12 MONTH CAR REVIEWS: 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL - Power Struggle

July 30, 2013
2013 Nissan Altima 3 5 SL Traffic
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Long-Term 2013 Nissan Altima Update - SUMMER 2013 (1 OF 1)
Miles to Date: 19,812
"I love commuting in this car. It's surprisingly fast with the V-6 and supremely smooth with the CVT."
After a sojourn in New York, our Four Seasons 2013 Nissan Altima returned to Michigan just in time for summer. Before the car left the East Coast, though, New York -- based senior editor Joe Lorio laid some groundwork for the next batch of comments in the Nissan's logbook.
"The V-6 is an intriguing option," Lorio said. "On the one hand, I can see why fewer than ten percent of Altima buyers choose it. It's expensive, adding about $2900 to the price of an SL. And you take a big hit in fuel economy, dropping 5 mpg in city ratings and 7 mpg on the EPA's highway cycle. However, gas mileage is still quite good; I regularly saw 32 mpg on the highway. The V-6 also adds 88 hp, which makes the Altima a muscular mid-sizer. The extra output also means that the CVT effectively becomes a nonissue; the whole powertrain is so much more pleasant than the four-cylinder Altima's."
Immediately upon the Nissan's Michigan homecoming, executive editor Todd Lassa took a different slant on the car's powertrain: "The V-6 option is nearly useless in a mid-size sedan that comes only with a CVT. The V-6 did, however, come in handy beating traffic on Woodward Avenue in a heavy-throttle Michigan-left launch. The front wheels wanted to steer across all three lanes, but here was the one time this bland mid-size sedan's powertrain option made sense to me. Otherwise, if I'm buying an Altima for innocuous, comfortable commutes, why wouldn't I go for the four-cylinder, with its significant bump in fuel efficiency?"
2013 Nissan Altima 3 5 SL Rear Right Side View
Senior web editor Phil Floraday's opinion is more in line with Lorio's: "The V-6 has way more power than anyone needs. Still, I love commuting in this car. It's surprisingly fast with the V-6, supremely smooth with the CVT, and has incredibly comfortable seats. I will happily trade driver involvement during my commute for a car that's so easy to live with each day. I still want a real driver's car on fun roads, but my daily slog is far from an ideal canyon road."
On one occasion in particular, Floraday was very pleased with the powertrain's ability to rocket past plodding traffic. "I had a hellish trip to Kalamazoo in the Altima," Floraday reported. "It was one of those typical scenes on I-94 where somebody was always poking along in the left lane at well under the speed limit. Trucks were scattered in the right lane. Rolling chicanes everywhere. Fortunately, our Altima is powered by a 270-hp V-6 and the CVT is happy to keep the engine in its powerband. I made at least three moves to the right where I passed a dozen or so sheep afraid to go around the oblivious person leading the parade. I never could have pulled off any of those passes with a car like our Four Seasons Dodge Dart, for instance. Even though the Altima has no sporty pretense, it's able to fight its way through traffic quite nicely when it has to."
During more relaxing drives, we noticed a couple of bothersome noises coming from the Altima, so we took it to the local Nissan dealership. One noise was a humming sound from the rear of the car; the other was a ticking sound from the ventilation system. Sure enough, the technicians found a bad right-rear hub bearing and debris in the cabin's air filter. They replaced the wheel bearing under warranty and removed the debris from the filter, and the sounds have disappeared. About 3000 miles earlier, that same cabin air filter had been replaced during the Altima's second scheduled service visit (the 15,000-mile checkup -- cost $141.25), so we're hoping it stays debris- and noise-free until our time with the 2013 Nissan Altima concludes in late September.
Body style 4-door sedan
Accommodation 5-passenger
Construction Steel unibody
Base price (with dest.) $30,860
As tested $32,135
Engine 24-valve DOHC V-6
Displacement 3.5 liters (213 cu in)
Power 270 hp @ 6000 rpm
Torque 251 lb-ft @ 4400 rpm
Transmission Continuously variable
Drive Four-wheel
EPA Fuel Economy 22/31/25 (city/hwy/combined)
Steering Electrically assisted
Lock-to-lock 2.75 turns
Turning circle 37.4 ft
Suspension, Front Strut-type, coil springs
Suspension, Rear Multilink, coil springs
Brakes F/R Vented discs/discs
Wheels 18-inch aluminum
Tires Dunlop SP Sport 7000
Tire size 235/45VR-18
Headroom F/R 39.1/37.1 in
Legroom F/R 45.0/36.1 in
Shoulder room F/R 56.4/56.4 in
Wheelbase 109.3 in
Track F/R 62.0/62.0 in
L x W x H 191.5 x 72.0 x 58.1 in
Passenger capacity 100.5 cu ft
Cargo capacity 15.4 cu ft
Weight 3355 lb
Weight dist. F/R 62/38 %
Fuel capacity 18.0 gal
Est. fuel range 450 miles
Fuel grade 87 octane
STANDARD EQUIPMENT Keyless entry and ignition Power sunroof Fog lights Hands-free text messaging assistant Bluetooth Rearview camera Paddle shifters Active understeer control Heated front seats and steering wheel Cruise control 9-speaker Bose audio system SiriusXM satellite radio w/3-month trial subscription USB port Auto-dimming rearview mirror Automatic dual-zone climate control Leather-appointed seats Automatic HID headlights LED taillights Heated exterior mirrors
Technology package $1,090 7-inch navigation display Blind spot monitoring system Lane departure warning Moving object detection
Carpeted floor mats and trunk mat $185

Long-Term 2013 Nissan Altima Reviews to Date:

2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL - Power Struggle
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Photo Gallery

  • The Altima is innocuously attractive.
  • The Altima is innocuously attractive.
  • The Altima is innocuously attractive.
  • Our Four Seasons Nissan Altima has no trouble pulling ahead of most traffic.
  • From time to time, the engine's 270 hp overwhelms the front tires, but the power is usually very manageable.
  • The Nissan Altima's 3.5-liter V-6 has more than enough power, but we like it that way.
  • The Altima's strong powertrain and comfortable interior help isolate it from the hectic outside world.

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