By on December 30, 2012

The “family sedan” may not be very exciting, but without midsized sales auto makers would be in a pickle. Ponder this: the five best-selling midsized sedans in America accounted for 1.3 million of the 12.8 million vehicles sold in 2011. With numbers like that, it’s important to get your mass-market people mover right. This means competitive fuel economy, a low base price and swipe as much tech from your luxury brand as possible. Either that or just wear a Nissan badge on the front. Say what? The last generation Altima was the second best-selling car despite being long in the tooth and filled with Chrysler quality plastics. That made me ask an important question: Is the fifth-generation Altima any good, or is it selling well (now in third place thanks to the new Accord and Nissan’s model change over) just because it has a Nissan logo on the front?

 YouTube Preview Image

Exterior

A design that doesn’t alienate the customer you expect to return and buy their second or third car is critical. Just ask Ford how that bubble-Taurus redesign went in 1996. Still, midsize sedan shoppers demand some style so Nissan’s design team jammed a bit of Maxima, a pinch of Infiniti M and a “whole-lotta” Versa into a sausage press and cut the Altima off at 191.5 inches. This makes the new Altima longer than a Camry, a hair longer than a Maxima and essentially the same size as the Accord and Fusion. Nobody will confuse the Altima with an Aston Martin, nor will they think their neighbor is driving a budget Bentley. Instead the slab-sided Altima delivers clean lines and elegant good looks. Think of it as the Midwestern farm girl to the Fusion’s Los Angeles call girl.

Interior

Before we hop in, let’s have a moment of midsized honesty. The last gen Altima, much like the former Sentra, was a plastic penalty box on the inside that belonged in a Hertz garage, not mine. It appears Nissan took the criticism to heart and made such a drastic improvement to the Altima’s interior I suspect Infiniti’s interior decorators lent a hand. Yes, the interior design is somewhat bland, but nobody’s $20,000-$30,000 is very exciting and that’s just how midsized shoppers like it. In sharp contrast to the Fusion’s Germanic black-on-black-on-black interior, our Altima was covered in acres of light beige leather, pleather and soft-touch plastics. The lighter materials make the cabin look  larger and warmer than the numbers indicate with headroom and legroom falling in line with the competition. Some reviews I have seen complain about the cabin’s materials but I’m honestly not clear why. The Altima’s plastics and pleather are better than those in the Camry and Passat and equal to or better than the new Fusion and Accord. Fear not TTAC faithful, there is a low point in the interior: only the SV and SL models eschew the rubbery-plastic tiller for leather wrapping.

Since our tester was the top-of-the-line SL, the cockpit featured a heated tilt/telescopic steering wheel, an 8-way power driver’s seat and manually adjustable lumbar support. Shoppers that chose the 3.5L V6 will be treated to a pair of the best looking and best feeling magnesium paddle shifters this side of a BMW M6. Seriously. There’s just one problem: paddle shifters on a car with a CVT make as much sense as a parking brake on a french poodle. (Yet for some reason I found myself caressing their magnesium goodness non-stop when I was behind the wheel.) Like the most entries in this segment, the front passenger seat remains manually adjustable regardless of trim level and upholstery. Thanks to Nissan’s “Zero Gravity” seat design, the front seats proved comfortable and didn’t’ aggravate my temperamental knee during a 2 hour road trip. Since manufacturers “march to their own drummer” when measuring legroom, take your family to the dealer and jam them all in the car before making a purchase.

Drivetrain

While others are downsizing from V6s to turbo fours in search of improved MPG numbers, Nissan stuck to their I4/V6 lineup. The base Altima is four-cylinder only while the S, SV and SL models are available with either engine. In addition to the extra cylinders, V6 shoppers get wider tires and  shift paddles.

The 2.5L four cylinder mill is good for 182HP at 6,000RPM and 180lb-ft of twist at 4,000RPM while the 3.5L V6 (VQ35DE) turns up the dial to 270HP at 6,000RPM and 258lb0-ft at 4,400RPM. Both engines send the power to the front wheels via a revised Nissan Xtronic CVT with tweaks to reduce friction, improve acceleration, and reduce the “rubber-band” feeling that journalists whine about.

Our tester was a V6 SL which does battle with the Camry and Accord V6 and the 2.0L direct-injection turbos from Ford, Hyundai and Kia. Although V6 sales have dwindled to around 10% of Altima sales, 10% of the second best-selling sedan is a big number. Compared to the competition’s 2.0L turbos, Nissan’s V6 has a torque disadvantage. To combat this, the Altima was put on a diet now tipping the scales at a svelte 3,178/3,335lbs (I4/V6).

Infotainment, Gadgets & Pricing

To improve inventory turnover, Nissan followed VW’s lead and cut back on options. The 2.5L engine starts with the rental-car-chic base model for $21,760 (sans destination). Want options? Sorry, other than color choices there are no options on base and S models. Stepping up to the $22,860 S gets you auto headlamps, keyless entry/go, 6-way power driver’s seat, pollen filter, cruise control and two more speakers (six total). The $24,460 SV is the first model to get some USB/iDevice love, 5″ LCD radio, leather tiller, satellite radio, Pandora integration, backup camera and the ability to check options boxes. The $27,660 SL model adds leather, fog-lights, 8-way driver’s seat, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, and nine Bose speakers. Thankfully 2013 brings standard Bluetooth phone integration with Bluetooth audio streaming and an AUX input jack to even the rental-car destined base model.

The 3.5 S is $2,900 more than the 2.5S and in addition to the V6 adds the shift paddles and wider tires. Adding the 3.5 to the SV will set you back $3,800 due to the bundling of a moonroof and a few other items that are optional in the 2.5. The 3.4 premium on the SL model is $2,900 and in addition to the wider rubber Nissan tosses in Xenon headlamps. If HIDs are your thing, this is the only way to get them.

For $595 on the SV you can add Nissan’s new 7-inch touchscreen nav system dubbed “Nissan Connect.” The system looks like an improved version of their former “Low Cost Navigation” system in the Versa. In addition to a larger display, Nissan polished the UI, added Pandora, Google-send-to-car, faster processing, voice commands and XM NavTraffic/NavWeather. The system won’t voice command your iDevice or climate control like SYNC, but that’s a small price to pay for a responsive system that doesn’t crash, is easy to use and incredibly well priced. While I still have a love for MyFord Touch that dare not speak its name, Nissan Connect is now one of my favorite infotainment systems. Note to Nissan: put this in the S model as well. SL shoppers beware, Nissan Connect will cost you $1090 because it is bundled with blind spot warning, lane departure warning and moving object detection.

There is one more reason to get Nissan Connect: the plastic surrounding the base and 5″ display audio systems scratches easily. Our nav-free tester looked like someone had run a Brillo Pad across the front and just running my finger across the plastic (not my fingernail) caused fine scratches. This is a pity, but not a problem exclusive to the Altima, the new Accord and Camry suffer from this as well.

Drive

The crash diet and CVT pay dividends at the pump.  The Altima 2.5 manages 27/38/31 MPG (City/Highway/Combined) and does so without direct injection, start/stop, batteries or aero packages. What about that V6? Nissan’s focus on weight has made the Altima 3.5 lighter than the Accord V6 and Fusion 2.0 Ecoboost by over 200lbs. In our 3.5 SL I averaged an impressive 27.6MPG over a week of mixed driving. This is notably above the 25MPG combined EPA score despite my commute and the 2,200ft mountain pass I cross twice a day. You can thank the light curb weight and CVT for that. The Accord V6 matches the Altima’s combined EPA number and the Fusion trumps it by one MPG on paper. In the real world, the Altima beat both by 4MPG. My average was so surprising I dropped by a dealer to try another one. The result was the same. I took to the pumps to “pump-drive-pump-calculate-pump-drive-pump-calculate.” The results came within 1MPG of the car computer.

Nissan’s new CVT has dulled the “rubber band” feeling earlier CVTs inflicted upon drivers. This version also “downshifts” faster, although it still takes longer to get from the highest ratio to a “passing” ratio than a conventional 6-speed automatic when accelerating from 50-70 MPH. Aside from economy, the other benefit of a CVT is that it can keep the engine at an optimum RPM for maximum acceleration and drama-free hill climbing. Despite being down on torque compared to the turbo competition and having a less advantageous torque curve, CVT helped the Altima to scoot to 60MPH in an impressive 5.5 seconds (traction control disabled).

As much as I like CVTs, they are not the dynamic choice for “gear holding”. Sure Nissan has those sexy paddles on the Altima, and they have programmed the CVT to imitate a 7-speed automatic. Unfortunately the transmission’s “shifts” are slow and mushy, feeling  more like a worn out Hydramatic than a modern 7-speed. When you’re on your favorite back-country road, take my advice: caress those sexy paddles, but whatever you do, don’t pull them.

When the road curves, a light chassis will only get you so far, thankfully Nissan tuned the Altima’s suspension to be compliant but surprisingly agile. Adding to the fun-factor, all V6 models are shod with 235/45R18 rubber, notably wider than the V6 Camry’s standard 215 or optional 225 tires. The suspension, curb weight and tires combine to give the Altima a slightly higher road holding score than the Fusion 2.0 Ecoboost we got our hands on, but numbers aren’t everything. The Fusion’s steering may be numb, but it manages more feeling than the Altima and even I have to admit the CVT sucks the fun out of aggressive driving. If that matters to you, drive past the Nissan dealer and pick up a Fusion 2.0T with or without AWD.

Brand reputation is one of the largest factors when it comes time for a shopper to drop 25-30 grand on their family sedan. It’s the reason the old Altima sold as well as it did, and as far as I can see, it’s the only reason the Camry sells in record numbers. Rather than selling on reputation alone however, Nissan has proved they can build a sedan worthy of its lofty sales goals.

Some may call this a cop-out, but in my book the Accord, Fusion and Altima tie for first place in my mind. Here’s why: each of this trio plays to a different audience. The Fusion is gorgeous, more dynamic than the Altima but has stumbled with the 1.6L Ecoboost quality issues. The Accord is a traditional choice with a solid reputation and greater visibility thanks to an enormous greenhouse. Meanwhile the new Altima is a stylish elegant sedan with a powerful and seriously efficient V6. If I were dropping my own money on a sedan in this category I would have a hard time choosing between the Altima 3.5 SL and a Fusion 2.0 Ecoboost.

 Nissan provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested

0-30: 2.6 Seconds ( 3.2 with traction control)

0-60: 5.5 Seconds ( 6.2 with traction control)

1/4 Mile: 13.9 Seconds @ 104 MPH

Average Fuel Economy: 27.6 MPG over 670 Miles

 

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53 Comments on “Review: 2013 Nissan Altima SL 3.5 (Video)...”


  • avatar
    ant

    I’m a Honda person myself, but I’d haveta say that I’d be a little bit leery of 1st gen DI, and CVT on the new accord.

    I think it’s quite impressive that Nissan gets such good fuel mileage without DI, and they’ve been at the CVT game for quite some time now.

    Also too, I think that some of the best stuff on ttac is actual car reviews like this.

    Happy newyear everyone.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    The Altima and Fusion strike me as rental cars. I’d like to know their retail sales.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Impressive. Of course I always thought one of the best things about buying a V6 Altima is that it was hard to tell it from a 4cyl model on the outside. Go fast without attracting much attention.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Here’s my condensed, but all-encompassing review of everything & anything Nissan, whether car or truck, for the past decade (save for the GT-R):

    Yawn.

    • 0 avatar
      carguy

      It may not be to your (or my) liking but Nissan has managed to take the Altima from also-ran irrelevance 10 years ago to be on of the big mid-size players in the north American market. So they must be doing something right.

  • avatar

    2008 Altima coupe reviewed by you was 24K and 5.8 sec. 0-60.
    That car was heralded as the best bang per buck by you. Which car is quicker than this one for 26K? thanks

  • avatar
    Spartan

    The Altima is safe bet in the midsize market. I’m glad Nissan is sticking with the V6 and wish Ford would have done the same, but they have the MKZ to worry about.

    Overall, I like the new Altima and would choose it first if I were in the market for a midsize sedan, and this is coming from a Ford guy. I like the Fusion, but I would rather have a smooth V6 over a turbo 4. I just hate the way 4 cylinder engines sound and feel.

    • 0 avatar
      SaulTigh

      I’m a Ford guy myself. I really like the looks of this new Altima, and also think the interior is the most attractive in the segment. I’m also impressed by the light curb weight, and the good MPG from the powerful V6. My biggest impediment to buying one? EVERYONE in my freaking apartment complex owns one. I get tired of there being an Altima lurking about every time I pull out of my garage. Two people on my side of the complex each have an Altima and a 370Z, all in the same colors. It’s like they’ve become pod people.

      Then, every Indian family (of which there are many) in my complex have either a Camry or a Honda mini van, or both. My wife and I are the weirdos for having 3 FoMoCo products.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Not sure I understand Alex’s disdain for the previous Altima interior. I never sat in the Pacific Northwest Gray Sky interior, but in black and beige, the materials felt above average to me. If I remember, reviews of that car oscillated between these two viewpoints.

    Bummer about the numb steering on the new Altima; it was a clear advantage on the old one and could almost make you forget about the CVT.

    • 0 avatar
      segfault

      My 2009 Altima has the beige interior and I don’t have any complaints about the quality. The upper dash and upper door panels are all soft-touch, but anything lower than that is hard plastic. It’s light years ahead of a comparable GM product. I do wish mine had a leather wrapped steering wheel, as the rubber one doesn’t feel as good as leather.

      I’ve driven both the 2013 Altima V6 and the 2013 Accord V6, and I found the Altima’s steering to have much more feel than the Accord’s, which is completely numb due to its direct electric power assist. The Altima has a conventional hydraulic system to preserve its feel, but does have an electric pump to circulate the fluid.

      • 0 avatar
        ponchoman49

        Maybe a 90′s era GM product but saying it’s light years better than say a Malibu or Buick is really a stretch. My 2008 Impala’s interior has held up better than any similar year/mileage Altima or Camry in the family fold. My mother’s friend’s 2008 Camry with mouse fur on the door panels is already wearing thin, a few buttons are worn, the center console feels wobbly and the center storage console door doesn’t like to stay shut and my buddies 07 Altima with but 60K miles suffers from wind leaks and interior rattles and has already had a driver’s side window regulator crap out.

  • avatar
    Joss

    The 2013 Sentra offers price drops – the Altima?

    Note: Beige interiors & pants are out for us middle-aged hemarrhoid sufferers.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    Holy cow! Another mid-size family sled that’s as quick to 60mph as my 2000 Lexus GS400. Amazing what 12 years of technology have done. I’ll just be over here clinging to my V8 sound and 150mph top speed.

    • 0 avatar
      chris724

      I thought the same thing when I read the 13.9 Seconds @ 104 MPH. As a former Fox Mustang owner, in stock form I would be put to shame by this Nissan. I wonder how many tenths are attributable to the CVT? The 3,335 lbs weight is nice too. Not much more than my old 5.0 LX.

      • 0 avatar
        JMII

        I’m in the same slow boat… my ’03 350Z hits 60 in 5.3 and yet somehow this CVT sedan is only .2 slower?!? How much better would the mileage be if they detuned it slightly and lost a second in the process? My wife’s ’08 Volvo C30 hits 60 in around 6.4 and its plenty quick for grocery getting, getting to 60 in about what my old (’96) Eclipse GS-T took. Back then anything that got to 60 in under 7 was downright FAST!

      • 0 avatar
        PrincipalDan

        Heck Guys, my first car was a Iron Duke equipted Chevy Celebrity, this car can do 0-60 in half the time of that old beater. We truely live in a golden automotive age.

      • 0 avatar
        Stetsons07GT

        Hate to be late to the slow party. My 07 Mustang GT is in the same performance league, 0 to 60 in 5.1. Close. Too close. Lol.

        @JMII – I too had an eclipse gst (1999), loved that car.

  • avatar
    nicko

    Nice review. This seems like a solid value play that’s priced right, which is probably why it’s such a huge seller compared to the more expensive alternatives, besides, Nissan has the maxima to compete with the upper trim levels of the fusion. Can’t wait to hear more about the mazda 6! Supposedly the sales embargo for the 2014 models lifts on the 1st, let’s hope Alex can get one shortly after!

  • avatar
    carguy

    The Altima has a lot going for it: great fuel economy, usable technology (such as the audio feedback tire pressure monitor) and a reasonable price. I got a chance to drive a white S spec recently and despite positive overall impressions, I did find some drawbacks.

    1. The car look awkward in person. The front headlights and trunk lid visually don’t integrate with the rest of the car. It doesn’t look elegant to me but that is a matter of taste.

    2. The seats are not designed for skinny folks like me. The cushions are wide and have very little in the way lateral support. More like a sofa than car seat. Camry SE seats are way better.

    3. It handled well enough for this class but did become unsettled over uneven surfaces.

    If you can live with those issues its a great mid-sizer.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      I agree that the Altima styling is a little awkward in person. Also true of most of the cars in it’s market segment. I thought the silver painted plastic pretending to be aluminum could have been hidden better. In contrast, the Kia Optima exterior is more attractive in person, but that nice shape results in huge blind spots and less rear seat headroom.

      I test drove a 4 cylinder Altima and was fairly impressed at the “real car” size and utility combined with “penalty box” fuel efficiency on the highway. I felt more comfortable driving the 2013 Honda Accord, but thought the 2013 Altima was competitive.

  • avatar

    I would skip Altima on looks alone. I simply do not like how Nissans look these day regardless of technology or chassis. I am also suspicious when they keep weight low – it may indicate compromise on rigidity of chassis and therefore cheap “tinny” feeling Japanese cars are famous for.

    It is also interesting to note that now Detroit and Koreans lead in technology while Japanese companies are falling behind. So basically if you want stylish and advanced cars you have no other option than to avoid Japanese brands. Probably it has something to do with Japanese culture and Japanese government not being able to prop up yen anymore to provide artificial advantage to Japanese companies. I know many of you live and die by Japanese brands but things are not looking good in long term if Japanese companies continue to devalue their cars. Apple, Samsung and Hyundai eating their lunch and Chinese and Taiwanese are next in the line. Take mobile phones – currently hottest area in technology. Samsung and to some extend HTC from Taiwan along with Motorola and Apple are leaders while Japanese companies (like Sony, Toshiba, Sharp and etc) are totally irrelevant and absent from market even though they still make mobile phones (and I actually wrote SW for them).

    It is also interesting that only Japanese brands offer V6s in their midsize cars (it is so American!). All others offer advanced I4 turbo engines. IMO V6 does not belong to FWD car – it makes cars nose heavy and difficult to handle – I witnessed it first hand when driving Maxima for a week as a rental car (I actually had less issue with CVT). How things changed – couple of decades ago Detroit offered nothing but ancient V6 in their midsize cars and Japanese offered advanced DOHC I4 engines. Not anymore.

  • avatar

    I do not care who designed and who builds Altima – even if it was designed by and built by Germans it still looks ugly to my taste. But it is matter of taste of course. BTW designed by Americans and built by UAW does not inspire much confidence if that is what do you mean.

  • avatar
    jjf

    “It is also interesting to note that now Detroit and Koreans lead in technology while Japanese companies are falling behind.”

    The CVT on this car seems pretty class leading, and so does the infotainment system. I don’t think such a blanket statement is accurate.

    This mundane sedan blows the doors off most high end cars from even 10 years ago performance/feature-wise. A 5.5 second 0-60 car that manages upper 30s highway MPG is darn impressive.

    • 0 avatar

      CVT is not exactly a new technology. According to Wikipedia it was invented by Leonardo da Vinci few centuries ago. IIRC Audi advanced the technology and made it current. Nissan also was championing idea for some time. But take into account that there is reason why technologically advanced companies like Audi do not widely use CVT. I always wandered why Toyota and Honda are held in such a high regard in America (but not in other countries) but Nissan is not even though it is one of Japan big three and is just another product of Japan Inc. Then I learned from friends (who had Nissans) that Nissans typically have serious problems after 100K so they apparently do not care much about long term reliability. Well Nissan was on brink of bankruptcy just like Detroit big three. So probably Nissan is more willing to experiment with CVT than Toyota and Honda. Detroit and Koreans are not as lucky as Toyota and Honda in US market so they are forced to innovate to survive. They also try to sell cars in Europe while Honda and Toyota gave up.

      • 0 avatar
        ZekeToronto

        Wasn’t the Dutch firm DAF (purchased by Volvo in the 1970s) the first to introduce a CVT on a volume car–i.e. the DAF 66 (aka the “rubberband car”) later replaced by the Volvo 300 series? And I believe Subaru was the first to sell CVTs in North America (in the Justy).

      • 0 avatar

        Yeah that is true, it was DAF, I forgot about it. But Audi advanced technology and made it competitive with ordinary AT if IIRC. Nissan probably licensed it from Audi but I may be wrong.

      • 0 avatar
        Alex L. Dykes

        Well, keep in mind that Audi doesn’t design or build their own transmissions by themselves. Their CVT was a joint venture with LuK which builds the transmission and the automatics are typically ZF units. Much of the CVT research right now seems to be coming from JATCO (a Nissan company) with a little from Aisin (Toyota) and the new Honda unit. JATCO sells CVTs to whoever will buy them while many of the others do not.

      • 0 avatar
        Acubra

        (BOF Mode On)
        Man, before you embark on such generalizations and blanket statements, you have to either seriously consider improving your knowledge and understanding of all things automotive and mechanical engineering, or just stick with the electronic trend-of-the-day gadgets.
        Also, W-Pedia is not an absolute source of correct and comprehensive info. Actually, often it is the contrary of that.

  • avatar
    mikenem

    As a part time valet attendant, I drove a the new 4cyl last week. First thing that struck me was how nimble and ‘light on its feet’ it felt compared to the regular mid- sizers we usually see.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    If I had to rank midsize car designs, it would go something like this:

    1. Fusion
    2. Passat (sue me but I love the stubborn conservatism)
    3. Mazda6 (the new 2013 6, though I hate the hood seam)
    4. Optima (looks okay, but lots of awkward details)
    5. Sonata
    6. Altima
    7. Accord
    8. Malibu
    9. Camry
    10. 200

    So the Altima is midpack. I’d probably put it in the middle interior-wise, too. Nothing out-of-this-world gorgeous about it, but nothing inoffensive either. It has a kind of quiet dignity to it, with small hints of spice. Not a bad place to be.

    I prefer the look of the new Sentra. Not only is it a massive improvement on the previous generation (though that’s not saying much) but it’s one of the few sedans on the road that looks like it was designed from the outside-in (and it looks massive inside) but doesn’t look absolutely horrible as a result. I don’t mind the somewhat top-heavy, cab-forward proportions with lots of glass.

    Too many automakers sacrifice interior room for styling, which just isn’t a good idea in these family segments where room is a very important factor (see Malibu’s struggles, and it isn’t even that pretty).

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Personally I always mistake the Passat for something else when I see it on the highway. Yes the Malibu is quickly turning into the “also ran” in this segement, becoming one of the smallest cars in the segement just to make room for the Impala’s redesign. The Sonata’s design is less polarizing in person than in photographs.

      This is an interesting segement because for some of the brands listed the “midsize” car is the largest one they sell, for others it is a stepping stone to something else. I’ve always wondered about how that affected the design.

      Passat-biggest VW
      Sonata-Hyundai sells the Azera and Genisis
      Camry-Avalon is the top dog
      200-300 is above it
      Optima-biggest sedan sold by Kia
      Accord-biggest Honda sedan
      Mazda 6-biggest Mazda sedan
      Fusion-Taurus is the top dog

      I wonder how much manufacturers hold back on the midsize to give the fullsize reason to exist.

  • avatar
    gottacook

    Some unanswered questions:
    Is no version with manual transmission available?
    Will there be a coupe? If so, will it offer a manual?
    Is this strictly a North America car, or is it to be offered elsewhere?

    • 0 avatar
      Alex L. Dykes

      No manual transmission is available in the sedan. There is a coupe for 2013 but no manual is on offer and the only engine at the moment is the 2.5L four cylinder. The Altima is currently sold in North America, the Middle East and Australia (Q2 of 2013).

  • avatar
    340-4

    I bought one of these the day it hit the lot.

    It is indeed fast. Almost scary fast once it gets wound up. This was unexpected.

    It does also indeed get amazing mpg. Upper 30′s on the highway? Not a problem if you stay out of it and set the cruise.

    What could be better?

    The handling. It’s not like even a base Maxima. Why is this? Also, more rather boring color choices inside and out. And no manual transmission or optional AWD. But, as Homer says, what are ya gonna do?

    Honestly, it does so many things so well it’s hard to pick at it other than casting an eye at the styling. Well, okay, so struts on the trunk lid would have been nice.

    Well done, Nissan. Let’s see how well the CVT holds up.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      Long term reliability of the CVT is the $64 question here. Let’s hope they don’t pull a Honda V6 auto fiasco. But, Nissan has been selling CVTs for some time now, and I haven’t seen complaints. I’d be intersted in seeing how many Altimas with CVTs have turned 200K without a tranny repair.

  • avatar
    thornmark

    Despite being faster than the Altima, Wards does better w/ Accord than Altima’s real world here w/ over 29 mpg for several testers:

    “The SOHC 60-degree V-6, a Ward’s 10 Best Engines winner in 2005, 2008 and 2009, bows with several significant updates in the Accord and makes a convincing argument that conventional port-injection engines can be powerful and fuel-stingy, while being less expensive to build.

    WardsAutoeditors say this engine “positively storms” and “pulls like a freight train at hard throttle,” while feeling much stronger than the 278 hp and 252 lb.-ft. (342 Nm) of torque on the spec sheet.

    On the efficiency front, Honda’s VCM cylinder-deactivation system is improved, shutting down three cylinders at a time during light loads. In the past, the system deactivated two or three cylinders at a time. In our real-world evaluations, the Accord V-6 topped 29 mpg (8.1 L/100 km) for several editors, unheard of for most any 6-cyl. engine.”
    http://wardsauto.com/vehicles-amp-technology/2013-ward-s-10-best-engines-showcase-efficiency-gains

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    Blobular midsize sedan with plastic and fake chrome accents is like other blobular midsize sedans.

    Have we become so used to these garishly ugly modern cars that we’re blind to them–just like we were to the econoboxes and front drive whales of the 80s?

    Most people won’t get the fast V6 with leather, but the stale 4 banger with cloth interior and tiny rims, which looks even more ridiculous compared to your pimped out tester.

    I have lost interest in American car offerings. You can either pay a bit north of 30 grand for a cramped back seat and tiny trunk or get a ridiculous crossover.

    …can’t wait to see how the base model rental hell version of this new car stacks up next time I’m at the rental counter.

  • avatar

    Just spent a couple months helping someone buy a new midsizer. She wanted good fuel economy and some upscale features but without ending up in an overly ostentatious brand. The Altima was her top pick, 2.5 SL, after coming from an Accord. Everything fit…the features, the colour range (much more limited in the Accord), the fuel economy, etc. and she DID NOT want another Accord (not because of her experience, which was very good, but just to change it up).

    And?

    She bought the Accord. 2013 2.4 auto.

    Why?
    - Rubbish sales. One minute insulting the Accord as inferior, then upon realizing that she drove one praising it, then not being aware of their major competitor’s specs (“Yeah we drove the 2013 Accord, but they don’t have the CVT in their 4″). The next dealership spent 40 minutes trying to talk her into a lease when she had clearly said she didn’t want one. Several times.
    - Nissan’s CVT. She LOVED the idea of the CVT. Smooth, efficient. But you know what? Honda’s CVT is better. Its more responsive, has no rubber banding and she just could not get over the ugly groan that came from the Altima whenever you asked for anything from it. The whole powertrain just wasn’t as refined.

    Its too bad, because she preferred the Altima’s looks, colours, interior, price-point and heated steering wheel.

    • 0 avatar
      Felix Hoenikker

      This is a great intro to my favorite car buying rant.
      I’ve never had a positive experience with the big three Japanese dealers. It seems like the get the bottom of the barrel sales people like you described.
      On the other hand, the sales people at the US big three I’ve dealt with were far superior and did not come off as fast talking morons asking “what can I do to get you to buy this car today?”. I propose that the average buyer of Toyonda and Nissan cars is so brain washed about the superiority of the Japanese brands ( Mitu not included) that they would put up with almost anythng the sales people throw at them.
      I believe that this was the result of a type of Dawinian natural selection since the US big three sales people had to be better since they were selling a perceived inferior product. In other words, the marginal salesman at a US big three dealer ship was fored out due to lack of sales. Ironically, she could then go over to the Toyonda dealership and survive and maybe excell since good sales skills were not required.

  • avatar
    mjal

    My Sears Craftsman tractor has a form of a CVT transmission, with the operator pushing/pulling a large lever to control the speed. Not exactly an advanced technology, and certainly not new. But, if it works, is efficient, and doesn’t break, what’s the problem?
    As for the looks of Altima, I agree with several of the other readers with it being awkward, especially from the rear. Too over-styled, unlike the last model.

  • avatar
    CelticPete

    Not breaking? Well you have a warranty. The lament on CVTs is the performance..

    They are widely regarded as the worst of the modern automatic transmissions. You have the ZF 8 (and soon 9 and 10 speed) traditonal automatics. Which sport a wide ratio – and very fast shifts – as well as the smooth feel of a torque converter..

    And you have the modern automated manuals – which have lighting fast shifts and beat everything on the track..

    And then you have CVT. While CVTs are continuously variable – they don’t change to any ratio quickly. Nissan tries to get around this with torque converters and planetary gears (Yup they are in there look it up). And thus they are like a cheapened convential automatic nowadays..

    But subjectively these trannies are slow to respond if you go from cruising to full throttle. Your car will ‘lag’ and it will take a beat to really decide to change ratios. And even when it does it takes a while to get ‘wound up.’

    Compared to older archaic 5 speed autos – they are compettive but compared to the new transmissions they suck outside of cost/efficency. Good and or aggressive drivers are endlessly frustrated with them – and their torque limitiations ruin any modding potential..

    THey thing about CVTS is that for the most part they are solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist anymore. Engines don’t need to sit at perfect RPM numbers anymore to accelerate quickly because DI and forced induction modern engines have torque curves as flat as canvas.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Slap a Lexus badge on there and you’ve got an ES (in exterior appearance anyway).

    But I’m glad we’ve finally crossed the nonsensical bridge where the Altima is BIGGER than the Maxima. Nissan, it’s time to drop it.


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