9.16.2013

How The 2014 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL Makes Family Sedan Buying Hard

2014 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL
Yes, you will actually want to drive the 2014 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL on roads like this.

Attention new car shoppers....especially mid-size family sedan shoppers.

Do you know how good you have it?

Do you have any idea?

Five years ago this was one of the most bland and boring segments in the industry.  Camry, Accord, Malibu, Fusion, Altima, Mazda 6...some were better than others, but none were inspiring, none were aspirational.
But now, every one of those cars has been re-designed and choosing has become very hard.

In January, we drove the 2.5-liter four-cylinder version of the 2013 Altima...and it landed immediately on TireKicker's Best Cars (see the list in the right-hand column).  In June, the 2013 Honda Accord Touring landed one notch ahead of it. Not really a fair fight, given that the Accord had the V6 (enthusiasts should note that the 2014 Mazda 6, with almost 100 horsepower less and a four-cylinder engine, landed squarely at #5...several slots ahead of both the Altima and Accord).



2014 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL
The view of the 2014 Nissan Altima 3.5SL other drivers are likely to see most.

But now we have the 2014 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL...the one with the V6.  And it's suddenly a fair fight.  Both it and the Honda have the same displacement, the same number of cylinders, are within 1/10th of an inch in length, 8 horsepower (advantage Honda with 278) and 137 pounds (advantage Nissan, the lighter) of each other.

More tale of the tape stuff:  The EPA fuel economy estimate is 22 city for the Altima, 21 city for the Accord.  31 highway for the Altima, 34 highway for the Accord.  26 combined for the Altima, 27 combined for the Accord.

Close, huh?

It gets closer. Virtually all the standard equipment on one is on the other, with the exception of a cargo net and cargo tie downs  (standard on the Altima, not available on the Accord), adaptive cruise control (standard on the Accord, not available on the Altima),  a heated steering wheel (standard on the Altima, not available on the Accord), memory seats (standard for the driver on the Accord, not available on the Altima), carpeted floor mats front and rear (standard on the Accord, not available on the Altima),  a nine-speaker audio system in the Altima, seven-speakers in the Accord, standard Bose audio in the Altima, a stock Honda system in the Accord, rear reading lights and an illuminated glove box (standard in the Altima, not available in the Accord), and a blind-spot sensor (standard in the Accord, optional in the Altima).

Beyond that?  18 inch wheels on the Altima, 17s on the Accord...a 6-speed automatic transmission in the Accord, a CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) for the Altima.

Base prices are the biggest difference...$33,480 for the Accord Touring, $30,660 for the Altima 3.5 SL.  But, our Altima had the optional floor and trunk mats ($185), a rear decklid spoiler ($395) and the Technology Package...navigation, a 7-inch color display, blind spot warning, lane departure warning and moving object detection.

So the final as-tested prices were....$34,220 for the Accord Touring V6 (with $790 destination and handling) and $33,120 for the Altima 3.5 SL (with $790 destination and handling).

And so, as it should with cars, it comes down to the driving experience.  0-60 times are very close (6.2 seconds for the Accord, 5.9 for the Altima).  In a sports car, that 0.3 would be everything, but these are family sedans.  Let's not overstate the importance of that statistic.  Both are quicker than you're really going to ever need them to be.
2014 Nissan Altima interior
Looking for a weak spot in the 2014 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL? You won't find it in the interior.

So now, it's steering and handling...and that's where the Altima shines.  The steering feels quicker, the car lighter.  It is...as we noted above...by 137 pounds.  That's like one fewer medium-sized passenger. And the Altima has the smoother ride while giving up nothing to the Accord in handling.  And as we noted in our review of the Altima 2.5, the interior has been kicked up several notches.  The Accord's is very nice, too...but if you're looking for a place where the Altima misses a step and lets the Accord get ahead, you won't find it in the cabin.

A tie would be such a cop-out, wouldn't it?

Well, I wouldn't bust you for choosing either car, and I wouldn't complain if you told me I had to drive either one of them for the next five or six years.  They're both very, very good family sedans.  But if I was playing with my own money and choosing between these two, I'd sit down with my Nissan dealer.  The $1,100 lower as-tested price, and lighter, more tossable car win out in my book.  
Now, let me tell you about the 2014 Mazda 6....


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