2013 Nissan Altima Test Drive

2013-Nissan-Altima-frontBy Barbara & Bill Schaffer

We are car watchers and are continually looking at the vehicles around us on the highways, streets and in parking lots. We like to see what is popular in the area and what type of people are driving — women, men, young, old, etc. The results of this unofficial sampling vary from community to community, but it gives us a snapshot of what people drive in that area and quite often, how they drive.

We expect to see many Ford trucks, Toyota Camrys and Honda Accords because they are top sellers. However, the car that always surprises us is the number of Nissan Altimas we see. That observation is reinforced when we see current sales results like last month, March 2013, when the 2013 Nissan Altima outsold the Toyota Camry. The other interesting thing we see is that Altima drivers seem to be younger.

2013-Nissan-Altima-profileNow in its fifth generation in the U.S., the Altima, which has always been built in America, celebrates 20 years in the market. During that period, there have been nearly four million Altimas sold. It also beat out the Honda Accord and the Camry last year in the annual J.D. Power and Associates APEAL awards, which is an indication of how gratifying the car is to own and drive.

The 2013 Nissan?Altima breaks new ground in America?s most competitive automotive segment, by producing 38 mpg fuel economy making the significant jump over 35 mpg numbers touted by several competitors. The impressive number is the result of a combination of factors including lower weight, a more aerodynamic shape, and the redesigned 2.5-liter DOHC four-cylinder engine and CVT (continuously variable transmission).

At 182 horsepower, up seven from the previous model, this new engine/transmission team produces a 7.2-seconds 0 to 60 mph acceleration time, making it one of the best in its class. Although a CVT would not normally be our first choice of transmission, this latest generation Nissan CVT is positive and amazingly efficient. It?s the one of the best CVTs in the industry. Even for someone who misses the pauses of transmission shifting can get the feeling of shifting gears by pulling the shifter into the sport mode and feeling the seven simulated shift points.

2013-Nissan-Altima-rearWe recently spent a week running errands and going for drives in mountainous country where we live in southern Washington State, and found the 2013 Nissan Altima is a pleasing car to live with on a day-to-day basis. It?s comfortable, roomy, economical and quite stylish.

Our test car had Nissan’s award winning VQ V-6 engine. Upgraded for the 2013 model year, the super smooth 270-hp engine offers excellent acceleration (0 to 60 mph in 6.1 seconds) and strong passing power. The driver has even more control of the CVT providing seven preset ratios, which are controlled by using the highly desirable column-mounted shift paddles. Shifts with the paddles are swift and crisp, plus with the paddles are steering column mounted so the driver doesn?t have to chase them around the steering wheel to shift.

Nissan engineers have developed a new multi-link rear suspension emulating the drivability of cars like the BMW 3 series and Audi A4. The innovative new design, which uses high-end shock absorbers, allows better camber angle and toe angle control to produce handling more comparable to a rear-wheel drive sport sedan than front-wheel drive family sedan. The rear suspension also employs a new active understeer control system to help maintain better driver control. Driving through a variety of corners at speeds often twice the posted level produced confident feeling with no hint of the understeer often found with other FWD sedans.

The innovative steering system, which combines electric assist with hydraulic controls, gives excellent driver feedback and feel.

2013-Nissan-Altima-interiorAltima gets high marks for its new interior. The design is visually pleasing with the use of high quality materials and user-friendly instrument panel including the new Advanced Drive-Assist? display system on the center of the instrument cluster. All models also include a Bluetooth hands-free phone system and streaming audio. Models equipped with the optional NissanConnectSM and navigation includes hands-free text message integration, Pandora? audio and real-time Google point of interest search.

Standard on all models, the ADA?s color four-inch display screen uses 3D-effect graphics displaying information for the audio system, trip computer, optional navigation system and tire pressure monitoring system in screens that can be customized by the driver.

The 2013 Nissan Altima uses enhanced levels of sound deadening materials to produce one of the quietest cabins in the segment. Driver and the front seat passenger comfort is enriched by Nissan?s available new Zero Gravity designed seats. Based on a design developed by NASA to increase blood flow, muscular load and lower fatigue of the astronauts, the new attractive looking seats do the same for the front-seat occupants of the Altima.

2013-Nissan-Altima-dashThe Altima engineers have developed an interesting multi use rear view camera. In addition to showing the area behind the car when the transmission is in reverse, on the highway, this camera also recognizes when another vehicle is in the blind spot position on either side of the car, and warns the driver using a light in the side view mirrors. The same 180-degree view camera also recognizes movement when the driver is backing out of a parking place. It will warn the driver if another car, pedestrian or pet is about to move into the area behind the car.

Another warning system Nissan has expanded is the low tire warning system. It tells the driver which tire is low. When the driver starts to add air to the low tire, the emergency warning blinkers will indicate to the person filling the tire that the pressure is changing, and when it reaches the recommended level, it honks the horn. No tire pressure gauge is needed.

The Altima models include the engine defined 2.5, 2.5S, 2.5SV, 2.5SL, 3.5S, 3.5SV and 3.5SL. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder pricing starts at $22,540, including the destination charge, for the 2.5 and goes up to $28,440 for the SL. The V-6 powered Altima?s start at $26,540 for the S and peaks at $31,340 for the SL. Optional packages include a $1,350 convenience package for the 2.5SV and a $590 Navigation Package for both SV models. Both SL versions have an optional $1,090 Technology Package.

We think the new Nissan Altima is a winner — it?s smart, comfortable, quiet, roomy and distinctively styled. The fact that the four-cylinder engine gets up to 38 mpg during highway driving is a major plus, and it would be our choice. If Nissan handles their marketing correctly, and the car selling stars align just right, the Altima could be in the coveted number one spot by the end of 2013.2013-Nissan-Altima-frtQuart

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