamics.

The interior of the new Altima starts with “utilizing a new articulated seat shape with continuous support from the pelvis to the chest and distribution of localized deformation characteristics,” according to Nissan. They continue: “The ‘zero-gravity’ Altima seats help reduce muscular and spinal loads, and improve blood flow – thereby helping reduce fatigue over long periods behind the wheel.” This tech comes from consultations with NASA, and the seats are, in fact, quite supportive. The controls are familiar and logical, with “an intuitive 3D-effect information display that’s easier to watch than many 3D Hollywood blockbusters,” muses the company. Rear seat room is generous, with 60/40 fold-down seatbacks to increase capacity of the 15.4-cubic-foot trunk.

The 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL is EPA rated 22 MPG city/31 highway and has a base price of $30,060. With options, our sticker came to $32,135.

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