In the crowded mid-size sedan category, Japan's Big Three automakers have historically sold well. Toyota Camry and Honda Accord have ranked at or near the top of the most popular vehicles sold in the U.S. each year during the past decade with Nissan Altima not far behind. Of these three, Altima hands down sports the most appealing exterior cues.
While the Altima sedan underwent a next-generation makeover in the 2007 model year, the styling cues jumped to the next level in 2008 with the unveiling of the snazzy coupe. While sedan and coupe share the same basic underpinnings, Nissan shrunk the coupe's wheel base by four inches and the overall length by 10. It also weighs less then the sedan for quicker responses. While Honda Accord also offers a coupe version, the Altima two-door boasts superior eye appeal.
Both coupe and sedan are exclusively front drive. Altima offers two coupe trim levels in 2010: a 2.5-liter, 16-valve four cylinder delivers 175 horsepower and is sold exclusively in S trim while a 24-valve 3.5-liter V-6 generates 270 in its sole SR trim. Sedans add a base trim. Both engines utilize regular unleaded fuel.
The coupes offer a six-speed manual transmission in both four and six-cylinder editions, something its sedan counterpart does not. However, both sedan and coupe offer an Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) in place of a conventional four- or five-speed automatic transmission. The CVT provides an infinite number of gear ratios without feeling the sensation of up or down shift 'jolt.' Thanks in part to lighter weight and engineering simplicity, a CVT delivers better fuel economy than a conventional automatic. Nissan has been assembling CVTs successfully longer than just about anyone and has perfected the science. The CVTs come with a limited warranty extension for 10 years or 120,000 miles (the limited powertrain warranty is five-years or 60,000 miles). The V-6 engine when combined with CVT averages 20 mpg city and 27 highway. The four cylinder with CVT breaks the 30 mpg barrier with 23 mpg city and 32 mpg highway.
The CVT meshes more effectively with V-6 Power. A recent drive of a four-cylinder Nissan Cube with CVT left a desire for extra punch during passing maneuvers. The V-6 provides satisfactory power when pressed into accelerating duties. In addition, the V-6 provides a sports tuned suspension for sharp handling and precise, crisp steering. The sensitive brake pedal is calibrated for immediate grab action. Expect minimal wind noise at highway speeds and an average turning radius.
Altima offers several option packages with few stand-alone options. Our 2010 Altima SR tester with the 3.5-liter V-6 engine and CVT transmission started at $27,270. Three option packages and $175 floor mats brought the bottom line to $33,425 with a $720 destination charge. This represents one of the most opulent coupes available.
A $1,420 premium package includes XM Satellite radio (with three-month free subscription), a four-inch display screen, rear-view monitor camera feeding into the display and dual zone climate control. This upgraded system also handles the latest electronic gizmos such as Bluetooth connectivity and music storage. The $1,780 technology package adds a navigation system into the display screen. The $2,060 leather package adds white-stitched leather seats and a leather shift knob, heated front seats, high intensity discharge head lights and auto-dimming rear view mirror. The leather package comes standard in V-6 models with six-speed manual. The four-cylinder coupe offers optional packages of its own including a convenience package and the technology and premium package.
The lowest priced Altima coupe with four cylinder engine and manual transmission starts at $22,440. By comparison, the lowest priced Accord coupe with 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine and manual transmission starts in the same neighborhood at $22,555.
Altima coupe's small, tri-angular static rear side windows don't help visual matters, so be vigilant about blind spots. The passenger bucket seat includes a lever on the outboard, lower side of the seat that tilts the back forward, allowing the entire unit to slide manually. A slide tab on the top inside of the passenger seat back is used to tilt the seat forward when exiting the second row. Get ready to twist and torque when entering or exiting row two because quarters in back are tight. Once seated, those taller than 5-feet 10-inches, have a choice of resting heads on the 45-degree rear window or the low-slung ceiling. The coupe's two-inch lower height (compared to the sedan) is felt here. No matter what your vertical stats, knees will uncomfortably bump up against the front seats. For all intents, Altima is a two seater where adults are concerned. Seating positions are slightly lower than what's found in most mid-size family sedans. The eight-way power front bucket (standard in V-6 model, optional in four) offers lumbar support, a nice addition for long stretches.
The Instrument panel has three averaged-sized circular analog gauges with a digital rectangular window in the center speedometer (top speed, 160 miles per hour). A keyless ignition button is right of the steering column on the dash. The driver's door includes power window, lock and twist knob powering side-view mirror controls situated at a 45-degree angle. Between the front buckets is a dual inline beverage holder capable of holding BIG-sized cups, a hand-operated parking brake and dual flip-top storage bin. Regular sized bottles fit into door-molded holders.
The large glove box has no partitions. Cruise control is found on the steering wheel at 3-o'clock. Three smallish, side-by-side circular air vents are on top of the center dash with tall rectangular vents at each end of the dash. Below the dual-zone climate control (with circular dials for temperature and buttons for direction) is a flat, square door that retracts up when pushed to unveil a carpeted storage area.
For 2010, Altima Coupe adds a revised hood, grille and front bumper. The small, wide front grille outlined in chrome has a wing design with the circular Nissan logo front and center. Cat's eye headlight housing catches part of the side fenders. Wide, relatively light-weight side doors sport strap-like handles. Dual exhausts are a nice sporty touch. Another simple, yet useful trait; band-like blinkers built into side view mirrors alerting others on the road of future intensions. Tail light housing incorporates a tri-angle shape, different from the Altima sedan's previous generation of stacked circular lights. The roof begins sloping downward from the front bucket seat area, allowing ample head room for driver and front passenger, but little elsewhere. Eighteen-inch aluminum alloy wheels are standard on the V-6 while 17-inch versions don the four cylinder.
The shallow trunk houses a temporary spare tire under a flat floor. Shock-type hinges situate outside the cargo compartment to eliminate the crunch factor of inside goose-neck style hinges. Two hanging straps are visible. When yanked, the 60/40 split back rests unlock for access to the passenger compartment. Stowing snow skis will work, but the Altima coupe is not designed for hauling much more.
Altima coupe includes a goodly amount of safety features including front seat mounted side air bags, side curtain air bags, anti-lock brakes and traction control. It's assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee near Nashville.