Nissan has raised the bar significantly on the redesigned of its popular mid-size sedan. Now in its fifth generation, it’s the most refined, efficient and upscale Altima ever, offering higher grades of materials, a new NASA-inspired seat design, plus a host of innovative safety and convenience features.
Designed primarily for the North American market, outside of the continent the US built Altima is only sold in the Middle East. As Nissan’s bestselling vehicle (3.8 million over 20 years), the Altima now enters it third decade.
This past summer I was fortunate to attend a pre-production release of the all-new redesign 2013 Altima, Nissan’s best selling model. It’s one of the top contenders fighting for market share in the hotly contested mid-size sedan segment. In fact it continues to battle with the likes of the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord for the top sales spot. There was even a brief period in 2011 where the Altima actually was number two, due in part to Japan’s epic earthquake/tsunami.
When you’re a major player it takes real ingenuity, so that’s why Nissan has gone the extra mile to make the Altima standout from the rest. That’s no easy task considering that most all of the competition is at top of their game.
My special interest in the new Altima stems from the fact this is what my better half drives, more specifically a 2.5 S. In fact it’s our second one, having upgraded in 2011. There was a reason we originally chose the Altima and why we decided again, despite closely evaluating the competition.
At the aforementioned summer press event I was shortchanged in getting sufficient seat time in a V6-equipped model, so this time I requested (and was initially scheduled) a 3.5 SV. However, what showed up was a 2.5 SL, similar to our family hauler. Not to worry, since 90% of Altima buyers favor the inline four cylinder models, due to their class leading fuel economy and more attractive price point. The two models are virtually alike in trim and amenities, it’s merely the powertrain that sets them apart.
Nissan makes understanding the Altima’s level of trim hierarchy fairly simple, and has improved on that even further for 2013. Base 2.5 is still that, with S, SV and SL following suit. Same applies to the 3.5, which also follows the S, SV and SL strategy. So now a 2.5 with some level of amenities now labeled a 2.5 SV, which will make a significant difference when determining its resalable value.
Features found on the base 2.5 S include ABS, traction-control, vehicle stability control, remote keyless entry with Push Button Ignition, radio with CD player with Aux-in and 4 speakers, audio controls on steering wheel and dual airbags. The 2.5 SV adds to that cruise control, 6-speaker audio system with 5-inch display, Bluetooth, USB port with iPod connectivity, rear-view camera, auto-headlamps, parking sensors, fog lamps and 17-inch alloy rims. Moving up to the top tier 2.5 SL, additional features include 8-way power driver’s seat, dual zone auto A/C, a Bose 9 speaker audio system, sunroof, side and curtain airbags and remote engine start. For the 3.5 V6, the SV and SL are similarly optioned in equipment level, with the major distinctions being wheel types and tire sizes, in addition to availability of paddle shifters.
While the 2.5 S will always be the volume fleet seller, the new more contented 2.5 SV is expected to be more popular with retail customers. Those who appreciate even more luxury appointments will wish to opt for the SL package. Our nicely equipped 2.5 SL stickered for a very attractive $30,645, with only two options consuming $1,815 of that sum.
The 2013 Altima is the first new model to offer Nissan’s next-gen NissanConnect, featuring connected services. The system includes a 5.0-inch color audio display with SV and SL models, or a 7.0-inch color display when equipped with navigation when included with the $1,090 Technology Package or as a $590 stand-alone option. Among its many function, the system integrates Pandora, Bluetooth Hands-free Phone, USB connection for iPod interface and other compatible devices and SiriusXM Satellite Radio.
The Hands-Free Text Messaging Assistant allows for hand-free text messaging via voice control. Alerts to incoming texts come through the Advanced Driver-Assist Display (ADAD) and, after initiating the system, texts are read audibly and responded via voice recognition, or using the steering wheel switches. The system can be deactivated if so desired.
The NissanConnect with Navigation system also integrates with the ADAD and includes a 7.0-inch touch-screen, 3D-effect map views, Voice Recognition, destination search via Google POI. It also offers the ability to send Google directions to the navi system straight from a smartphone.
Other navigation system features include speed limit display, eco driving maps, curve warning, and split screen display – along with global radio capability. Nissan Connect Google services require a subscription and owner consent to activate, subscription service for the first 36 months included in vehicle price, subscription available for purchase thereafter.
Convenience features are only part of the story with the optional Technology Package. Safety features are a big part as well and include a blind spot warning system, lane departure warning and moving-object detection when reversing. An advanced backup camera that incorporates a unique washing/drying function enables all three systems. The “Multi-sensing system with rear camera” is an advanced application of Nissan’s innovative Around View Monitor’s image processing technology. The single camera can detect multiple risks. BSW helps alert the driver to a vehicle detected in the blind spot area. LDW sounds an audible warning when the vehicle starts to drift out of the lane. MOD helps the driver to avoid a collision by providing visual and audible warnings if the system detects moving objects within the displayed image in situations such as pulling out of a parking space.
Easy Fill Tire Alert
Low tire pressure can be a safety hazard as well as an inconvenience but the new Altima's class-exclusive Easy Fill Tire Alert makes inflation a piece of cake. Using the car's tire pressure monitoring system, Easy Fill Tire Alert flashes the hazard lights when a tire is being filled and honks the horn when the correct air pressure is achieved. The succession of beeps increase as the pressure gets closer to be required amount.
Having the two Altimas parked side-by-side in the driveway for a solid week was the best scenario I’ve ever had in comparing new to previous-generation. Certain aspects haven't change like wheelbase and engine displacement, but that’s where the similarities appear to end. For starters, there’s less familiarity between now and the previous generational update for 2007, although enhancements still tend to be more evolutionary than revolutionary. It’s hard to say which I was more impressed with, the significant improvement in refinement or the new safety features.
While the previous Altima’s exterior lines were far from being tired the new model emulates a more distinctive character, yet errors on the side of caution as far as a specific theme. Yes, it now looks closer to its bigger brother, the Maxima, making one ponder what Nissan will do to established more distinction between the two models.
Items like chrome door handles and bright work around the window pillars may seem incidental, but sublimely adds to the overall perceived workmanship. Though not defined by name, the Altima’s front profile has already established a styling motif for the Nissan brand that is now continued by the all-new redesigned Sentra compact sedan. While the rear end of the Altima has familiar theme, the deep-draw trunklid stamping produces interesting contours, where the prominent chrome accent bar's subtle shape was influenced by styling from a Shinto temple. This profile also lesions the need for an optional spoiler, which continues to be a dealer-installed accessory.
The interior cabin of the new Altima may also be more generic in appearance but trades the previous abundant use of plastic and lower grade fabrics for materials which are far richer and more ascetically appealing. Black leather appointments with matching Piano trim adorned our SL test vehicle, along with a subtle quaintly of brushed chrome trim accenting, making it the closet in its segment to near luxury ambiance.
The convenient two compartment center armrest console still resides intact, but gone is Altima’s innovative covered cup holder with a capacity for up to three drinks, with at least one oversized. In its place is the typical non-capped setup for two. Also amiss is the concealed storage compartment of the former edition, which was located under the center stack. This hidden compartment made a great place to store and charge electronic devices. However, I was elated to see that the Bluetooth controls had been moved from overhead and now are integrated into Atlima’s new infotainment system, adding back the compartment for sun shades.
The most significant interior innovation which in my opinion separates the Altima from the rest of its peers is its Zero Gravity front seats, which were influenced by NASA research for greater comfort. This is no hype, for by far these are the most supportive seats I’ve ever experienced next to Recarros, and are most noticeable with the standard appointed leather of the SL as opposed to cloth upholstery of the S or SV.
The Altima is one of the few remaining mid-size sedans to retain a V6 option, with the Camry, Accord and VW Passat being the only others. The Altima’s spirited 3.5-liter V-6 was virtually left untouched although a slightly reworked CVT bumps economy figures from 20/27 to 22/30 mpg. The economy ratings are significantly up with the 2.5-liter I4 as well. With its CVT transmission, which has been updated as well, 2.5 equipped models are now rated at a segment leading 27/38 mpg city/highway. To qualify that statement, this economy rating is based on a regular non-hybrid or diesel powertrain. Other competitor can achieve a higher rating, but only in their hybrid form. The VW Passsat can best the rating by 2mpg with its oil burning TDI.
Addition enhancements to the 2.5 powertrain include an increase in horsepower, from 175 to 182. Valve timing cam-phasers have been added to the intake and exhaust sides (previously intake only), as well as a variable-flow intake manifold and smart-charging alternator programmed to reduce engine drag.
A few days into driving the Altima 2.5 SL I made a point to test drive an Altima SV 3.5 to get a feel between the two powertrains. Whereas the 3.5-liter V6 has always seemed more suited in a sports car than a sedan, the revised motor and tranny of the 2.5 at least makes up for any performance deficiency between the two. The 2.5 now has sufficiently more kick than the previous, and even sound less harsh under hard trottle. The 2.5’s CVT also benefits from a taller axle ratio and wider ratio spread of 7.0 for stronger off-the-line starts and low-rpm highway cruising. These overall enhancements in performance make the decision regarding 4 cylinders versus 6 that much easier. At the end of the day it comes down to personal taste but the only argument I would make in favor of the larger displacement would be living or frequently traveling in high attitude areas, where the 4-cylinder is prone to work harder ascending mountain roads, something I know well through experience.
Functionality, my only gripe comparing the old 2.5 CVT slush box to the new is the lack of a gated manual mode shifter in favor of an overdrive lockout system. Unlike most 2.5 drivers I actually use this feature whenever more torque is needed, revealing that the CVT can actually be
a 6-speed tranny when the call arises. However, after some time spent with the new setup I was missing gear changing less and less.
As I have managed to now test drive most every model in the Altima’s D-segment category, I still can clearly walk away with the opinion I’d upgrade to this new model if the opportunity arose. Though I’m more attracted to the new Ford Fusion’s Aston Martin-like styling, or the European craftsmanship of the German bred, American built VW Passat, when considering all that the Altima now is and has to offer it’s hard for me to consider anything else.
2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL
On Sale: Now
Base MSRP: $28,050
Price as Tested: $30,105 (includes $780 Designation Charge)
2.5-liter I4 182-bhp @ 6000 rpm, Torque (lb-ft): 180 @ 4000 rpm
TRANSMISSION: CVT (Continuously Variable-speed Automatic)
WHEELS AND TIRES: 17-inch alloy wheels on
FUEL ECONOMY: 27/31/38 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
FUEL CAPACITY: 18.0-gallon
FUEL Type: Regular Unleaded
CURB WEIGHT: 3187 lb / 4,211 lb curb/gross
CARBON EMISSIONS: 198-211/140-147 kW-hrs/100 miles
DRAG COEFFCIENT: 0.30 Cd
Passenger Volume: 100.6 cubic feet
Legroom (front/rear): 45.0/36.1 in
Headroom (front/rear): 40.0/37.1 in
Cargo (rear seats up/down): 15.4 cu. ft/
Basic Bumper-to-Bumper: 3-years / 36,000 miles
Road Side: 3-years / 36,000 miles
Powertrain: 5-years / 60,000 miles
COMPETITORS: Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Fusion, Chevrolet Malibu, Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, Volkswagen Passat, Mazda 6