One of the most competitive segments in the U.S. automotive market is for mid-sized sedans. If it seems that everyone is aiming at being number one in this market, well, it’s because they are. Listing out all the competitors in this category can be mind-numbing, but there are the key players worth mentioning. The Honda Accord and Toyota Camry are always highly ranked with sales and residual value in this segment, and recently the Altima has done quite well. You also now have cars like the Hyundai Sonata and Kia Optima which are taking big stabs at becoming market leaders and the redesigns of the Chevrolet Malibu and Ford Fusion are keeping the home teams in the fight as well.
When you’re looking to redesign a car in this segment, needless to say, a lot of weight is on that teams shoulders to come up with something competitive. This car needs the looks that will appeal to the masses; it must be comfortable and roomy; it needs to have some of the latest and greatest safety technology, and it needs to be very affordable. This is a tough combination to tackle, and that’s why you don’t see manufacturers making drastic changes to this segment very often.
The Nissan Altima was in desperate need of a ground up redesign, and that’s just what it’s received for 2013. The question is, though, did Nissan take this opportunity to make the Altima a better family sedan, or as just an opportunity to throw some new looks and phrase words around?
Looking at what’s new, we’ll start with the body. Nissan knew that they needed a design that could stand out and be instantly recognizable as a Nissan product. They say they have designed it with attention to aerodynamic design which gives it a more premium look. Design, of course, is always subjective. Although the new design has a premium look by including hints of Infiniti design, to me, the car looks more bloated than muscular. It sort of looks like an Infiniti M that ate too much fast food with not enough gym time. That being said, I’ve heard many who love the new design and at least it inspires more appeal than the prior generation.
Inside the Altima was also redesigned, starting with higher quality materials. Nissan also includes, as standard, what they call zero-gravity seats. These seats are said to be designed with NASA technology to reduce fatigue experienced during long commutes or road trips. It’s said to give you neutral posture or a relaxed position that the human body takes in a weightless environment.
Interior shots of the 2013 Nissan Altima
This is probably mostly a marketing spin, but the seats were quite comfortable. Our tester was equipped with cloth seats, not leather, and the interior still felt a much higher quality than any Altima I’ve ever been inside. The gauges were nice and clear to read, and tucked in between was a 4-inch screen dubbed the Advanced Drive-Assist Display (ADAD). This would display all the driver information including tire pressure or fuel economy information.
Behind the wheel, helping with the sportiness, are some big paddle shifters. Moving over, the navigation and infotainment screen is equipped with NissanConnectSM. This allows the driver accees to music, navigation, text messaging and much more on either a 5-inch or 7-inch color display. The nav system has a 3D-map effect that looks cool and works quite well.
They have also redesigned the 2.5-liter engine to perform better and be more fuel efficient. They have taken their weight saving to the engine as well and have shed approximately 11 pounds while also adding seven horsepower pushing the figure to 182. Torque comes in at 180-lb-ft and the whole setup is connected to a CVT transmission. This setup should be good for a best-in-class fuel economy rating, at this time, of 38 mpg highway.
Our test car, though, wasn’t equipped with the inline 4-cylinder. We had to make due with Nissan’s 3.5-liter V6. This engine is good for 270-hp, which is great! In the past few months, we’ve driven a few inspiring and sporty sedans such as the Optima turbo and CC Sport Plus. These are great, but both are boosted in power by turbo charging a 4-cylinder engine. After driving the Altima packing the 3.5-V6, you start to appreciate that naturally aspirated power. I posed the question to our social media audience while I was driving and amazed at this car: Could the 2013 Altima with Nissan’s 3.5-V6 really be considered a sport sedan?
Exterior shots of the 2013 Nissan Altima
After a full week of driving the car, I’ve come to the conclusion that yes, it could. The suspension is and handling on this ride is tight and fun to drive, and the powerful 270hp-naturally aspirated horsepower is great. Grab a gear with the paddle shifters and slam your foot to the floor. Head toward the highway on ramp and you’ll instantly feel the pull of the engine as it comes alive. Gently turn the wheel to the left steering the sedan onto the highway and feel the new suspension and electric steering do it’s work as your inputs respond and make you feel connected to the road. Gently turn your wheel back to the right as you grab a higher gear and you’re moving! Good thing the brakes are good too.
There’s much more to the new Altima as it’s gone through a ground up project that I’ve covered here. I can say, though, for the first time, I’m genuinely excited about an Altima, and that’s saying a lot. Most customers though are not going to opt for the V6 or want the sportiness our review car had to offer, and the Altima is still a ways from being considered for top of the ranks in the mid-sized sedan market, but they’ve taken a huge step forward, and if you’re shopping for a mid-sized, sedan it’s a great option to consider.