2013 Nissan Altima First Drive
We head to the land of Jack Daniels to sample the next Altima.No Comments
We found the Altima to be a pleasant driving companion on our charge across central Tennessee, with a bit of sporting flair.
Introducing the 2013 Nissan Altima
Twenty years ago, the world was introduced to Wayne's World on the big screen, Bill Clinton was elected president, and the Nissan Altima debuted.
OK, in the pantheon of world events, the birth of the Altima probably flew under the radar. But for Nissan, the car's a big deal, since it's the company's mid-size entrant. And for its 20th birthday, it got a full redesign.
First unveiled at the 2012 New York International Auto Show, the 2013 Altima will likely retain its title as the best seller in Nissan's lineup. For 2013, the company promises better fuel economy--up to 38 mpg--and more attractive interior and exterior styling.
We'll be the judge of that. First, some basics.
Given that the mid-size segment has become focused on fuel economy, Nissan is touting its available 38 mpg highway number, which is no surprise, since that puts it above the 35 mpg promised by non-hybrid versions of the Hyundai Sonata, as just one example.
One note: the Altima coupe carries over unchanged for now, and Nissan is tight-lipped about any future hybrid plans.
Blind-spot warning and moving-object detection systems are also available, as is a remote start and a navigation system. Other available features include: heated outside mirrors, a moonroof, cruise control, satellite radio, iPod connectivity, and heated seats.
For 2.5-liter cars, there are three available trims (base, S, and SV) and three major option packages: a Convenience Package (leather seats, premium audio, etc.), a Navigation Package (navigation, heated steering wheel, moonroof, etc.), and a Technology Package (navigation, blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning, moving-object detection). A base S will set you back $21,500, while a SL starts at $28,050.
Cars with the 3.5 V-6 are divided into S, SL, SV, and SL trims, with a S starting at $25,360 and a 3.5 SL starting at $30,080. There's only two major packages--Navigation ($590, includes navigation, heated steering wheel, Xenon headlights and more) and Technology ($1,090, includes navigation, blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning, and more). Smaller options can be added a la carte.
We drove two cars: a 2.5 SL with splash guards ($145), rear spoiler ($395) and floor mats ($130), and a 3.5 SL with the Technology Package ($1,090) and the same options as the other car. Both cars had a $780 destination charge.
The CVT is an interesting piece of machinery--it's fairly seamless at lower RPMs, but the endless climb to redline is a bit unnerving if you aren't used to driving a CVT. The behavior is standard-issue for CVTs and only comes into play when the car is pushed, so most folks probably won't be too bothered by it.
Ride strikes a nice balance between firm and comfortable, and the car feels composed at all times. It's quiet, too.
The V-6 adds a lot more punch, although we suspect most buyers will find the more fuel-efficient four-banger to be more than adequate for almost all driving needs. Ride and handling stay about the same as with the four, but there's a lot more gusto from under the hood. This is the enthusiast's choice, if not the most practical one.
Perhaps our biggest on-road annoyance was a slightly oversensitive lane-departure warning system that beeped at the slightest hint of provocation. We know it's better to be safe than sorry, but we also know it's not good to cry wolf.
The trunk is sizeable but the opening is a bit small. We were also shocked to see a $30K+ car using a prop rod under the hood.
Yet, it's not as engaging as a few of its competitors, and the CVT will baffle some. Then again, those may not be big obstacles for Nissan to overcome, since according to the company, the car was the second-best seller in the U.S. in 2011. And there's no doubt that this Altima is one well-rounded machine. It scores points in nearly every category.
We're curious to see how the Altima stacks up against Ford's upcoming Fusion, which we have yet to drive. For now, though, the Altima remains firmly near the top of the class. It doesn't have one standout attribute like the Sonata's styling or the Accord's ability to engage the driver, but in this class, being a jack of all trades is probably better than being the master of one.