Test Drive: 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL

2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL
The best family sedan, hands down.

2013 Nissan Altima Sedan

I didn?t set out this week to write a best family sedan article. Frankly, I don?t care much for sedans, and there?s good reason why. In this modern and diversified automotive world, I am not convinced families use sedan. That, however, is neither here nor there. This year, I?ve already written many articles about the best performance cars, or the best hybrids, or the best you-name-it. Best family sedan, however, was not on my radar. And yet here we are.

I?d heard good things about the 2013 Nissan Altima but I wasn?t convinced. The looks of the new Altima, while revised, weren?t striking enough to cause me to re-think my stance on the breed. Also, there are no flashy plug-in hybrid models in the pipeline to make me think that Nissan really wanted a paradigm shift for 2013. Instead, from the outside, 2013 Nissan Altima seemed like just another drab family sedan. Oh, how wrong I was.

2013 Nissan Altima Sedan - EngineMy tester was the higher-end 3.5 SL model. There are lower iterations on the totem pole; I just haven?t driven them. So my conclusions are based upon the $32,135 model, which is absolutely fantastic.

Let?s get some facts out of the way. The 2013 Altima 3.5 SL starts at $30,080 and has–not surprisingly–a 3.5-liter V6 engine producing 270 horsepower and 251 pound-feet of torque, which has been mated to a continuously variable transmission (CVT) that sends powers to the front wheels. The Altima with the 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder has been rated to achieve 27 MPG in the city and 38 highway. Unlike other competitors, the Altima is actually capable of achieving these numbers in the real world. The 3.5 V6 has been rated at 22 MPG in the city and 31 highway.

I realize many of you family sedan people will want to know about the interior space. And the Altima has some. In fact, it has 100.5 cubic feet of interior passenger space, which is a lot, let?s say.

Delightfully, the Nissan Altima is exceptionally safe, in addition to being roomy. The 2013 Altima was named a Top Safety Pick by the IIHS and received a five-star NCAP crash rating.2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL - Interior

Typically, I don?t talk about the seats in a car. It?s 2013 and few automakers are getting seats terribly wrong these day. To that end, few are far from noteworthy. The seats in the 2013 Nissan Altima are, however. Nissan dug into the seat designs penned by NASA and created perhaps the most comfortable seats I?ve ever experience in a mid-size family sedan–or any car, really. They call them ?Zero gravity? bucket seats. What is great about these Zero gravity seats is you can?t exactly put your finger on what makes them so comfortable. They?re not extremely plush, nor do they feature active side bolstering like some high-end Mercedes do. No, they?re just comfortable for hours on end. It?s those little attentions to detail that really make all the difference.

2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL - NavigationMy tester had been fitted with the technology package, which is essential for whichever model you buy, high or low. With a seven-inch navigation system, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, and moving object detection, the 2013 Altima takes a lot of the guesswork out of driving. For the uninitiated, which I realize many of you might be, blind spot detection is a system that watches your blind spot. When a vehicle enters the blind spot and ignites an orange LED in the corresponding side view mirror, alerting you to the vehicles presence. Should you put on your blinker, indicating a merge in that direction, the light will blink. It?s a simple yet highly effective system.

The interior of the 2013 Altima was great. It wasn?t exceedingly ornate nor was it chintzy. Never did I feel like Nissan cut corners to save money and weight. It?s not a flashy interior but rather well designed and robust.

Aside from the comfy seats and engaging technologies, I loved nearly everything about the Altima. The V6 is a rocket ship of a motor. Put the pedal to the floor and it?ll peel out and just about any speed. Unlike other mid-size front-wheel drive family sedans, however, the Altima doesn?t go all squirrely at full throttle. It can very much handle the power. The only issue with the Johnny on top of it motor is that fuel economy suffers. During my time with it, I averaged 21 MPG. That?s not great but with the EPA officially pegging the Ford Fusion Energi at 108 MPGe this month, it?s not that great either.2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL - Action shot

Braking in the Altima was also fantastic. It was quick and very sharp without being overbearing. The biggest issue I had with the Altima is that I felt the electric power steering was a bit too soft. The handling was absolutely fantastic, mind you, but the steering input was virtually nil. Also the steering wheel was too thin but that?s really a niggling complaint and barely worth mentioning.

When it comes down to it, the 2013 Nissan Altima is absolutely the top of the heap in the family sedan world. The V6 model is fast, and just like the four-cylinder version, it is safe, extremely comfortable, and pretty good looking. I recommend it to anyone who will listen?and insists on a sedan.