Update: 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL — Powertrain

By Brandon Turkus

January 30, 2013

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John Snyder’s original, in-depth drive on the Nissan Altima was a positive one, focusing on the four-cylinder, CVT-equipped model. So naturally, we thought we’d take some time with a recent Altima press car to focus on the brawnier 3.5-liter V-6.
It’s an engine we’re familiar with, powering a seemingly endless variety of Nissans and Infinitis. And while it may be mated to a CVT in this application, it’s one of those few instances where we just don’t care.
2013 Nissan AltimaThe issue with CVTs isn’t even necessarily an issue with the transmission itself. When you get down to it, the one thing that makes a CVT really intolerable in daily life is when it’s paired up with a noisy engine. For an example, see our review of the Nissan Sentra. That car was a prime example of a workable CVT mated to a buzzy, obnoxious, underpowered motor.
When teamed with the smoother, more refined V-6, though, life with a CVT isn’t half bad. Mash the throttle, and you’ll be treated to the sounds of the six-pot straining near redline and making an ear-pleasing racket. It’s like dubstep; you probably hate it, but there’s a tiny slice of you that is tapping along to the beat.
This engine’s power is accessible enough, with few noticeable peaks and valleys. Mostly, the 258 pound-feet of torque is available across a broad swath, reaching its climax at 4400 rpm. All 270 horsepower arrive at 6000 rpm. While we’d normally be annoyed about these numbers, the transmission’s tendency to hold the revvy six-pot at redline at four-tenths throttle and above means we spent a healthy amount of time flirting with the 3.5’s peak power.
We’ve never been big fans of CVTs, but when connected to the right engine, the belt-driven trans is able to find a partner that can exploit its best qualities.