Drive is sportier than that of oth­ers

Al­tima

Austin American-Statesman - - D STATESMAN CARS - Con­tin­ued from D

Un­for­tu­nately, the head­rests are oddly po­si­tioned and hard as nails. In­te­rior room is av­er­age for this class, though rear head­room is a tad tight.

On the road, the Al­tima’s ride is com­fort­able but firm. Its predilec­tions err more to­ward sporty driv­ing than will other cars in this seg­ment. This comes most sharply into fo­cus when you toss the Al­tima into a turn and come out on the other side smil­ing rather than cring­ing.

This is pos­si­ble largely be­cause of a sys­tem on all new Al­ti­mas that will lightly feather the brake on the front in­side wheel to re­duce un­der­steer. A well-balanced sus­pen­sion de­sign doesn’t hurt; nei­ther does shed­ding 80 pounds com­pared with the pre­vi­ous model.

The Al­tima has im­pres­sive steer­ing feel by way of an elec­tronic-hy­draulic power-as­sisted setup. Although it may be a smidge less fuel-ef­fi­cient than the typ­i­cal full-elec­tric sys­tem, it’s a trade-off you will ap­pre­ci­ate ev­ery time you turn the wheel.

Un­for­tu­nately, the Al­tima does make a con­ces­sion to fuel ef­fi­ciency with its gear­box. Like its pre­de­ces­sor, the 2013 Al­tima comes with a con­tin­u­ously vari­able trans­mis­sion. It’s the sole de­trac­tor from the car’s sporty de­meanor and the gen­eral qui­etude of the in­te­rior.

The four-cylin­der Al­tima 2.5 SV I tested is rated at 27 miles per gal­lon in the city and 38 on the high­way. This means only hy­brids and diesels beat it for ef­fi­ciency in this class. Dur­ing nearly 300 miles of test­ing in mostly city con­di­tions, I av­er­aged 25 mpg.

The 2.5-liter, four-cylin­der en­gine makes 182 horse­power and 180 pound-feet of torque. Other than its oc­ca­sional noisi­ness, this en­gine is a good one and will move the car from zero to 60 in 7.4 sec­onds, ac­cord­ing to Mo­tor Trend.

A larger, 3.5-liter V-6 will run you $2,000 to $3,600 more, de­pend­ing on the model. It’s good for 270 horse­power and 258 pound-feet of torque. Con­trol freaks re­joice: Al­ti­mas with the V-6 have pad­dle shifters with the CVT.

All this is cov­ered in a new, silky, wind-swept ex­te­rior. The head­lights and tail­lights now wrap around the Al­tima’s cor­ners and then stretch up the car’s sides to­ward one an­other.

Mean­while, sub­tle morsels of chrome on the grille, door han­dles and trunk lid give the look an up­scale air.

2013 Al­ti­mas should have no trou­ble sell­ing as well as the pre­vi­ous pop­u­lar ver­sion.

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