You know the saying, "Every family has its black sheep."
Well, in the often bland design world of family sedans - where the sales royalty for years has been Toyota Camry and Honda Accord - there is one black sheep that is benefiting from being different from the rest.
Nissan Altima always has been the choice of those who wanted inspired, sporty design in their family sedan. With the emergence of coupe versions playing off their sedan brethren, the Altima still manages to keep an edge on those in the class with the 2010 Altima Coupe.
Launched in 2007, the Altima Coupe shares some distinctive style cues with its cousin, the Infiniti G37, and nothing bad can come from that. I must acknowledge the new Hyundai Genesis Coupe is as close to the Altima Coupe in good looks and spirited driving as it gets. No doubt Altima was Hyundai's bar for the Coupe.
The 2010 model has only a few noticeable changes, but the biggest, and probably the most noticeable (for the wrong reasons) is the hood treatment. Featuring a series of symmetrical humps the length of the hood, this new look seems to take the sleek, streamlined aspect that worked so well and add an awkward bulkiness to the Coupe.
Sometimes these new design cues take the entire weeklong testing period for me to warm up to them. That never happened.
While the front bumper and grille are also new, they are not a distraction and actually contribute to a still-outstanding look for the Altima Coupe. I also loved the standard dual chrome-tipped exhaust finishers as a rear-end attitude adjustment.
My SR (which is the old SE) tester featured great-looking 18-inch five-spoke alloy rims wrapped by P235/45R18 all-season rubber.
On the exterior, this is a key part of the Altima Coupe looking "planted" low to the ground. The wheels are not just window dressing; they deliver big time on handling.
You may be slightly challenged getting in and out of the Altima Coupe. I found myself partially lowering myself in and out.
Worth mentioning is that at no time did I mind doing so after I got situated behind the wheel. Sporty, fun cars have tradeoffs - getting in and out of them is just one.
Behind the wheel of the Altima Coupe, you find yourself nestled deep in a cockpit that feels every bit the sports car that it clearly is not. Chalk one up for Nissan; this is one of the real benefits that the Altima Coupe delivers over the others in the class - feeling like you are in more car than you paid for.
The interior is basic, more sporty than plush, and my tester featured a leather package ($2,060) that had heated leather seats and a leather gearshift knob as well as some other plush goodies.
Seating is comfortable in front, with plenty of legroom and headroom for taller adults. Rear seats fold 60/40 for more storage, and passengers may feel more like packaged goods as the rear seating is a bit tight.
The center panel is laid out in an intuitive manner. The centerpiece is the 4.3-inch touch-screen monitor available as an upgrade in the premium package (a must-have at $1,420) that includes XM radio, Bluetooth operation, a nine-speaker Bose audio system and dual climate control.
My tester added the technology package ($1,780) and a huge 6.5-inch touch screen for the navigation, DVD player and 9.3-GB Music Box hard drive audio system. Tech fans will have to indulge in this excess; others may opt just to make do with the 4.3-inch upgrade.
The 2010 Altima Coupe is offered with two engine choices: a 2.5-liter 175-horsepower four-cylinder and a 3.5-liter V-6 with 270 horsepower. I have driven both and the 2.5 is quick and agile; after all, the Altima Coupe only weighs 3,076 pounds and it springs to attention with the smaller engine.
So just imagine what it does with the larger 3.5-liter power plant.
The Altima Coupe can be paired with a six-speed manual or a continuously variable transmission. The whole point of the CVT is to be extremely efficient and deliver excellent fuel economy (20/27 mpg). Getting good mileage can still be fun in the Altima Coupe, but fuel economy will depend mostly on driving style. I did find the CVT in my tester to be one of the better versions out there right now. It just takes a little getting used to.
The Altima Coupe has received the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's highest rating - five stars - for side-impact crash safety. The Coupe features Nissan's advanced airbag system with side-impact bags for driver and passenger, roof-mounted curtain, front-seat active head restraints, antilock braking, traction control, vehicle dynamic control and a host of other safety features that together equal a whole lot of security.
Overall, Nissan's Altima Coupe gets the highest marks for looks and performance, especially with the 3.5-liter V-6; it definitely won't be mistaken for a Honda or Toyota.
At a base price of $27,270, it is right where it needs to be to compete, though my tester with all three upgrade packages tallied a final price of $33,425. That may be a bit much for anyone who has more than one person in their life who may need a ride.2010 ALTIMA COUPE SRENGINE:
270-horsepower 3.5-liter V-6TRANSMISSION:
continuously variableDR IVETRAIN:
front-wheel driveFUEL ECONOMY:
20 city/27 highwayBASE PRICE: