2013 Nissan Altima Sedan 3.5 SL (3.5L V6 CVT Automatic)
Driven On 5/1/2012
This rating has been carried forward from a prior year because the newer model has no substantial differences.
Nissan made a big step forward with the 2013 Altima. This sedan retains its fun-to-drive nature with sharp handling, yet its interior is now as good or better than the Camry and Accord. Ride quality is best-in-class and the V6/CVT combo is a world standard.
PerformanceThe new Altima is the four-door sports car in this segment. Responsive and reasonably quick steering, well-damped suspension, minimal body roll and a thrillingly powerful V6. And the CVT is possibly the best example of such in the world.
This Altima is quick, with an instant surge of power right off the line. Go to full throttle and the CVT is in a hurry to peg the tachometer at 6,800 rpm for best acceleration.
The brake pedal gave a linear feel around town. At the test track it was firm with a short travel. Panic stops were well-controlled with little nosedive. Distances did increase.
The effort/amount of assist was spot-on and it gives very good feedback through the wheel. Responsive.
This is the four-door sports car of the mid-size class. The suspension is well-damped and there's decent grip from the tires. Kinda makes you want to attack a freeway onramp.
This is a very driveable car. In fact, in Drive transmission mode, the CVT barely does the high-rpm rubberbanding thing at all. You could almost mistake it for a regular auto.
ComfortThe new Altima is a definite step up over the model it replaces in nearly every way, but especially in terms of noise (or lack thereof), ride plushness and seat comfort.
They say the front seats were inspired by NASA research on posture to reduce spinal loads and improve blood flow. It works. These are some of the most comfortable seats. Ever.
The suspension absorbs big bumps pretty well, and doesn't even notice the small ones. Of course, the super-plush seats help here for sure.
Things are hushed, with minimal wind or tire noise. The CVT prefers to keep revs as low as possible (unless you're in Sport), meaning the engine is quiet, too.
InteriorThe Altima's interior isn't the most stylish presentation, but the fit and finish are excellent. The quality of the materials put the Altima at the top of the class. In fact, you'd swear you were driving the higher-priced Maxima.
Aside from the front bin, which requires an odd motion to open it, the Altima's interior is well thought out. The radio knobs did have a sticky action to them.
Easy to get in and out of the front seats, especially since they have small bolsters. Rear seat ingress/egress is hampered by the sloping roofline.
Rear-seat head room is limited both by the roofline and the stadium-like high seats. Excellent rear knee room but minimal rear foot room. Front space is more than adequate.
Outward vision is aided by narrow B-pillars, large rear window and rear/side triangle windows. Rear-view camera helps with parking, backing up.
The Altima has 8 cupholders. The trunk has a wide opening and a respectable 15.4 cubic-feet, but the rear wheels encroach on space toward the back.
ValueThe Altima, especially this uplevel SL model, isn't inexpensive. But at $32,620 as-tested with a V6, you're getting a lot of car for the money with features like Bluetooth, iPod inputs and several active safety items.
Build Quality (vs. $)
The build quality here is excellent, and the materials take the Altima up a notch. Admittedly, the SL is a top-level model, but this is a truly nice car for $32,620.
Bluetooth and a backup camera come standard on the SL, but blind spot warning, rear object detection and lane departure are optional. At just over $32k, it's an excellent value.
We won't tell you that $32,620 is cheap for a mid-size sedan. But considering all the features, plus the smooth V6 and CVT, you get at this price? This is a reasonably-priced car.
The EPA rates the Altima 3.5 SL at 22 city/31 highway/25 mpg combined. We averaged 21.6 mpg during 443 miles of varied driving.
Nissan gives the Altima a 3 year/36,000 mile basic warranty along with 5 years/60,000 miles on the drivetrain. That's identical coverage to the Camry and Accord.
Roadside assistance is covered for the first 3 years or 36,000 miles, which is better than the Camry. But the Camry also offers two years of free maintenance.
Fun To DriveOf course we prefer a manual transmission for a true fun-to-drive experience, but the Altima's overall goodness with its smooth and powerful V6, responsive handling yet comfortable ride make this a good car to drive anytime.
We don't love CVTs, but this is a good one and you can shift it with paddles if you want a more traditional experience. And the V6's great passing power makes things exciting.
The personality of this car comes from its handling. With its cushy ride, you just don't expect the ease with which it turns into a corner and holds a line. Makes driving fun.
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