Nissan is the latest major maker to weigh in with an all-new entry into the crowded and increasingly competitive midsize sedan market.
The maker pulled the wraps off its latest-generation Altima during the 2013 New York Auto Show media preview. It’s one in a flood of new products coming from Japan’s second-largest automaker – which will introduce an all-new version of its only slightly smaller Sentra sedan, later this month, at the Beijing Motor Show.
The new Nissan Altima, declared CEO Carlos Ghosn, “appeals to the desire for a premium appearance without the premium price.”
The 2013 Altima – which goes on sale in the U.S. in June – is arguably the most aggressively styled new offering from the Japanese, something Nissan believes will give it an edge over the bland and frequently criticized design strategy Toyota took when it launched an all-new Camry sedan last year.
Nissan may have an even bigger sales pitch on the fuel economy front – something recent research suggests is now on the top of the shopping list for most U.S. consumers as gas prices top $4 a gallon. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder version of the new Altima is expected to deliver 19% better fuel economy than the model it replaces, according to CEO Ghosn, and will deliver best-in-segment highway mileage of 38 mpg.
Around town, mileage is rated at 27 mpg. The I-4 makes 182 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque and is mated to Nissan’s latest-generation Xtronic continuously variable transmission, or CVT. The improved gearbox is a major factor in boosting fuel efficiency, though Nissan also put a heavy emphasis on reducing weight, claiming the Altima is the lightest offering in its segment.
Nissan is also billing the V-6-powered Altima as the fastest off-the-line among midsize models. The 3.5-liter engine turns out 270 hp and 258 lb-ft and shares the same CVT transmission. It still hits 30 on the highway, and 22 mpg in the city.
A third, “mild” hybrid powertrain will follow for the 2014 model-year and should deliver even better fuel economy, especially in stop-and-go driving. Mild hybrids do not have the ability to run on electric power alone, unlike so-called “full” hybrids, such as the Toyota Prius or the Toyota Camry Hybrid.
Nissan has moved the 2013 Altima a bit up-market, at least in terms of what the experts like to call perceived quality, which translates into the use of much more refined materials and finishes. The overall look is simple but elegant, “a one-class-above feel,” suggested Ghosn.
The car also features a “zero-gravity seat” design that is intended to significantly reduce fatigue during longer drives.
In keeping with industry trends, the new Altima is loaded with high-tech hardware and software systems. On the safety front that includes a rearview camera, Blind Spot Detection, Lane Departure Warning and more.
There’s an available, large LCD screen topping the center stack that operates key vehicle and infotainment functions. Those include such niceties as Bluetooth hands-free calling and the new NissanConnect system, which offers the ability to interconnect with a smartphone for such apps as Pandora radio.
A smaller, 4-inch video screen is located, on all Altima models, between the speedometer and tachometer and is the heart of Nissan’s new Advanced Driver-Assist Display, which can show navi turn-by-turn instructions and other relevant information, minimizing driver distraction.
The 2013 Nissan Altima with the 2.5-liter engine will start at $22,500 when it rolls into U.S. showrooms.