2012 Nissan Altima 3.5 SR coupe
2012 Nissan Altima 3.5 SR coupe. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Jil McIntosh

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2012 Nissan Altima

If there’s something to be said about automotive fashion, it’s that it can be no more predictable than the clothing fashion variety. There once was a time when it seemed that almost every midsize mainstream model came with a choice in the number of doors you could order. Now, coupe styling is pretty much limited to rear-wheel drive sports car models, and my tester, the Nissan Altima Coupe.

Among similarly-sized front-wheel drive cars, the Altima’s only direct competition comes from the Honda Accord Coupe which, like the Nissan, can be had with a choice of four- or six-cylinder engine.

2012 Nissan Altima 3.5 SR coupe
2012 Nissan Altima 3.5 SR coupe
2012 Nissan Altima 3.5 SR coupe. Click image to enlarge

The Altima comes with a choice of two engines. A 2.5-litre four-cylinder produces 175 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque, while my tester used a 3.5-litre V6, churning out 270 horses and 258 lb.-ft. In keeping with the sportier nature, both of them base with a six-speed manual transmission, but my tester had been optioned to the CVT with manual mode that was added to both. The 2.5-litre comes only in base “S” trim, starting at $27,698. The V6 is the upscale version, available only in upper-line SR trim, starting at $35,298. That includes such features as 18-inch alloy wheels, xenon headlamps, sunroof, rearview camera, Bluetooth, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather seats and a premium Bose stereo.

Its Honda rival also comes with four or six cylinders, and its 3.5-litre V6 makes 271 horsepower and 254 lb.-ft. of torque, matched to a six-speed manual or no-charge five-speed automatic. It’s loaded with features as well, including a standard navigation system, for $35,890. My tester’s navigation screen was a $2,900 option and the CVT was an additional $1,300. Save for its halogen headlamps, the Accord is kitted out very closely to the Nissan but with a $3,608 price advantage. It’s also roomier, with ten more litres of cabin space, and 106 more litres of trunk than the Nissan.

Arguably a better-looking car than the Accord, and taken on its merits, the Altima is an easy car to like. The engine is strong and smooth, and while a CVT generally isn’t the first choice on a sportier model, this one is really well done, and the combination of engine and gearbox – or should I say gearless box? – is very good. The throttle is smooth and easy to regulate and acceleration is linear, but the sound could be better: the throaty little growl from the exhaust can’t quite offset the acceleration hum from the CVT. Anything’s possible with enough technology, but I don’t think I’ll live to see the day that these belt-and-pulley units usurp real gears in a genuinely sporty car.

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