There was great risk in completely redesigning the second most popular midsize car in America, but Nissan’s 2013 Altima is improved in almost every way.
Inside and out, Altima looks and performs better than the popular 2012 model. It’s lighter, faster and gets better fuel economy.
Nissan claims its base 2.5-liter, four-cylinder model will get a best-in-class 27 mpg city and 38 mpg highway, and still out-accelerate all other midsize sedans. Altima’s 3.5-liter V-6 model gets 21 mpg city and 31 mpg highway.
The exterior has striking new lines that Nissan officials say project the shape of other soon-to-be reveals. The interior features more room, richer materials and greater technology.
The base Altima sells for $22,270. A fully loaded V-6 model costs up to $31,940. Dealers will see their first new Altima deliveries next week. Altima continues to use a constantly variable transmission to save weight over the more common manual or automatic transmission. The Altima’s four-cylinder engine also requires only a gas-saving 1,450 rpm to cruise at 60 miles per hour.
The common complaint about a CVT is that it doesn’t feel like or sound like it performs as well as a manual or automatic transmission. Many manufacturers have given up on CVT research, preferring to increase gas mileage with new transmissions that have up to eight speeds.
Nissan’s engineers, however, have stuck with the CVT, claiming internal improvements that have achieved a 40-percent reduction in friction.
They also figured out how to make the CVT mimic the performance and sound of a traditional automatic transmission. Seven artificial steps or “gears” can be controlled through up- and down-shifting with steering column-mounted paddles. The Altima not only has a screen to tell the pressure in all four tires, the car also helps refill a low tire.