Once upon a time in America, large two-door hardtops were very popular. These personal luxury coupes were favored by older males and empty nesters. But as minivans and SUV’s became popular, big coupes faded. Now newer efforts like the Toyota Camry Solara and Honda Accord Coupe have sold okay, but only by aiming for younger buyers. And that’s exactly what the new 2008 Nissan Altima Coupe intends to do to expand the Altima buyer base while lowering the brands demographics. A big and tall order for a lean and low car.
As it broadens Nissan’s midsize family car lineup, the 2008 Altima Coupe brings with it a fresh, sleek, spirited presence. And like the Toyota Camry Solara and Honda Accord Coupe, it pulls this bread and butter family car series in a sportier direction.
The new Coupe shares the same basic chassis as the Sedan, but with a smaller footprint. Wheelbase is chopped 4 inches to 105.3, and the overall length is 7.1-inches shorter at 182.5. It’s even lower in ride height by 2.5 inches.
Very much its own car, the Coupe’s well-proportioned body panels are also unique, sharing only its hood with the 4-door.
With a chopped profile that clearly belongs in the same family as the rear drive Nissan 350Z and Infiniti G37, the front drive Coupe’s airfoil lines are smooth and seductive. A rounded nose wears Nissan’s latest honey-combed grille, flanked by teardrop headlamps.
Finely sculpted wheel arches punctuated our 3.5 SE’s 17-inch alloys.
The Coupe’s sport appeal is furthered by its thickset back-end. Large, diamond-cut taillights, a rear-deck spoiler, and dual exhaust tips deliver a performance promise. A promise backed by familiar powertrains. Output for the 2.5 S generates from a 2.5-liter double over-head cam inline-4 with 175 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque.
Our tester came to life from a 3.5-liter twin cam V6 with a galloping 270 horses and 258 pound-feet of torque.
Both engines can be joined to either an Xtronic CVT automatic or a 6-speed manual transmission. With the V6, the CVT utilizes an all-new performance-tuned controller.
Government Fuel Economy ratings for our V6 with the more desirable manual are 19 city/27 highway on regular gas. Expect 22 in normal driving. That’s a bit better than rivals as is the Energy Impact Score of 15.6 barrels of oil consumed per year. One barrel equals 42 gallons of fuel and lubricants.
As to whether the promise of performance was delivered, we were generally impressed with the Coupe’s track prowess. On a sweltering day it fired from 0 to 60 in 6.4 seconds and through the quarter-mile in 14.8 seconds at 99 miles-per-hour. There’s a big hit of torque right off the line, as the grippy tires really let you put the power down. Shifts are short throws, but the clutch has a less positive feel than we like.
The Altima’s front strut and rear multi-link suspension is tuned to deliver sharper handling, but also a stiffer ride than the sedan. The focus here is on nimbleness, backed by available Vehicle Dynamic Control stability control.
Overall, the car is solid and well balanced for a front driver, feeling smaller than it is. Body roll was minimal and the steering well weighted.
But the 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS and Brake Assist didn’t clamp down hard enough for our tastes, with a longish 138 foot average stopping distance from 60. You felt the ABS working more than normal, although the pedal was nicely firm.
Understandably the Coupe’s interior has a deep kinship with the sedan and that’s not a bad thing. But it still exudes a sportier cockpit feel with our car’s metallic trim providing an upscale appearance.
The gauge cluster is smart-looking and controls are well-positioned, if not always high-quality to the touch.
With standard MP3 player input, the upgraded stereo is a 9 speaker Bose system.
Other extras include dual-zone climate control and Navigation.
Standard safety features include active head restraints and six airbags.
The rear seat is coupe tight, and best for children or a cozy couple. However, fold the split seatbacks and they do extend the otherwise class-tiny 7.4 cubic foot trunk. A price most will gladly pay for the Altima Coupe’s super slick styling.
Base price for this streamliner is $21,115 for the 2.5 S, while the 3.5 SE begins at $25,515. Excellent bottom-lines for those who don’t want to cough up the 35 grand for an Infiniti.
The Altima Sedan has proven to be a solid competitor against Camry and Accord, and now it has a wing-man. But this 2008 Altima Coupe is more than just a variation. It is its own unique car, and gives sporty midsize family car a bold new definition.
Sport Engine: 3.5-Liter Twin Cam V6
Torque: 258 Lb Feet
0-60 MPH: 6.4 Seconds
1/4 Mile: 14.8 Seconds @ 99 MPH
60-0 MPH: 138 Feet
EPA: 19 MPG City/ 27 MPG Highway
Mixed Loop: 15.6 MPG
Energy Impact Score: 15.6 Barrels Oil/year