The 2013 Nissan Altima, introduced at the New York auto show, is being pitched into a mid-size family-sedan market that has never had as many new, competitive models.
By the end of 2012, all of the traditional big sellers in the segment (Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Chevrolet Malibu, and Ford Fusion) will be either new-for-2013 or freshly launched in the last year or two. And that list doesn’t even include the vehicles that are newly relevant in the market, such as the Hyundai Sonata, Kia Optima, and Volkswagen Passat. And, for good measure, a new Mazda 6 will be on sale early next year.
Nissan, which is proud to point out that its 2012 Altima outsold everything but the Camry last year, will enter the market with an all-new car that sticks to the basic parameters of its proven formula.
The new car rides on the same 109.3-inch wheelbase and grows only about an inch in overall length. It’s 1.3 inches wider than the outgoing car. It rides on a strut front and multilink rear suspension (although Nissan notes that the rear setup has been redesigned to improve handling prowess). It is powered, as it has been for years, by either a 2.5-liter inline-four or a 3.5-liter V-6, but now will be offered—at least at launch—only with a CVT automatic. (We had previously believed a manual would be available with either engine; it’s possible this setup will come online later.)
But that 2.5-liter gets a 7-hp bump to an estimated 182, while dropping 11 pounds of mass. A substantially reworked CVT (70 percent of its parts are new for a 40-percent reduction in internal friction) helps deliver an estimated 15-percent improvement in fuel economy when mated to the four-cylinder. It helps improve fuel economy by 10 percent when mated with the carry-over 270-hp V-6. The end result, estimates Nissan, is class-leading fuel efficiency of 27 mpg city and 38 mpg highway. That’s higher than Chevrolet’s light-hybrid Malibu Eco. The V-6 models are estimated to return 22/30 mpg, city/highway.
Overall, the Altima sedan has dropped 79 pounds of curb weight, according to the company, which would make it one of the lightest in the class. The car certainly doesn’t look light, though. Its increased width and curvaceous, almost chunky, body makes it appear substantial. The new look mixes stylistic elements from throughout the Nissan family: a little Infiniti G37 in its surfacing, some Maxima in its headlights and undulating flank, and, from the Ellure concept sedan shown at the 2010 Los Angeles auto show comes a big, chrome-framed grille.
Thanks to: Car and Driver