2008 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5SE
2008 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5SE. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

Photo Gallery:
2008 Nissan Altima coupe

Oshawa, Ontario – In the grand scheme of things, coupes really aren’t very practical. Their big doors are a pain to open in parking lots, their seatbelts often get in the way when you’re trying to get in and out, and if there’s a rear seat, forget about being graceful should you have to get back there. But if your lifestyle allows for form over function, their good looks can trump all of that – and few cars in its price range are better-looking than the Nissan Altima Coupe.

I had the opportunity to drive the coupe on its press launch in the spring of 2007; this time around, I lived for a week with a 3.5 SE with navigation and leather package. My tester also had a continuously variable automatic transmission, making it the top of the line model, at $39,698.

Like the sedan, the coupe is available with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine or 3.5-litre V6; both engines come with a six-speed manual or CVT. Unlike the sedan, the coupe is not available as a hybrid. The two-door was designed and is built in the U.S., and is only sold in North America. While it has similar lines to the rear-wheel drive Infiniti G37, the two models are completely separate and share nothing in the way of body parts or mechanicals.

2008 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5SE
2008 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5SE. Click image to enlarge

Having driven both, I’d probably opt for the 2.5-litre if the money were coming out of my bank account: it has more than enough grunt to move this car around, but it’s easier on the wallet, starting at $27,798 and topping out at $31,498. But if money isn’t an overriding factor, the V6 is that much smoother and gutsier, with awesome acceleration for the segment. The overall performance of Nissan’s CVTs can be hit-or-miss, depending on the application, but the units mated to both of the coupe’s engines work very well. Most of the time, you probably won’t even notice that the cogs aren’t there.

The steering is very light; that seems to be the preference of many commuters these days, but I’d prefer a little more weight to it. It’s got good on-centre, though, and despite 270 horses and 258 lb-ft of torque going to the front wheels, there’s virtually no torque-steer. The ride is firm and nastier road imperfections make their way into the cabin; the four-cylinder’s suspension is tuned much softer, but the trade-off is that the V6 version is more agile when it comes to carving corners. The brakes bite near the top of the pedal and bring it all smoothly to a halt. Against the published combined fuel economy of 9.1 L/100 km, I got 10.5.

2008 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5SE
2008 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5SE
2008 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5SE. Click image to enlarge

Inside, the Altima Coupe is put together very well; compared to the last-generation Altima, this new version has better-quality materials and a more substantial feel to its cubby covers and glovebox door. The bolstered seats are unique to the coupe and are not shared with the sedan; they’re comfortable, but due to the car’s low, swoopy styling, there isn’t a great deal of headroom, and shoulder checks are thwarted by the shape of the C-pillar. Even with a forward-sliding front passenger seat, it’s difficult getting into the rear seats, although the cushions are comfortable once you’re there; the Altima Coupe is really a 2+2, not a four-seater.

The centre stack’s controls fall easily to hand, and the dual-zone automatic climate control proved simple to use, with the temperature displayed digitally in the centre of each dial. The navigation system’s buttons are small, but the system itself is very intuitive, and once we got an initial misstep out of the way – its first command told me to turn onto a dead-end street – it worked very well.

2008 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5SE
2008 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5SE
2008 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5SE. Click image to enlarge

The navigation package also includes a rearview camera, which includes lines to make it easier to back into one’s parking space. Since the navigation screen took up the top of the stack, my tester’s optional six-CD stereo was installed lower down, above a small covered cubby; sans navigation, the bottom half of the stack is taken up entirely by a large covered storage area. My car also had heated seats, but the driver’s side button is located right under the parking brake and is tough to see. The keyless entry includes an unnecessary engine start button; locking and unlocking the doors can be done with buttons on the fob, or by pressing small rubber buttons on the outside handles.

The shallow trunk is only 40 cm at its deepest point, but it’s 95 cm long with the seats up, and it lengthens to a flat 160 cm when they’re folded. That’s a bit of a chore, though: you pull on straps to unlock the 60/40 seatbacks,

2008 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5SE
2008 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5SE. Click image to enlarge

but you must then either be able to reach far enough into the deep trunk to push them down, or crawl into the car to pull them down.

Overall, though, the Altima Coupe’s good points far outweigh its faults. It’s as stunningly styled as the G37, but at a fraction of the price; it’s powerful and smooth, and the less-expensive four-cylinder is more than enough; and the interior is well-finished and comfortable. It’s designed to be a coupe, not a two-door sedan, and it shows. If a coupe fits your lifestyle, this one has to be on your test-drive list.


Pricing: 2008 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5 SE


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