The designers at Nissan were on to something when they came up with the Altima Coupe. By taking a relatively attractive Altima, loosing two doors, tightening the back glass and stretching the rear sheet metal to pronounce a metal step over the rear wheels, they have created a very stylish sports coupe, a package that looks like something that would normally cost much more to own. When you choose the tried and true VQ35 engine, a power plant that Nissan used in everything from the 350Z to the FX35, you also get a sport tuned suspension and 18 inch split five spoke rims standard. The sleek two door profile and rear over fenders make the Altima Coupe a vehicle that would make Inifiniti owners jealous.
Our Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5 SE came with a $3,200 Premium Package that will definitely help when it comes time to impress the ladies. The package upgraded the Coupe with luxury comforts like soft leather, 7 speaker Bose audio system and HID headlamps. This bumped the $26,890 base price of a V6 powered Altima Coupe up to $31,560.
Did we mention that our SE came with another acronym, CVT, continuously variable transmission? Top Speed recently had a four door Altima equipped with the same transmission not too long ago, but this time the Coupe came with Nissan’s Xtronic version that allows the driver to shift manually. However, the 270 HP from the V6 and excellent coupe styling, make this Altima an entirely different kind of animal.
The Altima Coupe is a much more stylish than its four door big brother. Despite having all the working parts of a front wheel car underneath, the Altima Coupe looks like it could have been a rear wheel drive sports car. The familiar roof and shoulder lines are very reminiscent of the smooth silhouette of the G35; even the rear glass is eerily similar to Infiniti’s sports coupe. The improvements over the sedan are subtle, but they go a long way to make the Altima Coupe its own vehicle.
The exterior of the Altima Coupe can be described in one word, clean. There is not a lot of chrome trim or any other tacky plastic pieces stuck to the body, just a simple grill surround, even the rear diffuser with cutouts for the dual exhaust is understated and doesn’t stick out from the rest of the car. Maybe it was the Radiant Silver paint that made the large smooth metal panels flow from front to back. The only item that stuck out on our Altima Coupe, aside from the lovely fender bulges, was the aggressive split five spoke sport wheels that measured 18 inches in diameter.
The first thing you will notice when behind the wheel of an Altima Coupe is just how low the seating position is, a feature that makes the Coupe feel more like a sports car and less like a grocery getter. Like most Nissans, the interior is simple and straightforward. Anyone who has been in a Nissan recently will immediately recognize the familiar orange glow from the radio and multi function display on the gauges. Unlike some of the German automakers who rely on sophisticated computer software controlled by a single rotating knob, the Altima keeps things easy. There are three knobs that control the Dual Zone Automatic Temperature Controls, the one closest to the occupant controls the temperature for his or her individual side, while a smaller knob in the middle controls the fan speed. A neat feature from the hot/cold dials is that they read out the temperature right on their face.
Above the center stack is a trio of air vents that resemble the gauge pods from the 370Z. Below the climate controls is a conveniently large storage space that can be sealed off, keeping everything in its place. Another nice touch is the storage compartment in the center armrest. Due to the 12 V outlet being located inside, there is a notch in the top tray that lets you route your power cord out of harms way, this prevents the plastic insulation from getting chewed up because the armrest won’t squeeze it against the plastic center console. This is a meticulous feature that most automakers overlook.
The Premium Package that our Nissan Altima came with added a world of luxury to the Coupe’s interior. Starting off with the leather wrapped seats, shift knob and door panels; the package then upgraded the audio to a Bose head unit. The 7 speaker sound system features an in dash 6 disc changer that is capable of playing MP3 CDs. There is also an auxiliary input jack to hook up you iPod if you don’t want to listen to the XM Satellite HD radio. The Premium Package also adds wood trim for Altimas wrapped with Blond leather and metal accented pieces inside Charcoal cars like ours. The $3,200 upgrade is also responsible for the Dual Zone ATC that we mentioned earlier.
The only frustrating feature of the Altima and it is standard on all Nissans, is that when attempting to change the radio station with the steering wheel mounted controls, the radio automatically switches to a list of preset stations which are almost always on a different frequency, it might be something as simple as a setting, or maybe its impossible, but it is something that has been frustrating this automotive journalist for a while now.
As soon as you sit inside the Coupe, you are fooled into thinking you are behind the wheel of a Z car; for starters you sit low in the chassis, just like the Z, and when you stare across the dash, the a/c vents can temporarily trick you into thinking that they are accessory gauges just like on the 370. One place where the Nissan doesn’t deceive you is the power. It is so refreshing in these times of gas sippers and econoboxes; it is nice to see that this Japanese manufacturer produces a car that can spin the wheels off the line, even with the VDC activated. We’re not talking smoky burnout here, just a little chirp that puts a smile on your face and makes you happy that you are driving an affordable sports car.
The chassis exhibits very little body roll, and the suspension inspires confidence when going hard into a corner. Lead footed driver’s be careful, because if he or she applies too much pressure they will quickly be reminded that the engine is sending all 258 lb-ft of torque to the same wheels that are in charge of steering, resulting in under steer, just one of the many drawbacks of front wheel drive. It takes a minute to get used to the way a CVT drives, it’s not everyday that you drive a car that can hold the revs at around 5000 and continues to pull hard, but that is exactly what the continuously variable transmission does, keeping the engine in a sweet spot throughout acceleration. This high tech transmission works well as a gas saving feature, but it would nice to have a traditional cog swapper in the event of an impromptu stop light drag race. However, the technologically advanced gearbox is to thank for making the big V6 drink like an engine half its size getting an EPA estimated 19 MPG in the city and 26 MPG on the highway.
Why to buy:
If you have outgrown your Nissan Sentra SE-R but still can’t afford an Infiniti G37 you should seriously consider test driving a V6 powered Altima Coupe. With its 270 HP VQ35, flowing bodylines and 18 inch rolling stock; the Altima Coupe leaves very little to be desired. If you want a straight forward comfortable ride with plenty of subdued sports inspired attitude, you should seriously consider buying a Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5 SE.
Why not to buy:
Top Speed’s editorial staff can not think of any decent reason why not to buy a Nissan Altima Coupe. So instead please see: "What else to look at"
What else to look at:
You can compare a vehicle like the Mitsubishi Eclipse with the Nissan Altima Coupe; they are both about the same in size and offer V6 power, and the Eclipse is a great option if you want a convertible. If you don’t mind sitting in a less spacious environment, the Volkswagen GTI is another vehicle you should consider for that fun to drive feeling. Although it is smaller, in Germany your money doesn’t as far, but it does buy you a nice interior.
If stepping the back end out is the name of your game, then take a look at the Hyundai Genesis Coupe, the V6 powered model makes an additional 30 HP over the Nissan and sends the power to the proper wheels, however just like the Golf, the Genesis doesn’t feel as spacious as the Nissan.
Depending on how the American new car market fares, you might be able to get a great deal on a new Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro. Both of these rear drive American muscle cars offer similar amounts of power from their entry level V6 power plants but because of their nature offer more sporty feeling.
Top Speed Final Verdict:
The Nissan Altima Coupe is an excellent car; it gets even better when there is a VQ35 under the hood and a Premium Package inside. Our 3.5 SE offered an excellent level of comfort on the inside and was attractive from any angle outside. Especially one that focused on the rear shoulder. If Nissan could find a way to put Altima Coupe styling in a Sentra sized package with a turbocharged four banger sending power to the rear wheels, I guarantee you that Hyundai won’t be all alone selling sport compacts.
The only drawback to the Altima Coupe is its drive train, if the engine was sending power to the rear wheels then the Altima would truly be an amazing sports car, but being front wheel driven doesn’t take away one bit from the Coupe’s sporty nature. The Nissan Altima Coupe can possibly be compared to one car, the 1998 Honda Accord EX. Both cars were sporty two door versions of ordinary Japanese economy cars, both were fast with V6 engines under the hood and they were both hot cars.