THE RIDE: Four-door, five-passenger 2008 Nissan Altima 3.5 SE V-6 coupe.
DOWN THE ROAD: All new for 2008, the front-wheel-drive coupe from Nissan is quite distinct from its sedan sibling. Available in two trims, 2.5 S and 3.5 SE, the coupe has a 4-inch shorter wheelbase, 7.1-inch less overall length and 2.5-inch lower profile than its four-door cousin. The result is a crisp and sporty-handling vehicle.
TECH & PERFORMANCE: The 3.5-liter V-6 engine doles out 270 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 258 pounds-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. It is mated to a standard six-speed manual or a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT), which shifts quietly and smoothly. The speed-sensitive power rack-and-pinion steering is direct, conveying a solid on-center experience to the driver. An independent strut with coil springs in the front and a rear multilink independent suspension, coupled with stabilizer bars, help sustain stability. The ample 11.7-inch vented front and 11.5-inch rear brake discs operate inside 17-inch aluminum alloy wheels shod with 215/55 all-season tires.
LOOK & FEEL: The stylish and tidy coupe shows off a five-sided grille with a chrome bar at the bottom, body-colored mirrors, raked windshield and large dual headlights and tail lamps. The elegance continues in the cabin with cushiony and roomy seats. To start the car, just push the ignition button with the key fob in your pocket. Nissan should be commended for equipping the four-spoke leather steering wheel with both tilt and telescoping capabilities. Chrome and metallic trim are sprinkled around air-conditioning vents, audio and climate controls, center stack and door panels. The center console can hold quite a few of your belongings as can the storage area under the center stack. There also are four cup holders in the front and two for passengers in the rear seat, which splits and folds 60/40. The white-on-black gauges on the instrument panel are clear to read.
SAFETY FIRST: Dual front and side airbags, side curtain for both rows, four-wheel antilock brakes with brake assist, front-seat active head restraints, front and rear crumple zones, traction control, tire pressure monitoring system and front-seat belts with pretensioners are some of the standard features.
OUT THE DOOR: $25,390, plus tax, tag, delivery and destination charges.
BY THE NUMBERS: Tires, P215/55VR17 all season; wheelbase, 105.3 inches; length, 182.5 inches; weight, 3,271 pounds; fuel capacity, 20 gallons; highway, 27 mpg; city, 19 mpg.
WHY DIG IT: With its pleasing exterior appearance, interior practicality and agile character, the all-new vehicle should be an attractive proposition for potential coupe buyers. Best of all, the two-door car helps to lessen the burden of rising gas prices on the pocketbook, thanks to praiseworthy 22 mpg city/highway mileage figures.