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2013 Nissan Altima Performance Review

Note: This performance review was created when the 2013 Nissan Altima was new.


Performance: 8.2

The Nissan Altima has a reputation for being one of the more athletic cars in its class, mainly because of its engaging handling. Test drivers think it’s a good performer, especially with the optional V6 engine, but they note that the Altima competes in a class full of lackadaisical performers. They really like the Altima’s continuously variable transmission (CVT), saying it’s smooth and responsive. Overall, reviewers think that the 2013 Nissan Altima is a solid car for daily commutes and that it offers a level of fun that many of its rivals lack.

  • "Back-road prowess generally isn't a primary purchase consideration for mid-size sedans, but at least the Altima's chassis is capable of hustling when it has to." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "Dynamically, the Altima lies on the sporty end of the spectrum. But that's within a segment full of boring cars that do little more than announce to the world that you've given up." -- Car and Driver
  • "The new Altima is one of the sportiest cars in a sedate crowd." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "In short, don't expect to find a cut-rate M3 and you'll be satisfied." -- Left Lane News
  • "And after an extensive test-drive, we will tell you that this midsize, front-wheel-drive sedan is still as athletic as ever, with a little extra refinement thrown in for good measure." -- Inside Line

Acceleration and Power

The 2013 Nissan Altima has a new CVT on all models, and the choice of a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 182 horsepower or a 3.5-liter V6 that produces 270 horsepower. The EPA estimates the 2013 Altima with the four-cylinder engine should achieve 27/38 mpg city/highway, which is better than midsize cars like the 2012 Toyota Camry, which gets 25/35 mpg.

Test drivers say that both engines have sufficient power, and that the V6 is impressively fast. Some note that the four-cylinder engine is particularly loud, which they disliked. The CVT is well-liked for its immediate power delivery.

  • "Both engines pull capably, the 4-cylinder with perfectly adequate power and the V6 with plenty of gusto so travel is never dull." -- AutoGuide.com
  • "Expectations ran low when we drove the Altima on mountain roads. Taking a family sedan canyon carving is like wearing sweat pants to a bar: You're not anticipating any action. Surprise. The Altima keenly sliced in and out of corners. In sport mode, the CVT held the engine revs near the torque peak and kept the throttle response immediate." -- Car and Driver
  • "The 2.5-liter four-cylinder does almost everything you want a four-cylinder to do. It revs smoothly, and it provides good off-the-line acceleration with three adults aboard, though as you might expect, power for passing on two-lane roads is relatively modest. What it doesn't do well is sound good; an incessant drone makes its way inside the cabin when accelerating, making the engine seem less refined. It's all the more surprising because the outgoing 2012 Altima didn't exhibit anything like this when we reviewed it, and it's not a common issue among four-cylinder cars in this class." -- Cars.com
  • "Out on the road, especially in Sport mode, the CVT never hesitates to bring on big revs without hunting for gears like traditional automatics. And the dreaded CVT rubber-banding has been greatly reduced. In fact, in regular drive mode, it almost lugs the engine too much in the interest of fuel economy." -- Inside Line
  • "On downhill grades, we noticed the transmission automatically adjusting the revs to keep the car from gathering too much speed without throttle input. It was as though the Altima knew when we would have downshifted, and took care of it for us. Clever, we think." -- Winding Road

Handling and Braking

Handling was one of the 2012 Altima’s strongest attributes, and test drivers say the redesigned 2013 Altima offers that same athletic handling, as well as a composed ride, strong brakes and responsive steering. Many reviewers say the Altima has sportier handling than most affordable midsize cars, which makes for a more engaging experience behind the wheel.

  • "Nissan chose an electrohydraulic power-steering setup in place of some of its competitors' fully electric systems, a best-of-both-worlds solution that provides the feel of a conventional hydraulic setup with the economy benefits of an electric rack. The decision pays dividends the second you start moving -- the steering communicates with the driver, loads up naturally, and suffers from minimal torque steer." -- Automobile Magazine
  • "As lovers of driving, we're thrilled to report the Altima's sporting disposition remains intact. An engaging drive was a priority for the development team, so they felt it necessary to employ ZF Sachs shock absorbers, keep the hydraulic steering (though now electrically driven), widen the tracks, and completely rejigger the multilink rear suspension." -- Motor Trend
  • "We didn't hammer on them too much, but brakes (discs all 'round - 11.7-inch up front, 11.5-inch rear) also get the job done with progressive pedal feel and appropriate weighting." -- Autoblog
  • "The Altima is quite comfy; the suspension might be sporty but it's not overly stiff." -- Popular Mechanics
  • "Like its predecessor, the 2013 Altima has a sportier feel than the family sedan norm. It feels more composed when driven hard into corners than a Toyota Camry or Volkswagen Passat, and the chassis does an admirable job limiting understeer, which is often a problem with front-wheel-drive cars." -- Cars.com
  • "Ride comfort is good, but larger bumps send a shiver through the structure." -- Car and Driver

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