Review: In 2010 Altima coupe, Nissan keeps 2-door design alive
Two-door coupe versions of popular four-door sedans have been fading in popularity since designers figured out how to make four doors look sexy. Gone is the Toyota Solara, a two-door Camry. Ford has never sold a two-door version of the Taurus or ...
Two-door coupe versions of popular four-door sedans have been fading in popularity since designers figured out how to make four doors look sexy. Gone is the Toyota Solara, a two-door Camry. Ford has never sold a two-door version of the Taurus or Fusion, and Chevrolet's Monte Carlo, essentially a two-door Impala, lives on only in the memories of NASCAR fans. Honda still has a two-door Accord, but sales pale compared to the sedan.
It was a mild surprise, then, that Nissan decided to sell a two-door version of its popular Altima sedan. It was even more surprising that designers massaged the Altima coupe into a genuinely pretty car. Final surprise: It's fun to drive.
Not so surprising, though, is that the Altima coupe hasn't been setting sales records. I suspect one reason is the revival of the domestic pony car market -- suddenly the Altima coupe not only has to battle a rejuvenated Ford Mustang, but also a Chevrolet Camaro and a Dodge Challenger, all available, nicely equipped, in the same price range as this deluxe Altima coupe SR -- about $30,000.
That's for the top-of-the-line Altima coupe, though, like the model SR test car. It has the 3.5-liter, 270-horsepower V-6 engine, with a good-but-not-great six-speed manual transmission. It's a strong, proven engine, but the Altima coupe's suspension and 18-inch all-season tires, coupled with the Altima's front-wheel-drive platform, make this essentially a sporty coupe, instead of a sports coupe. Performance-oriented enthusiasts are likely to gravitate toward the Mustang, Camaro or Challenger, or Nissan's own 370Z, which starts at just over $30,000.
Don't take that as a criticism of the Altima coupe, because it isn't -- all this applies to the Honda Accord coupe, too. Both emphasize style and luxury over performance.
And both are available in a much less expensive form than the V-6-powered premium model. The base Altima coupe, at under $24,000, is standard with a 2.4-liter, 175-horsepower four-cylinder engine that can squeeze out an EPA-rated 23 mpg city, 32 mpg highway, compared to the 18/27 mpg rating for the V-6 test car, which isn't bad for 270 horsepower.
Inside, the Altima SR coupe is nicely appointed, but not to, say, Maxima or 370Z levels. The leather-upholstered bucket seats are comfortable even for long trips. The rear seat -- well, this is a typical coupe, meaning it's fine for kids, just tolerable for adults. Though the front seats slide well forward, it still takes mild acrobatics to get back there. Similarly, trunk space isn't quite sedan-sized, with a reasonably large but shallow luggage area.
The test car had a 4.3-inch color display screen that suggests the presence of a navigation system, but there wasn't one. There was a rear-view camera -- nice, as rear visibility isn't great -- and there's also a seven-speaker Bose sound system, a power sunroof and most all the other luxury features you'd expect. Safety features abound too, including stability control, antilock brakes and side and side-curtain airbags. Since the SR has all this as standard, the only option was a $175 set of mats that, with $720 in shipping, brought the bottom line to $30,495.
On the road, the Altima coupe was quick and nimble, with a very comfortable highway ride. Race-minded enthusiasts may wish for a stiffer suspension, but its mild manners make this one of the most passenger-friendly coupes available.
That and the sleek styling should help the Altima coupe find a small but dedicated fan base.
2010 NISSAN ALTIMA 3.5 SR COUPE:
--Base price: $29,600
--Test drive: $30,495
--EPA rating: 18 mpg city, 27 mpg highway
--Engine: 3.5-liter, 270-horsepower V-6
--Transmission: Six-speed manual
--Length: 180.9 inches
--Bottom line: Hot looks, mild manners