2013 Toyota Camry vs. 2013 Nissan Altima

By Emme Hall.

In car buying, as in life, there are many choices. Minivan or Mustang? Mini Cooper or Maserati? Well, let’s be honest. You probably aren’t cross shopping such different vehicles. If you’re stymied in your search for a reliable sedan, read on. Today we’re looking at the 2013 Toyota Camry XLE and the 2013 Nissan Altima 3.5 SL. Both have a history of being dependable, long lasting cars that offer a great value. But as usual, there can be only one here at autocomparison.com. Let’s see which one will emerge victorious.

The Toyota Camry offers a 3.5L V6 engine with 268 hp and 248 lb/ft of torque. Power is put to the front wheels via a 6 speed automatic transmission. A manual mode is offered only in the SE trim line. You’ll accelerate to 60 mph in 6.6 seconds and EPA fuel ratings are 21 mpg in the city, 31 mpg on the highway, and 25 mph combined. Not too shabby for a V6.

2013 Toyota Camry

The Altima also brings us a 3.5L V6 engine good for 270 hp and 258 lb/ft of torque. The front wheels get their power from a continuously variable transmission (CVT) with paddle shifters. 60 mph comes in 6.2 seconds and like the Camry, EPA fuel estimates aren’t bad for a V6: 22-mpg city, 31mpg highway, and 25 mpg combined.

The Camry was redesigned in 2012 and now offers a stylish interior and upgraded materials with some added standard features. You’ll get Bluetooth, a backup camera, satellite radio with a 3-month subscription, heated front seats, and my favorite, a sunroof. Navigation and blind spot monitoring with a rear cross-traffic alert system are optional.

2013 brought us a newly designed Altima, one that is more sophisticated and upscale than its predecessor. Standard features include Bluetooth, satellite radio, Pandora and iPod compatibility, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. Not to be outdone, the Nissan Altima 3.5 SL also comes with a sunroof. The optional technology package gives you navigation, blind spot monitoring, and a lane departure warning system. It should be noted that the front seats in the Altima come from space. Using NASA research, the “zero gravity” seats are by far the most comfortable I’ve ever been in.

2013 Nissan Altima Sedan

Most reasonable drivers will find the Camry to be a decent combination of lively performance and respectable fuel economy. The – speed auto shifts very smoothly, and even gives you quick downshifts when needed. The electric power steering is adequate, but the suspension in the XLE is a bit too soft for my taste. Those looking for a more fun drive should check out the sport-tuned suspension in the SE trim. In the end, however, the XLE would make an excellent commuter or long distance hauler.

2013 Toyota Camry LE

As with the interior, the Nissan Altima’s suspension and steering designs are all new for 2013, keeping it on the podium as one of the best handling sedans on the market. The cabin is quiet; steering is accurate and offers consistent feedback. Body roll is kept to a minimum, keeping you composed in the corners. My only complaint is the CVT. While it helps the Altima reach its impressive fuel rating, it is still a CVT. Ask the car to accelerate and the transmission jumps to high revs that can surprise the driver not familiar with the technology. Nissan adds paddle shifters that keep the CVT within predefined ratios. It’s no manual, but at least gives you the impression you have some control of the car, even if it is a ruse.

2013 Nissan Altima Sedan

This is a close one, folks. In the end, I’m going with the Altima 3.5 SL. Yes, I am strongly in the anti-CVT camp, but the Nissan Altima, starting at $30,560, handles that much better than the Toyota Camry XLE, starting at $30,465. However, you won’t be disappointed by either choice. I recommend testing them both, paying particular attention to the differences in the transmissions.

(Note: All vehicles provided by manufacturers for comparison test purposes. Photos provided by Nissan and Toyota.)