Review: 2008 Nissan Altima Coupe
This 2008 review is representative of model years 2007 to 2012.
By Ann Job of MSN Autos
Don't be surprised if you think the new Nissan Altima Coupe is more expensive than it is.
The sleek, clean side profile looks sporty, while the Altima Coupe's rear end is reminiscent of the styling on a luxury Infiniti.
But a starting manufacturer's suggested retail price for the 5-passenger, 2-door Altima is just over $20,500, or a mere $500 more than a midsize, 2008 Altima 2.5 S sedan.
The base Altima 2.5 S Coupe comes with the same 6-speed manual transmission and 4-cylinder engine with at least 170 horsepower that's in the Altima 4-door.
The coupe also uses the same front-wheel-drive platform that's under the sedan, though the coupe is 7 inches shorter overall than the sedan and its wheelbase — distance from the center of one wheel on one side of the car to the center of the other wheel on the same side — is only 4 inches shorter.
But virtually every piece of exterior sheet metal is new, creating the prettiest-looking Altima ever.
Some may argue that the coupe's front-end styling — designed to resemble the current family of Nissans — doesn't quite fit the otherwise attractive lines, however.
No standard traction and stability control
Standard features include air conditioning, power windows, door locks and mirrors, remote keyless entry, AM/FM stereo with six speakers and CD player, split-folding rear bench seat and cruise control.
Front, side-mounted and curtain airbags as well as anti-lock brakes and active front head restraints designed to reduce whiplash injuries also are standard.
But traction control and electronic stability control aren't offered on the base model and are optional on the uplevel Altima coupe with V6.
In addition a rearview monitor to help drivers see what's behind them while they're backing up is available only as part of a pricey — for $2,000 — technology package option.
These include the Honda Accord Coupe, which starts around $22,000 with 177-horsepower 2.4-liter 4 cylinder and manual transmission and the 2008 Toyota Solara Coupe which starts around $20,000 for a base model with 155-horsepower 2.4-liter 4 cylinder and manual transmission.
Note that the uplevel Altima Coupe 3.5 SE, which starts around $25,000, beats the others with 270 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque at 4400 rpm coming from a 3.5-liter, double overhead cam V6.
This aging Solara Coupe is powered by a 210-horsepower 3.3-liter V6 with 220 lb-ft of torque, while the new-generation, 2008 Accord gets 268 horsepower and 248 lb-ft of torque at 4700 rpm from its 3.5-liter V6.
Try each of the engines
The manual transmission in the tester worked well to get me just the right "zip" when I wanted to pass other cars or merge swiftly into traffic.
The Altima Coupe also was quite adept at traveling at a more relaxed pace, where I didn't have to hear so much high-rev noise from the engine from the 4 cylinder.
This smaller engine with manual transmission also gets the best fuel economy ratings from the federal government at 23 miles per gallon in city driving and 32 mpg on the highway.
Note the Altima's highway mileage is a bit better than that for the 2008 Accord Coupe and the Solara coupe, too.
The only other transmission on the Altima Coupe is Nissan's Xtronic continuously variable transmission — often touted as a fuel-efficient tranny because it doesn't have set gears but works to optimize gearing continually. Drivers operate the CVT as they would an automatic.
But the CVT's government mileage rating with the four-cylinder engine is lower on the highway — 31 mpg — than it is for a four cylinder with satisfying 6-speed manual.
Odds and ends
Road bumps can be harsh in the test Altima Coupe, and road noise came through readily in the test car.
I also could never see much ahead of me because seats in the Altima Coupe are low and passengers drop down into them upon entering. I'm not just talking about obstacles like trucks and sport-utility vehicles. A Scion xB blocked my views, too.
There's not a lot of headroom in the coupe's back seat. At 5 feet 4, I sat with my hair brushing the ceiling, and legroom back there is only 34.4 inches, which is nearly 1.5 inches less than that in the sedan.
Trunk space also is halved from the sedan's 15.3 cubic feet to 7.4.
Lastly, some plastic trim pieces inside the Altima Coupe had a cheap look to them and seemed a bit out of place.
Still, it's possible the Altima will set a new sales record — approaching 300,000 — this calendar year. Besides this first-ever 2-door Altima, the lineup includes a first-ever gasoline-electric hybrid sedan that was introduced in the spring of 2007.