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The Daily Drivers: 2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL

Competition is steep in the midsize sedan segment, so it's no surprise that Nissan has completely overhauled the Altima for 2013. With stylish new rivals such as the Ford Fusion and Mazda6, the Altima had to modernize to keep up. Nissan claims it "changed everything but the name."

Appearance: Peter owned a third-generation Altima, and he thinks this new fifth-gen model is a big — if not a revolutionary — improvement over its bland predecessors. This Altima looks more muscular, especially in the front where the fenders bulge and the headlights have a sleek arrowhead design. Those lamps complement a wider grille that's upswept at the corners and gets broad chrome trim. That bold trim is also used to accent the trunk lid. The wheels get a sporty update, with the rubber mounted on 17-inch lightweight aluminum-alloy rims.

Performance: The Altima's standard engine is a 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that puts out 182 horsepower. A 3.5-liter V-6 is also available, but the 4-cylinder is up to the challenge of most daily driving needs and has good acceleration. Even better, the estimated mpg is 27 city and 38 on the highway (22/31 for the V-6). Nissan claims those numbers lead the class. Sadly, the only transmission is a CVT, which we're not fans of for its busy (and sometimes noisy) acceleration. This CVT contributes to the Altima's good mpg, but it still tends to be loud at high revs. New for the 2013 is the Active Understeer Control, which senses under- and oversteer and adjusts the ride by applying brakes to the inside wheels when you're turning. The result: nimble handling and a controlled ride, with a suspension that is a good balance of comfort and sportiness.

Interior: We noticed a definite upgrade in the cabin, especially with our tester's top-of-the-line SL trim. There are well-bolstered perforated leather seats — the front ones are heated, and the driver's side has eight-way adjustment with lumbar support. SL also brings lamp upgrades (Xenon headlights, LED taillights) and Bose audio system with nine speakers. We both agree that the controls are within easy reach and intuitive, but we disagree on the trim, a mix of faux aluminum, faux carbon fiber and glossy piano black. Peter thought it gave the interior an upscale feel; Lyra found it ugly and, in the case of the black surfaces, a fingerprint magnet. Our tester had the optional technology package that includes navigation system with 7-inch color display, blind-spot warning, lane-departure warning and moving-object detection. We both really liked the Advanced Drive-Assist display, a 5.5-inch LCD screen between the speedometer and tach. The display shows your navigation route, vehicle details, phone-call notifications and other information. The 60/40 split fold-down rear seat gives you some cargo flexibility.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture

Driver info: I like the Drive Assist display and its Altima icon.

Seats: Some of the best I've seen in this class, with sports-car-worthy support.

Ignition: Push-button start is standard.

Lyra Solochek

MPG: Good numbers for a midsize sedan.

Handling: Add a little pizzazz to your commute.

Progress: I still don't like the CVT, but it's getting a bit more refined.

The bottom line: If you can get past the CVT transmission, the new Altima has a bit of an attitude, making it a fun daily driver and a serious competitor in the crowded midsize class.

2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL

Price: $27,600 base start, $30,340 as tested

Powertrain: 2.5-liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder, Xtronic Continuously Variable Transmission, FWD

Horsepower: 182 at 6,000 rpm

Torque: 180 pound-feet at 4,000 rpm

Curb weight: 3,187 pounds


in inches:

Wheelbase, 109.3

Length, 191.5

Width, 72

Height, 57.9

Seats: 5

Fuel economy:

27 miles per gallon city, 38 mpg highway

Fuel type:

regular unleaded

Safety features: ABS, airbags and curtains, Active Understeer Control, Vehicle Dynamic Control, traction control, side-door guard beams, lane-departure warning, moving-object detection, blind-spot warning


The Daily Drivers: 2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL 07/23/13 [Last modified: Thursday, July 25, 2013 1:02pm]
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