By the end of this year, Nissan will have introduced five new models for 2013 including re-engineered versions of stalwarts like the Pathfinder and Sentra, plus a hatchback, a crossover and the always successful Altima.
|1. Thanks to its updated CVT transmission, the Altima gets a best-in-class 27/38 mpg rating.
2. A redesigned rear suspension and Active Understeer Control make for an even more engaging driving experience.
3. Seating comfort is enhanced by design and posture inspired by NASA.
4. New safety features including Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Moving Object Detection (MOD) systems.
5. Smartphone integration features include Pandora, Google and more.
As always the all-new Altima is targeted to compete with some of the major players in the mid-size segment such as the Toyota Camry, the Honda Accord and the Hyundai Sonata. Altima buyers will receive more than they expect this time around with no increase in price plus great added value. And the key component, 38 mpg.
With over 20 years of success, the Altima has improved with sleeker styling, more horsepower, an updated rear suspension, weight reduction, “zero gravity” seating, plenty of warning detection systems, an innovative tire pressure monitor and more, making it a serious contender for best in its class. Nissan claims that while the upscale full-size Maxima is about performance, this mid-size machine is about fuel efficiency. But after our first drive this week in Nashville, Tennessee, it’s obvious the 2013 Altima is about far more than just that one number.
BEST IN CLASS FUEL ECONOMY
Starting at $21,500 and recognized as the best-selling Nissan in the line-up, the Altima continues to be offered with 2.5-liter engine with 182 hp and 180 lb-ft of torque, as well as a 3.5-liter V6 with 270 hp and 258 lb-ft. While changes to the engine aren’t dramatic, updates to the transmission come with 70 percent of the continiously variable transmission (CVT) components being redesigned with an expanded gear ratio, while friction has been cut by 40 percent to help free-up horsepower.
As mentioned, there’s an impressive 38 mpg highway number on the 4-cylinder; better than any other non-hybrid mid-size sedan. City mileage is also impressive with a 27 mpg rating. As for the V6, you’ll get an estimated 22/30 city/highway mpg.
Helping both the fuel economy and performance of the car is a lighter body that’s more rigid too. The use of high-strength aluminum steel helps cut a total of 79 lbs from the new Altima.
LOOKING GOOD AND FEELING COZY
The new Altima’s interior is spacious though cozy and definitely the better-looking trim compared to many of the competitor’s interiors, including the current Chevy Malibu, Ford Fusion and all but the most pricey VW Passat versions. The standard interior trim comes with cloth seating and a 6-way driver’s seat, a 4-way adjustable front passenger seat, 60/40 split folding rear bench seat with armrest and black dash with chrome finishings.
Also available are leather seats and trim, an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar support and metallic or wood trim accents. Nissan has also decided to ditch woven leather seats in favor of perforated leather, which look better in tandem with the resigned seating shape.
The new NASA “zero gravity” inspired seating, increases blood flow and reduces lower back fatigue. According to NASA, the best seating position and the least discomforting is a “neutral posture”, which the Altima’s new butt-holders are designed to replicate. Notable changes include wider back portions with smaller headrests and after our drive we can attest to the claims of superior comfort.
Getting in the Altima is now easier than ever. Standard on the 2013 models is keyless entry, start/stop engine activation. A remote engine starter function is available on SV and SL models, which works from as far as 195 feet. Whether for heating-up in challenging winters or cooling down in blistery summer months (or both) this feature is appreciated.
The electric steering is responsive, but the beauty is in the steering wheel’s size and sabretooth-like paddle shifters. Both are a combo that the amateur F1 racer in all of us can appreciate. However, the control functions on the wheel are quite elaborate and not obvious to use.
ADDED TECH IS FUN AND FUNCTIONAL
An additional innovation and now a standard feature is the Advance Drive-Assist Display, which is a 4-inch color monitor in the cluster between the gauges on the dash, delivering information with little distraction so you don’t need to keep shifting your vision away from the road.
The updated center console incorporates the NissanConnectSM, a 5-inch color audio display included with SV and SL models, or an optional 7-inch color display with the navigation package. The Navigation touch-screen gives access to Pandora internet radio, a Google POI (point of interest) tool and standard Handsfree Bluetooth technology, which uses a Hands-Free Text Messaging Assistant capable of reading incoming text message aloud through the integrated audio system. Drivers can also reply to text messages with a selection of pre-generated answers or their own. Unfortunately for Apple iPhone users the technology is not yet compatible but the connectivity for music and telephone calls is solid.
Additional sound absorbing materials make the ride significantly quieter, though opt for the V6 and you’ll always hear it roar.
An original user-friendly feature that’s been added for 2013 is a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) with Easy Fill Tire Alert. First introduced on the Quest minivan, when a driver fills the tires with air, the hazard lamps flash as the pressure builds. When the tire receives the right amount of air, the vehicle’s horn honks to let you know the pressure is perfect – an important factor not just for safety but also for achieving maximum fuel economy.
More than ever, Nissan makes it easier for the Altima to back out of a sticky spot, with some help from a 180-degree view side-to-side rearview camera. Standard on all SV and SL models this upgraded amenity features Blind Spot Warning (BSW), Lane Departure Warning (LDW) and Moving Object Detection (MOD) that recognizes moving objects like other cars and pedestrians when the rearview camera is active. It also doesn’t have an irritating fish-eye lens which makes the monitor results look rounded and obscure.
MEET THE NEW MID-SIZE ROAD WARRIOR
Getting behind the wheel of the new Altima feels good. The model’s evolution has been one where performance is just as important as fuel efficiency, price and design.
It’s not nearly as dramatic a design statement as the Sonata or Optima but the new grille and more angular LED are all part of an undeniably handsome package. The interior cargo dimensions are the same as the previous year yet the overall feel is slightly lower, wider and more comfortable.
The redesigned multi-link rear suspension makes the back-end sturdier while a new Active Understeer Control system helps deliver a car that’s safe to drive, but which doesn’t sacrifice when it comes to the driving experience. Both engines pull capably, the 4-cylinder with perfectly adequate power and the V6 with plenty of gusto so travel is never dull.
Priced at $21,500 for the 4-cylinder and $25,360 for the V6 the Altima continues to offer hallmark brand qualities while adding improved exterior design, interior refinement, plenty of new features and, of course, that best-in-class fuel economy rating. A runner up for the top selling mid-size sedan last year, Nissan may just have launched its Camry killer.