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Nissan's new Altima pushes boundaries of its class (pictures)

The 2013 Altima exhibits a number of unexpected features, such as being longer than the current Maxima and getting paddle shifters that an F1 driver would find familiar.

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Wayne Cunningham
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1 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET
For 2013, Nissan gives its bread-and-butter midsize sedan, the Altima, a major update. Among the changes, the Altima gets a new body and suspension, plus new cabin electronics.
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2 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET
Current Nissan models do not show a cohesive design language, but similarity is emerging between the new Altima and Sentra models, which could mean styling cues that will spread across other models.
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3 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET
This high-trim Altima SL also came with the top engine, a 3.5-liter V-6 making 270 horsepower. The other engine available is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder.
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4 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET
Nissan expanded the size of the Altima, making it a full inch longer than the current Maxima. As a result, the cabin is very roomy.
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5 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET
Nissan did some very interesting suspension engineering, giving the Altima a very supple and solid ride.
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6 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET
Like the cabin, the trunk of the Altima is huge.
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7 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET
In this high-trim model, the driver's seat is power-adjustable, but the passenger seat has manual controls.
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8 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET
This big rear bench seat can easily hold three, and probably four in a pinch.
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9 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET
Nissan makes a reasonably priced tech package available for the Altima that includes navigation and some driver assistance features, but this car did not come with it.
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10 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET
The power-steering system delivers very good road feel, using an electric motor to generate hydraulic boost.
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11 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET
The steering-wheel spokes host well-integrated controls for the cabin electronics. Behind the wheel are big paddle shifters.
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12 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET
The instrument cluster includes an LCD with driver-selectable information, such as trip data or the current music selection.
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13 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET
The Altima only comes with this continuously variable transmission, which constantly adjusts ratios to maximize fuel efficiency.
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14 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET
If lacking the navigation option, the Altima comes with this 5-inch LCD on the dashboard, which shows audio and some phone information.
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15 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET
The LCD shows the music library of a connected iPod, with music arranged by artist, album, track, and playlist.
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16 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET
The music display for connected iPods includes album art, adding a nice visual element.
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17 of 19 Josh Miller/CNET
The standard Bose audio system in the SL trim delivers very strong sound.
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18 of 19 Josh Miller
The hands-free phone system can only be operated through voice command, although this screen shows what you can say.
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19 of 19 Josh Miller
The only driver assistance feature without the navigation option is a rearview camera.

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