This year’s North American International Auto Show in Detroit was a grand affair. Amidst all the lavish launch parties, photography, and press conferences, I couldn’t help but continuously look forward to something back home. On our way back from Detroit, I was given my 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL.
It’s no surprise that I am a huge fan of any 6 cylinder or 8 cylinder cars, but this time the added bonus is it is a Nissan. Upon arrival, my beautiful pearl white tester was staring me in the face, immaculately detailed and looking sharp as ever.
Once I got into my tester, I looked around like I always do, put it into drive and then started to go on my way. Right off the bat I noticed the transmission; more specifically the lack of the conventional automatic. I grew very accustomed to the 6-speed automatic from the Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland I drove recently. Though initially disappointed, I continued to soldier on.
Nissan is very well known for its VQ35DE V6. It is no stranger to the Altima, being offered as an option dating back to 2002. This motor has deemed itself legendary and bulletproof. It is currently being used in many other Nissan applications as well. I personally think it fits the Nissan Altima like a glove, but I would have loved to seen it mated to a 6 speed manual or even the brilliant 7-speed automatic with paddle shifters, currently found in Infiniti models. Now, this motor does hit very close to home for me, as my personal daily driver is a late-model Nissan Maxima with the same 3.5L, albeit with a 6-speed manual.
I am a bit disappointed at the fact that the wonderful VQ V6 putting out 270-horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque at 4,400 rpm is being robbed of its potential by the continuously-variable transmission. It would have been a hell of a lot nicer to feel the exhilarating power of the 3.5L like I can in my Maxima. I know that harping on CVTs has gotten old, especially given the fuel benefits, but I can’t help but observe that sticking with a conventional auto-box would give Nissan a clear advantage. If it weren’t for the CVT, this is arguably the best midsize sedan on the market. I would be a little less bitter if they had at least offered the bigger engine with a traditional three-pedal setup. Mind you, A zero to 60 time in just over 6 seconds with the CVT is very impressive to say the least, but with the engine yelling at a constant 6500rpm without any shifting whatsoever gets boring really quickly. Hopefully we will hear about an SE-R version with a manual soon.
The CVT isn’t all bad though; after my first stop to the gas station, I couldn’t help but notice that my wallet still had money in it! Naturally this was a pleasant surprise after driving gas guzzlers the last few weeks. Combined mileage (keeping in mind that I do tend to have a bit of a lead foot) was 9.4L/100km. Great.
My tester is a top-trim 3.5SL with an as-tested price of $35,800. This puts the midsize Nissan right in line with the likes of competitors such as the Honda Accord V6 Touring and the Toyota Camry XLE V6. The driver information center in the instrument cluster is packed with features, but I did find its angle abnormally irritating. It works brilliantly, no doubt, but it’s just at an angle that can make one’s head spin. Bluetooth connectivity through NissanConnect is wonderful, and the sound system sounds great. I had my iPhone paired to the car via Bluetooth, and I did find a bit of an issue with it. If I’m on a call, the volume of the stereo is thrown off when the call ends and the music returns. Honorary mention does go to the “Zero-Gravity” bucket seats inspired by NASA, specifically designed to reduce driver fatigue. They’re incredibly comfortable, and probably do reduce fatigue, but in reality, I’d expect something more innovative when I hear NASA is behind it in some way or the other.
The 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5SL is a very close competitor to Honda Accord V6 Touring I recently had the pleasure of spending some quality time with . I did enjoy both of these cars, but if I had to choose, I’m almost sad to say that I would have to take the Honda. That is a pretty big deal for me, being a diehard Nissan fan and all. Though the Altima is a great car (are there really any bad choices in this segment?), it is the CVT that brings me to this decision. The car undoubtedly has the power, and unlike the Accord Touring, it does have a manual mode with simulated gears, I just can’t bring myself to become friends with this transmission. It just isn’t for me.
Conclusively, this latest generation of Altima is truly a great car, aimed towards a younger audience who like a nice combination between luxury and flair, or towards young families not quite ready to “upgrade” to the minivan or crossover market yet. Realistically though, there’s no doubt that in the midsize class, I don’t really think it’s possible to find a better combination between comfort and fun.
2013 Nissan Altima 3.5SL Gallery