Altima , Nissan’s midsize sedan, entered its fifth generation for 2013, having evolved quite a bit since it was originally introduced for the 1993 model year to replace the Stanza.Through the years Altima has been redesigned, enlarged, refined and improved for fuel economy, safety, and ride. The newest model, though, is much better than all of its predecessors, and seems more like a luxury car than an affordable family sedan.A coupe model was added in 2008, but it was not redesigned along with the sedan for 2013, and it’s going away for 2014.For 2014, Altima prices will range from $21,860 (plus $790 freight) for the base 2.5-liter four-cylinder model, to $30,660 for the top-of-the-line SL V-6 version. Also in the mix are the 2.5 S model, at $22,380; 2.5 SV, $24,180; 2.5 SL, $27,760; 3.5 S, $26,160; and 3.5 SV, $28,360. My 2013 Altima 2.5 SL (base price $28,050, plus $780 freight), came with the base 182 horsepower 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine and an Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). Front-wheel drive is standard.There was plenty of power from the four-cylinder, even on some hills and elevated freeway on-ramps. The ride was smooth and quiet, and bumps seemed to be ironed out quite nicely by the suspension system.The tester had a Technology Package for $1,090 and carpeted floor and trunk mats for $185. Other available options include a tracking system for $570 and a ground lighting package for $260.Altima sedans also are available with a 3.5-liter V-6. All models have decent fuel economy, ranging from 22 mpg city/31 highway for the 3.5 S Sedan to 27 city/38 highway for the 2.5-liter sedans.My Altima averaged 31 mpg during my test, according to the onboard calculator, with mostly neighborhood driving, but some freeway runs mixed in. There was also some idling with the air conditioner running in a Sonic parking lot (milkshakes are half-price after 8 p.m.).The Technology Package included blind-spot warning, Google Local Search, Google Send-to-Car, moving-object detection, and lane-departure warning. The Send-to-Car app sends addresses from Google Maps via Android to the navigation system of the vehicle, bypassing the somewhat time-consuming manual entry.Manual entry was, however, simple and intuitive, though slightly time consuming. Navigation directions were simple and easy to follow, with turns shown twice on the seven-inch color display and on the Advanced Drive-Assist Display directly in front of the driver.There was an occasional glitch, such as passing the back entrance of a shopping center in favor of entering through the front entrance — not a real problem, however.Advanced Drive-Assist’s 5.5-inch LCD screen in the middle of the instrument cluster shows driving directions and navigation settings, maps, text messages and call interactions, service warnings and much more, using impressive three-dimensional imaging and simple language for quicker, better comprehension. The vehicle style and color can be customized to match the actual Altima — nice, but a not necessity.The CVT “shifts” gears without noticeable shift points using technology first introduced by Nissan in 1992. While I can’t explain the technology, which roughly replaces gears with rubber bands (OK, that’s an oversimplification), I appreciate that it delivers seamless, natural feeling acceleration.The 2013 Altima is the first Nissan with the next-generation Xtronic CVT, which brings a 15 percent increase in fuel efficiency, faster acceleration and a quieter drive.There is another first — Active Understeer Control — for better control and handling when turning, no matter what the conditions or situation. The system uses subtle braking of the inside wheels during turns to help keep the vehicle on the proper path.Standard is the Nissan Vehicle Immobilizer System, which works with the Nissan Intelligent Key with remote engine start. The key contains electronics, which are matched to electronics in the ignition and must be within a certain distance in order for the engine to start using a push button on the dash. Occasionally, interference from another key, toll-road device or similar electronic device may prevent the system from functioning, which could be quite annoying. (It didn’t happen to me, though.)My Altima was roomy and comfortable, especially with the “NASA-inspired ‘zero-gravity’’ seats in the cockpit. We had 45 inches of legroom in the front, with 39.1 inches of headroom. Rear passengers had 36.1 inches of legroom and 37.1 inches of headroom.The rear seat, including the middle section was almost as comfortable as the front buckets and had LATCH for child seats in all positions. The rear seatback folded on the passenger’s side only, and made room for long objects such as skies or surfboards. The opening wasn’t wide enough for plywood or wallboard, but short pieces of shelving or two-by-fours might fit. The trunk was wide and deep with plenty of room for daily or weekend hauling.The Altima SL comes with leather seats, heated in the front; heated/leather-wrapped steering wheel; premium interior trim with soft-touch materials on the dash and door panels; eight-way power driver’s seat with lumbar support; nine-speaker Bose premium audio with satellite radio and USB port; and a Bluetooth hands-free phone system.Also standard were dual-zone automatic climate control with in-cabin micro filter and rear vents; power windows with auto reverse in front; moon roof; sliding sun visors; auto-dimming inside mirror; backup camera; universal gate/garage opener; heated/manual folding outside mirrors with LED turn signals; LED taillights; automatic headlights; and two 12-volt power outlets.Total sticker price of my Altima SL in Metallic Slate was $30,105, including freight and $1,275 in options.
The automotive columns of Emma Jayne Williams appear weekly in the Star-Telegram. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.