2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL sedan
2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL sedan. Click image to enlarge

First Drive: 2013 Nissan Altima
First Drive: 2013 Honda Accord
First Drive: 2013 Ford Fusion

Manufacturer’s web site
Nissan Canada

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

Photo Gallery:
2013 Nissan Altima

Mr. Spock (you know, the pointy eared Vulcan from the Star Trek series) would love the new Nissan Altima. Everything about it is so eminently practical and logical. Equipped with the base 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and standard continuously variable transmission, it’s quiet, easy to drive, gets good fuel economy, has a comfortable ride, a roomy cabin with comfortable seats, and a big trunk—and it has a Five-Star crash safety rating from the NHTSA. The new Altima is such a sensible car that there’s really no logical reason why you shouldn’t like it—if you’re a Vulcan.

But as a human, I like my ride to excite me, at least a little bit—even if it’s a family sedan. The redesigned 2013 Altima 2.5 SL didn’t do that for me, despite having sleeker styling, adequate power, decent handling and many of the latest technological and safety features. To put it simply, the 2013 Altima 2.5 is designed for drivers and passengers who want comfort and practicality first and aren’t too concerned about its 0 to 100 km/h time, lateral g’s, and steering responsiveness.

2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL sedan
2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL sedan
2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL sedan
2013 Nissan Altima 2.5 SL sedan. Click image to enlarge

However, the four-cylinder Altima 2.5 is exciting in other ways. It excels when it comes to passenger comfort, starting with a comfortable ride provided by a compliant fully independent suspension (retuned multi-links at the rear for 2013), a roomy cabin with generous rear legroom, and exceptionally comfortable seats. The driver’s seat, in particular, provides excellent back and seat support and includes power adjustable lumbar, power seat cushion tilt, power seat height adjustment, and power fore-aft and recline functions. The front passenger seat is also very comfortable even without those power adjustments—which proves to me that the seats themselves are well designed. In the SL trim, both front seats have High/Low seat heaters and there’s a heated steering wheel. At the rear, the outboard seats (often less comfortable than the front seats) are also surprisingly comfortable, helped in part by the Altima’s abundant rear legroom and generous headroom.

For 2013, the revised four-cylinder engine and continuously variable transmission pair up to keep engine revs as low as possible to aid fuel economy and reduce noise. The standard 2.5L DOHC four-cylinder engine is lighter and more fuel-efficient than the 2012 engine, and gets a small bump in horsepower to 182 from 175 while torque remains the same at 180 lb-ft. It now includes variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust camshafts and a retuned intake system for a flatter torque curve. Combined with a revised continuously variable transmission with fewer moving parts, the four-cylinder Altima is rated at 7.4 L/100 km (city), 5.0 L/100 km (hwy). That’s a considerable improvement over the 2012 Altima 2.5 CVT with 8.7/6.0 city/hwy. By the way, last year’s standard six-speed manual transmission is no longer offered.

On the road, you can hardly hear the Altima’s four-cylinder engine while cruising or idling in traffic. Under acceleration, the engine emits a deep growling sound as the CVT maintains constant revs, but the engine doesn’t drone on too much unless you really put the pedal to the floor. The CVT’s tall final drive ratio provides quiet running at highway speeds: the engine revs at just 1,600 rpm at a steady 100 km/h. Perhaps due to the quiet engine and CVT, tire and wind noise seems more pronounced, but it’s hard to tell whether that’s just because the engine is quiet.

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