Preview: 2013 Nissan Altima reviews car previews nissan
2013 Nissan Altima. Click image to enlarge

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By Paul Williams; photos courtesy Nissan

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2013 Nissan Altima

New York City, NY – It’s been 20 years since the first Nissan Altima debuted, and what a difference two decades makes. The all-new 2013 version introduced at this year’s New York International Auto Show has little in common with the original, save the name and the fact that it’s a mid-size family sedan.

Starting at $23,698, Nissan Canada promises the new Altima will be feature-rich, emotionally rewarding, and will top the mid-size segment in style, fuel economy (improved by 19 percent), performance, and innovation. It has its work cut out for it, though, as this is a segment packed with formidable competitors from Toyota, Hyundai, Honda, Volkswagen, Kia, Mazda and Ford.

This is not lost on Nissan Canada. “In a segment as critical as this, with longtime nameplates and new challengers fighting for every sale, it’s not enough to just target the competition. You have to think outside — and far above — the segment,” said Judy Wheeler, Director of Marketing, Nissan Canada, Inc. “We created the new Altima to set a clearly recognized benchmark for many years to come.”

Preview: 2013 Nissan Altima reviews car previews nissan
Preview: 2013 Nissan Altima reviews car previews nissan
2013 Nissan Altima. Click image to enlarge

The new Altima rides on the same wheelbase as the outgoing model, but has a wider front and rear track (36 mm) that produce what Nissan Canada refers to as “premium proportions.” It features a longer roofline and higher trunk along with new front and rear lights and a new grille. Nissan Canada describes the design as fluid and aerodynamic: “aggressive and premium at the same time.”

The interior is all new and features NASA-inspired “zero-gravity” front seats that “help reduce muscular and spinal loads, and improve blood flow — thereby helping reduce fatigue over long periods behind the wheel.” While adding comfort, the technology is primarily designed to increase safety.

“Reducing driver fatigue is something that shouldn’t be limited to luxury vehicles,” commented Ms. Wheeler, “especially as Canadians are making longer commutes and looking for alternatives to flying for business trips or family vacations.”

Complementing the low-fatigue seats, Altima cabin noise is reduced, according to Nissan Canada. New engine and exhaust mount designs, increased body rigidity, and new noise absorption materials are used, which reduce cabin noise by 30 percent in comparison with the previous-generation Altima.

Preview: 2013 Nissan Altima reviews car previews nissan
Preview: 2013 Nissan Altima reviews car previews nissan
Preview: 2013 Nissan Altima reviews car previews nissan
2013 Nissan Altima. Click image to enlarge

Power continues to be generated by either a 2.5L inline four-cylinder dual-overhead-camshaft (DOHC) engine or a 3.5L DOHC V6. The four-cylinder now includes variable valve timing on both exhaust and intake camshafts and makes 182 hp (estimated), up by 7. The V6’s power remains at 270 hp.

A new development is that no manual transmission is offered for 2013 (its “take rate” was only five percent of sales, not enough to justify its availability), with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) doing duty as an “automatic.” However, this is Nissan’s “next generation” Xtronic CVT, in which 70 percent of the parts are redesigned and internal friction is reduced by 40 percent. The software that controls the transmission has also been redesigned to further enhance its operation and improve the driving experience. CVTs can significantly reduce fuel consumption in comparison with conventional automatic transmissions. Nissan has long experience with this technology.

The 2013 Nissan Altima’s handling should also be improved over the previous model due to its fully redesigned rear suspension and the addition of technologies like Active Understeer Control. The latter forms part of Nissan’s electronic stability control system, and is designed to assist with everyday driving, rather than emergency situations. Additionally, Nissan’s new Electronic Hydraulic Assist Steering preserves the feel of a hydraulic system but maintains the fuel efficiencies of an electric power assisted system.

Nissan introduces the new NissanConnect and NissanConnect with Navigation systems to the 2013 Altima, which offer streaming audio, hands-free phone and hands-free text messaging managed by voice control.

Nissan’s Advanced Drive Assist is composed of three new safety features typically found on luxury vehicles. Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning, and Moving Object Detection form part of the optional Technology Package.

The new Altima is somewhat sleeker than the outgoing model, but interestingly takes on more of the appearance and proportions of the flagship Maxima.

Nissan will continue to offer the Altima with four models equipped with the 2.5L four-cylinder engine: 2.5, 2.5 S, 2.5 SV, and 2.5 SL; and two models equipped with the 3.5L V6: 3.5 SV and 3.5 SL. Nissan Altimas are assembled in Canton, Mississippi, with engines produced in Dechard, Tennessee. The 2013 model will be available for sale in Summer, 2012.

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