2008 Nissan Altima coupe
2008 Nissan Altima coupe. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Greg Wilson

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Second opinion, by Chris Chase

North Vancouver, British Columbia – Based on the redesigned 2007 Altima four-door sedan, the two-door Nissan Altima Coupe was introduced last June as a 2008 model. This is the first time the Altima has been offered as a two-door coupe, and it’s just in time to compete with the recently redesigned 2008 Honda Accord Coupe, the Camry-based Toyota Solara Coupe, and the Pontiac G6 coupe.

Even though the new Altima Coupe uses the same front-wheel drive platform, suspension, engines, transmissions, and interior design as its four-door sedan sibling, the only exterior body panel it shares with the sedan is the hood.

Compared to the Altima sedan, the coupe is 185 mm (7.1 in.) shorter overall with a wheelbase that’s 101 mm (4.0 in.) shorter, and a roof that is 66 mm (2.5 in.) lower. That, combined with its unique grille and headlamps, shorter rear overhang, fastback bodystyle, and bold red taillights, gives it a much more racy appearance than the sedan.

2008 Nissan Altima coupe
2008 Nissan Altima coupe
2008 Nissan Altima coupe. Click image to enlarge

As Assistant Editor, Jil McIntosh, pointed out in her First Drive report of the Coupe, “Looks” is the main reason people buy coupes over sedans. Style and sophistication is more important to coupe buyers than practicality, or even performance – although the Altima Coupe is certainly not lacking in horsepower. The Altima Coupe is very attractive from the side and rear three-quarter views. Its sweeping aerodynamic profile ends in a raised, tapering trunklid flanked by large wrap-over taillights astride strong ‘shoulders’ and fender flares. Dual exhaust tips, standard even on base coupe models, enhance the performance image.

From the rear, there’s a strong resemblance to the Pontiac G6 coupe, and I can’t help wondering if Nissan used the G6 as its design inspiration.


Pricing and standard equipment

The base 2008 Altima Coupe 2.5S ($27,798) comes with Nissan’s recently updated 175-hp 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine and a choice of a standard six-speed manual transmission or optional continuously variable transmission with a manual shifting mode.

2008 Nissan Altima coupe
2008 Nissan Altima coupe
2008 Nissan Altima coupe. Click image to enlarge

Standard equipment on the 2.5S includes the manual transmission, 16-inch alloy wheels, dual exhausts, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD stereo with six speakers and auxiliary jack, leather-wrapped tilt and telescopic wheel, power door locks and “Intelligent Key” with remote unlocking and keyless engine start button, tilt/slide glass sunroof with sunshade, automatic headlamps, heated power mirrors, eight-way power driver’s adjuster, heated cloth seats, 60/40 split folding rear seatbacks, trip computer, cruise control, and tire pressure warning system.

Options on the 2.5S are the CVT ($1,200), metallic/pearl paint ($125), three-coat paint ($285), and a Premium Leather Package ($2,500) which includes leather seats, leather wrapped shifter, console lighting, manual driver’s seat lumbar adjustment, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto dimming rear-view mirror, HomeLink garage door opener , compass in rear-view mirror, Bluetooth hands-free voice-activated phone, Bose audio system with in-dash six-CD changer with MP3/WMA playback capability, nine speakers, speed sensitive volume control, and XM Satellite Radio.

2008 Nissan Altima coupe
2008 Nissan Altima coupe
2008 Nissan Altima coupe. Click image to enlarge

The Altima Coupe 3.5SE ($31,398) has a 3.5-litre V6 with a class-leading 270 horsepower, and a standard six-speed manual or optional CVT with manual mode. In addition to the standard features found on the four-cylinder model, the 3.5SE adds 17-inch tires and alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, simulated wood trim, traction control, fog lights, and manual-folding heated mirrors with integrated turn signals.

The optional Premium Leather Package ($4,100) in the 3.5SE is similar to the one offered on 2.5S, but also includes Vehicle Dynamic Control and Xenon HID headlights. An optional Navigation Package ($3,000) includes a 6.5-inch touch-screen with rearview camera, but the Premium Package must be ordered first to get it.

My test car was a four-cylinder 2.5S with the CVT, Premium Package, and metallic Adriatic Blue paint with a two-tone beige interior. The total as-tested price with options and Freight came to $32,923.


Interior impressions

2008 Nissan Altima coupe
2008 Nissan Altima coupe
2008 Nissan Altima coupe. Click image to enlarge

The Altima Coupe has long doors, so care needs to be taken when opening them next to other cars. The Coupe is a low car and getting in requires a short drop into the driver’s seat. However, the roof is not so low that I bumped my head on it.

The driver and front passenger have plenty of legroom and hiproom and supportive, well-bolstered front seats with seat heaters. Thanks to a height-adjustable driver’s seat, most drivers will find adequate headroom, but right front passengers will find surprisingly little headroom: I’m 175 cm (5′ 9″) tall and my hair was brushing the ceiling (see photo). This is partly because the standard sunroof consumes at least an inch of headroom.

Rear headroom is also minimal and rear passengers sit right underneath the rear window, which can get quite uncomfortable in the hot sun. Rear legroom is okay for adults, but the centre rear seat hump is not very comfortable

2008 Nissan Altima coupe
2008 Nissan Altima coupe
2008 Nissan Altima coupe. Click image to enlarge

Access to the rear seat from the right side, though assisted by a long door opening, and a right front seat that slides forwards automatically when the seatback is folded, is still a squeeze getting in and out. Some body contortions are required.

Still, it’s likely that most Altima Coupe buyers won’t be parents with children, and will only be using the rear seats occasionally – or for extra storage space. What really matters is the front seating area, and apart from the lack of front passenger headroom, the front seats are a nice place to be.

With the optional leather seats, leather steering wheel and shift knob in my test car, I found the cabin quite attractive. The two-tone instrument panel, metal trim on the steering wheel, wood trim on the armrests and dash, chrome door handles, and aluminum trim around the shift lever, combine to give the cabin a classy look.

2008 Nissan Altima coupe
2008 Nissan Altima coupe
2008 Nissan Altima coupe. Click image to enlarge

In the centre stack, the stereo buttons are clearly marked and easy to use, and the illuminated display has large, easy-to-see yellow numbers and letters. I enjoyed the optional Bose stereo with nine speakers, music player input jack, and six-CD changer. It offers a very rich, full sound.

The optional dual-zone climate control (part of the Premium Leather Package) gives the driver and front passenger control over their own temperature settings, but not the fan speed. The temperature and fan speed indicators are illuminated for easy reference at night.

The three gauges behind the steering wheel are very easy to read – its large numerals backlit in white with a red perimeter really stand out, day or night.

Standard safety equipment includes front-seat side airbags, and side-curtain airbags, front seat active head restraints, front seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters, and LATCH (Lower Anchors and Tethers for CHildren) child seat anchors and tether system.

2008 Nissan Altima coupe
2008 Nissan Altima coupe
2008 Nissan Altima coupe. Click image to enlarge

Cabin storage is generous – a large bin resides behind the flip-up wood door at the base of the centre stack, the glove-box is a useful size, the door pockets are large, and the bi-level storage box between the seats is deep and has a 12-volt outlet inside. There are also “kangaroo pouches” on the front of the front seats. A hand brake replaces the foot brake in the sedan.

The Coupe’s trunk however, is quite shallow, and at 210 litres (7.4 cu. ft.) is less than half the size of the Altima sedan’s. It’s also a smaller than the trunks in the Pontiac G6 Coupe (311 litres) and the Toyota Solara Coupe (391 litres). Some redemption can be found in the split folding rear seatbacks which increase the load length.


Driving impressions

The “Intelligent Key” that comes standard in the Altima Coupe uses a wireless signal to let the car know you’re in the car – the driver simply pushes the Start button to start the engine, and pushes it again to stop the engine – the key can be left in your pocket or purse.

2008 Nissan Altima coupe
2008 Nissan Altima coupe
2008 Nissan Altima coupe. Click image to enlarge

With a tilt/telescopic steering wheel and a multi-adjustable driver’s seat, drivers of all sizes can find a comfortable driving position. The two-temperature seat heaters, standard on both cloth and leather models, are appreciated on cold mornings.

Visibility ahead and to the sides is good but rear visibility is restricted by the high trunklid, two rear head restraints and a centre brakelight housing. When backing into a parking space, I found it difficult to judge the distance to a wall, or a car behind.

The Altima Coupe’s vehicle-speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering system offers light steering effort when parking, and a firm, steady feel at highway cruising speeds. Brakes are discs all around with standard ABS and Brake Assist to help in panic stops.

2008 Nissan Altima coupe
2008 Nissan Altima coupe
2008 Nissan Altima coupe. Click image to enlarge

My test car was equipped with the base 175-hp 2.5-litre DOHC, 24-valve four-cylinder powerplant – I found it to be plenty powerful for this size of car, and I question the need for the optional 270-hp V6. Acceleration from a standing start is very quick and highway passing is also good, although the optional continuously variable transmission tends to make the car feel slower than it is. Interestingly, the manual shift mode on Nissan’s CVT offers faster shifts than those of traditional automatic transmissions with manual mode.

Official fuel consumption figures with the CVT are 8.9 L/100 km (32 mpg) city; and 6.3 L/100 km (45 mpg) highway, but my onboard computer showed an average of 9.4 L/100 km in my week of mostly city driving.

The Altima Coupe has a fully independent suspension and standard P215/60R-16-inch Continental ContiPro Contact all-season tires. Handling is very good in the dry, though the ride is a bit stiff over pavement breaks and expansion joints. With a shorter wheelbase than the sedan, it feels more nimble through the corners, but with the front-weight bias of front-wheel drive, the Coupe is not meant to compete with rear-drive coupes like the Infiniti G37, despite its generous horsepower. This is a sporty coupe, not a performance coupe.


Verdict

The four-cylinder Altima Coupe 2.5S with the optional continuously variable transmission is a very quiet and comfortable car with a stylish body, good performance and a classy interior. But rear visibility is poor and there’s limited headroom and trunk space.


Pricing: 2008 Nissan Altima Coupe 2.5S CVT

  • Base price: $27,798
  • Options: $3,825: CVT ($1,200), metallic/pearl paint ($125), and a Premium Leather Package ($2,500) which includes leather seats, leather wrapped shifter, console lighting, manual driver’s seat lumbar adjustment, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto dimming rear-view mirror, HomeLink garage door opener , compass in rear-view mirror) , Bose audio system with in-dash six-CD changer with MP3/WMA playback capability, nine speakers, speed sensitive volume control, and XM Satellite Radio.
  • Freight: $1,300
  • A/C tax: $100
  • Price as tested: $33,023 Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications

  • Click here for complete specifications


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Competitors

  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Honda Accord Coupe TBA
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Toyota Solara Coupe TBA
  • Buyer’s Guide: 2008 Pontiac G6 coupe TBA


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