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TWO TO TANGO

This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!

Published on Sat, Dec 27, 2008

By: The LACar Editorial Staff

© All photos by Harvey Schwartz

TWO TO TANGO By Harvey Schwartz

The all-new 2008 Altima Coupe is another fun-to-drive, Nissan mid-size coupe that comes with more power, performance, comfort, convenience and safety features. The styling is smooth and sexy, the power is upped to 270 horsepower, you have a choice of a six-speed manual or CVT, front-wheel-drive transmission, a refined, sport-tuned, fully independent suspension, powerful four-wheel disc brakes, while sitting in a sporty designed and roomy, contemporary interior, with all of your favorite creature comforts. Based on last year's much heralded Altima sedan, and after serious market research, the all-new coupe fills a desire among target customers for a more personal expression of style, individuality and fashionable appearance. The Altima coupe's unique exterior styling is intended to stand out in a crowd of sedan-based two-door coupes with its magnetic, perfectly proportioned styling with a shorter wheelbase, shorter overall length and its lower ride height than the sedan.

The smaller size and lighter curb weight gives the coupe a sportier driving experience - attributes of the typical younger, more performance-oriented coupe buyer. The coupe's smaller dimensions, driver-oriented cockpit and its unique styling give it an extensive amount of separation from the sedan. Sharing only a common hood, all other panels, grille, headlights and rear combination lights are unique to the coupe. Up front is rounded and low, sweeping up over the hood to the steeply raked A-pillars. Cat's eye headlamp clusters are very unique and behind clear lenses. The unique Nissan grille has a tasteful chrome surround. Just below is a wide air-intake with integrated round foglamps. The smooth silhouette features flared fenders, sloping roofline that ends at the end of the trunk, aerodynamic designed sideview mirrors with turn-signal lights, deep side extensions and a rearward angle on the B-pillar to give the car the look of motion when parked. The rear is smooth and follows the sloping roofline. At the rear are large, wraparound taillamps, a very angular trunk lid, two, three-inch wide polished stainless steel exhaust tips and a diffuser below to help better manage the airflow. Under the sophisticated exterior design, the coupe shares the platform, powertrain and user-friendly features and innovations found in the Altima sedan. The coupe utilizes Nissan's all-new, highly acclaimed 'D' platform with increased body rigidity and a redesigned fully independent suspension. The new sport-tuned suspension geometry, struts, shock absorbers with rebound springs, the engine placement is now placed lower in the subframe, and equal-length half-shafts that have equal angles and are more parallel to the ground, all help to virtually eliminate torque steer. On hard launch I did feel a little tugging to the right but it was no problem after a second.

The rear multi-link independent suspension design separates the rear shocks and coil springs for reduced friction and the shocks are in line with the center of the rear wheels, providing better damping and less harshness. Front and rear stabilizer bars come standard, and keep body lean to a minimum when cornering at high speed. Putting more of the power on the ground is the limited slip differential that comes with the optional VDC (vehicle dynamic control). I would recommend it with the larger engine. You can shut it down by pushing a dash-mounted toggle switch. I liked the way the car's new sporty handling characteristics showed itself in the mountains where the coupe tracked nicely coming out of steep curves at high speed. The lower center of gravity, and better front-to-rear weight distribution was greatly appreciated. The new Altima coupe is offered with a choice of two engines and two transmissions. The 3.5 liter 24-valve DOHC V6 is the 'next generation' version of the 12-time Ward's 10 Best Engines award-winning VQ-series V6. In the coupe it is rated at 270 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. It gives you strong acceleration and refined sound quality. The V6 features reduced friction, improved cylinder head cooling and new twin knock sensors. Also available is a 2.5 liter DOHC 16-valve QR25 inline four-cylinder engine producing 175 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. This engine has been refined from the previous version with a larger, equal-length intake manifold, increased compression ratio and reduced friction characteristics. It features a silent chain drive and a balancer system (with balancer changed to a center-mounted position for better NVH) that effectively negates vibrations without taking up much space-combining ideal packaging and smoothness. Both engines feature continuous variable valve timing (VVT), modular engine design, microfinished crank journal and cam lobes, molybdenum coated lightweight pistons and electronically controlled throttles.

Both engines are available with Nissan's advanced Xtronic CVT (continuously variable transmission) or a smooth shifting 6-speed manual. The driving dynamics of the coupe is biased toward a sport feel, especially when equipped with the V6 engine. The fully independent suspension hugs the road and the steering system gives you a well-connected feel behind the wheel. The twin-orifice vehicle-speed-sensitive power rack & pinion steering system makes driving the new Altima coupe more seamless as the wheels quickly react to your inputs. Quickly and safely slowing the Altima coupe down from speed are powerful four-wheel disc brakes. Up front are 11.7-inch vented discs clamped with dual-piston calipers, while the rear solid rotors measure 11.5 inches and clamped with single-piston calipers. Your braking control and distance is enhanced with standard ABS and electronic brake force distribution. The V6 coupe rides on large 17X8 alloy wheels wrapped with 215/55R17 Bridgestone performance tires, while the inline four-cylinder model rides on 16X7 alloy wheels and all-season tires. The design and engineering that went into the all-new coupe is excellent and works well whether you are maneuvering around slow city traffic or at high speed on the freeways. The coupe's performance feeling is also enhanced by a driver-centered interior. Though sharing much of the design and features with the sedan, the coupe includes a unique sport-style front bucket seats with more side bolstering to keep you in place during spirited driving times, an in-board release lever and front kangaroo pouches. All Altima coupes also utilize a parking brake hand lever, and the 60/40 split and flat fold-down rear seat.

Like the sedan, the coupe's instrument panel features a Fine Vision gauge display for enhanced readability and the L-shaped flow of the instrument panel to the center console adds to the driver-oriented cockpit feel. All of the interior materials are soft to the touch with aluminum trim found in strategic locations. The center console includes a double front cup holder, shift gate, storage compartments and a deep and wide storage bin with padded armrest. Standard features found in my V6 tester included Intelligent Key with push button start/stop ignition, power sliding moonroof, AC with in-cabin microfilter, cruise-control, power windows/door locks, AM-FM-CD audio system with six-speakers and auxiliary audio input jack, easy rear access passenger seat lever, tilt-telescoping, leather-wrapped steering wheel for the perfect reach and angle for better steering control, power-remote/heated side view mirrors, flat-blade speed-sensitive windshield wipers, front map lights with sunglass storage, grab handles above each door, rear window defroster, two 12-volt power plugs, front seat lower cushion storage pockets, and illuminated dual visor vanity mirrors. Options include leather trimmed seats, heated driver/front passenger seats, XM satellite radio, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, Bose Audio system with AM/FM/Six-CD player with MP3/WMA CD-ROM playback capability and nine-speakers, HID headlights, dual-zone automatic temperature control, Home-Link universal transceiver, auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, leather-wrapped shift lever, illuminated console lighting, and Nissan's Navigation System The new coupe also comes standard with a host of safety features including Zone Body construction with front/rear crumple zones and advanced airbag system including dual-stage front airbags, front seat side-impact airbags, roof-mounted curtain side-impact airbags, three-point seat belts for all seats, active head restraints, LATCH system for child seats and a tire pressure monitoring system. Like the Altima sedan, the coupe delivers if you're looking for style, performance comfort and affordability. Prices for the four-cylinder model starts at just $19,500.00 and $24,970.00 for the V6 model. My nicely loaded test coupe was priced at $28,970.00.

© Words and pictures by Harvey Schwartz SUMMARY JUDGMENT It's a prime example of getting more for less, as the sporty Altima gets even sportier with two less doors.

SPECIFICATIONS Name: Nissan Altima 3.5 Coupe Price: $28,970.00 as tested EPA mileage: 19mpg/city, 27mpg/highway (V6 with six-speed manual) Engine: 3.5 liter, DOHC, all-aluminum V6 Horsepower 270 at 6,000 rpm Torque: 258 pound-feet at 4,400 rpm Drive configuration: Front engine, front-wheel-drive Transmission: CVT-continuously variable transmission Front suspension: Sport-tuned, independent MacPherson Struts, coil springs, anti-roll bar Rear suspension: Sport-tuned, independent, multilink, coil springs, gas-charged shocks, anti-roll bar Wheels/tires: 17in.8 aluminum alloy wheels, 215/55R17 high-performance, all-season radials Brakes: Front: 11.7-inch vented rotors/dual-pistons calipers Rear: 11.5-inch solid rotors/single-pistons calipers ABS, EBD Total length: 182.5 inches Total width: 70.7 inches Total height: 55.3 inches Curb weight: 3,205 pounds

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