38 Special 2,500 rpm in a family sedan generally isn't a whole lot to get excited about. In fact, it's traditionally closer to idle speed than anything offering the possibility of real entertainment. But each and every one of those 2,500 revolutions in this 2013 Nissan Altima offers a frisson of excitement when whirling away in concert. Why? Because they add up to 100 mph. In a four cylinder. Process that for a minute: 2,500 revs = 100 mph in a 2.5-liter normally aspirated four-door kinshlepper. This, friends, is impressive. We first verified the figure for ourselves during a prototype drive at Nissan's Arizona proving grounds back in March. More real-world numbers include 2,000 rpm at 80 mph and just 1,450 rpm at 60 mph. Credit the Altima's Continuously Variable Transmission, which has been extensively reworked for this new model. Seventy percent of the transmission's parts are new, and internal friction has been reduced by up to 40 percent through a battery of small tricks including redesigned internals swimming in lower viscosity oil. The transmission has a super-wide 7.0 gear ratio spread and reprogrammed control logic to help the keep all four pots on boil as necessary. Of course, it's still a CVT, which is to driving enthusiasts what Mark Zuckerberg is to the Amish. But Nissan's Xtronic unit at least makes a good go of it, thanks to a sport mode that introduces shift points to create a physical and auditory experience similar to that of a traditional torque converter automatic. To be fair, the revs don't plunge quite as far as they would in a slushbox, but it keeps the engine in the meat of its powerband and still delivers a pretty convincing performance, even when subjected to aggressive throttle openings. Either way, those awkward "stretched rubberband" CVT moments are kept to the bare minimum, only rearing their head when the accelerator is buried in the carpet, and just for a moment. Under most circumstances, we imagine most Altima drivers probably won't even notice they own a CVT. Speaking of engines, Nissan once again offers a pair of them: the QR25DE 2.5-liter four seen here, good for 182 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 180 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm, and the VQ35DE 3.5-liter V6 with 270 horses at 6,000 rpm and 258 lb-ft at 4,400 rpm. Either way, you'll get the CVT – Nissan axed the base manual transmission back in 2010. The Altima has lost weight and is now the lightest car in its segment. Early rumors suggested that this fifth-generation model might go with a four-cylinder-only lineup like Hyundai, Kia and Chevrolet, but Nissan has elected to stick with updates of its current powerplants. That's not the black mark you might think it is: We have a longstanding love affair with Nissan's VQ series and the four cylinder has been a solid performer as well. Thanks to other weight-saving measures throughout the car, Nissan says the Altima has lost weight and is now the lightest …
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|MPG||22 City / 31 Hwy|
|Transmission||Xtronic 2-spd CVT w/OD|
|Power||270 @ 6400 rpm|
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