By Colin Bird on April 4, 2012
For the 2013 model year, America's second-best-selling car gets updated in a significant way. Along with a new four-cylinder engine, automatic transmission, chassis, suspension and interior, the 2013 Altima also marks Nissan's first soiree into the world of fully integrated multimedia systems and advanced safety technology, such as blind spot monitoring. No word yet if there will be a new Nissan Altima coupe.
Starting with the most important change, the Altima gets a new lightweight, fuel-efficient powertrain and chassis that help it achieve best-in-class fuel economy numbers. The 2013 Altima is rated at 27/38/31 mpg city/highway/combined. Just a few years ago, that sort of rating would have been unthinkable for a midsize sedan — it beats all current four-cylinder, non-hybrid, midsize family sedans and is a good match against most compact cars, too. For more information about gas mileage, go here.
A new 182-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine features variable valve timing on the exhaust and intake camshafts, and a new intake system helps keep the torque curve flat. The new engine is about 11 pounds lighter than the model it replaces. The four-cylinder is mated to a new continuously variable automatic transmission that features reduced friction, an expanded gear ratio and new control logic software for reduced noise and fuel consumption, Nissan says. Other improvements to fuel efficiency include low-rolling-resistance tires and a new regenerative alternator that operates when the vehicle is coasting.
The 2013 Altima features a new chassis and body that is about 80 pounds lighter than the previous version because of an aluminum hood and bumper reinforcements and high-strength- and ultra-strength-steel. A new front tower strut brace and a rear structural support provide more rigidity. The suspension uses new shock absorbers that offer "stellar" body control and response, Nissan says. The new body is the same size as the old model, Nissan says, though the front and rear track have increased by 1.4 inches. Other chassis refinements include the Active Understeer Control system, which brakes the inside front wheels during cornering (when required) to counter understeer. Instead of opting for electric steering — like most midsize sedans — the Altima gets a hybrid electronic hydraulic power-steering setup that provides better feedback.
In terms of styling, the Altima has a lot more in common with the recently redesigned Nissan Maxima and Versa. The model features a raised clamshell hood, large horizontally exposed headlights and taillights that sweep back into larger and shapelier fenders on both ends of the vehicle. A steeply angled windshield and a longer, sloped rear end give the Altima a hatchback-like profile reminiscent of the Audi A7. Chrome trim and door handles come standard, and the Altima is available in eight exterior colors. Overall, the Altima features some upscale-looking details that make it look more sophisticated than the 2012 Toyota Camry or 2013 Subaru Legacy. It also looks contemporary enough so as not to turn off some potential shoppers, which we think the 2013 Ford Fusion might end up doing.
The cabin is all new and features a conventional-looking dashboard and center console with a new three-spoke steering wheel. Every Altima gets a new 4-inch color display in the instrument cluster that shows audio system, gas mileage, trip, tire pressure monitoring and navigation information. Nissan's first multimedia system, called NissanConnect, offers Bluetooth audio streaming, hands-free phone text messaging assistance, Pandora internet radio and Google Maps functionality from either a 5- or 7-inch center console display. A heated steering wheel is also new for the model year. For more info about trim and pricing, check out our pricing post here.
Safety enhancements include the addition of blind spot warning, lane departure warning and moving object detection systems — the features connect to a 180-degree side-to-side rearview camera that warns the driver of potential hazards.
The 2013 Altima sedan goes on sale with an affordable starting price of $21,500. You won't have to wait long to get one either; it goes on sale in July.
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