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STYLING | 8 out of 10
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We're sold on the 2013 Nissan Altima's attractive new sheetmetal and its tastefully matured cabin. While past Altimas have taken some interesting silhouettes, then lost the narrative with gratuitously weird details, this one's fully envisioned as an ersatz Infiniti--so much so, it makes us wonder where the Maxima goes from here.
The Altima's new shape loosely translates the forward motion of Infinitis and the Maxima into something slightly more mainstream. The complex body stampings--some of the most difficult it's ever done, Nissan says--give the fenders pronounced high points that give the Altima just enough surface interest. The angled, arrow-themed cues of other recent Nissans are reflected in the headlamps and taillamps, and the sidelights gracefully taper to a gentle upkick before they draw to a point. The grille is, thankfully, nothing like the one on the Murano or Juke, just a simple metallic frame that looks like a generations-down iteration of the latest Lexus hourglass theme.
The interior stands out in sharp contrast to the sheetmetal. It's conservatively drawn, with straight lines dividing off the center stack of controls from the driver and the passenger. There's also more space left for larger LCD screens for more advanced infotainment systems, a selling point where the Altima's lagged behind the Koreans and Americans. Big dials and a three-dimensionally drawn screen between them fill up the gauge cluster, while the wide center console is spanned by the shift lever, cupholders, some usefully large storage bins, and covered in a decently rendered artificial woodgrain or a back-to-wardrobe metallic print that looks like bad sharkskin material cut on a bias. The finishes are more spendy this time, and more soft-touch plastics meet the hand and the eye--except at the door pulls, where it's hard, wide-grain plastic. It's probably as durable as possible.
The Altima's evolved once more in a sleek, Infiniti-like direction; the cabin's more mature, with more substantial shapes and clear, simple controls.