By on January 18, 2008

08-altimacaltrans107.jpgNissan says the Altima Coupe was designed separately from the Altima sedan. It’s a different car, from the ground-up. Roger that. Not since the Chevrolet Lumina Sedan and Minivan have two more disparate vehicles shared the same name. While Chrysler’s auto show folk are talking-up the joys of a “shared genetic pool,” the Altima Coupe 3.5SE isn’t even swimming in the same ocean as the sedan. In fact, the Altima Coupe deserves a sexier name, something distinctive, with more panache. I suggest “Accord-killer,” but it’s unlikely to get approved by any legal department, anywhere.

A quick tour around the Altima Coupe reveals  the missing link; Nissan took the 3.5SE to Infiniti and beyond. From the side, the two-door Altima is nearasdammit a dead ringer for the new G37. Sure, they changed the headlights and taillights, gave it dumpier base trim and hood strakes (and aren’t charging you an arm and a leg for it). But the DNA is there. Chrome milk moustache non-withstanding, the 3.5SE Altima Coupe is a whole lot of sexy. It’s every bit as hot looking as the new Accord Coupe is not, and a fair piece cheaper.

08-altimacaltrans113.jpgOne sit behind the base 3.5SE’s wheel shows why this bad boy is a bargain basement bomber. The base SE comes with cloth seats and the most basic of pseudo-luxury accoutrements, including push-button engine start and stop and one of those nagging fuel economy gauges that tries to guilt you into punching the gas less. But there is nothing to dispel the notion that you’re in a souped-up economy car. Sure, the fancier options are there, but if your style is ‘shut up and drive,’ being able to forego leather seats and premium audio is a bonus.

Yes, the 3.5SE’s cabin is nicer than many of its Japanese rivals, but oy, the ergonomics. The shoulder bolsters were more than a tad overly-bolstered (and I’m not exactly a football player), the center armrest is ill-positioned and the entire interior had the most overpowering new car smell I’ve ever suffered.

But by far the worst offender: the system used to move the passenger seat forward so the few and the damned (damned few?) can enter the backseat. Nissan's placed the latch on the far side of the passenger seat, where only the driver can see and reach it, and only while they’re seated. Forcing the driver to move the seat is cruel and unusual punishment. 

08-altimacaltrans104.jpgEngine on, and all is forgiven (for the driver anyway). In terms of sheer engine performance, Goldilocks couldn’t ask for a better whip. The 2.5S is too slow. The G37 is too expensive. In terms of horsepower to dollars to curb weight, the 3.5SE Coupe just nails it. Zero to sixty takes just 5.8 seconds. The high-revving, hefty Accord feels downright sluggish next to this beast. Astonishingly, the Altima has more torque and horsepower and better gas mileage.

No matter what you’re doing, prodding the gas is immensely, intensely and immediately satisfying. A cackle-worthy exhaust note would be the cherry on the icing on the cake. The 3.5SE's six-speed manual is better than Nissan’s standard fare, delivering unrestricted access to every last one of the 350SE Coupe’s 270 horses. If you start comparing it to better gearboxes… just offer a silent prayer that it’s not a CVT.

08-altimacaltrans105.jpgIn terms of handling, the 3.5SE’s a front wheel-drive car. Push it and you’ll be "rewarded" by the gradual onset of understeer. Thankfully, tight proportions (a small wheelbase and a stubby rear) mean you never feel like the nose is trying to plow a path to scenery, or an angry god controls the tail end. It’s Goldilocks material again: smooth, safe and predictable.

Nissan has even managed to keep the torque steer demons at a distance, although uncomfortably numb steering is the regrettable result. Once you get used to the anesthetic helm, you can cane the 3.5SE like a pro– just don’t expect the sort of feedback you’d get from a car that really knows its way around a track.

08-altimarear.jpgThe 3.5SE’s highway ride is comfortably quiet, with little wind noise and a moderate amount of tire roar. Around town, the 3.5SE’s suspension absorbs bumps and potholes with ease. Standard safety features won't win any awards; even stability control costs you extra. Stripper lover's alert: nearly everything is optional. The Altima is a blank slate with a fast engine, just waiting for you to customize with your choice of toys. Or not.

So the 3.5SE’s dead sexy, has the guts to match and starts at $24k. Not to put too fine a point on it, that’s the sort of price point that pisses in Subaru and Honda’s Wheaties. If you’re less than six feet tall, emo-thin and don’t need space for more than two, I can’t think of a car in its class that presents a better performance bargain. 

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85 Comments on “2008 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5SE Review...”


  • avatar
    timoted

    Nice review. Having owned 2 of these in the past (’03 sedan & ’05 sedan) my 2 biggest complaints were too much torque steer and seats that didn’t have enough lateral support. It almost felt like you were on a bench seat. I would agree that if you get one, dont waste your time with the 2.5S. It’s worth the extra $$ to get the 3.5 SE.

  • avatar
    quasimondo

    A shame it’s not RWD. We could’ve been witnessing the rebirth of the 240sx.

  • avatar
    L47_V8

    Can anyone explain to me why the Altima’s standard keyless start range is so massive? You can unlock, start, and drive this thing while the key’s in a drawer in a desk in a building hundreds of feet away. Seems a bit unsafe.

    Still, it’s nice to see Nissan returning to its pre-1997 roots with affordable-yet-fun vehicles. However, not to dredge up old arguments, this doesn’t sound to me like a five-star review – four, maybe, but not five, given the ergonomic flaws.

  • avatar

    A shame it’s not RWD. We could’ve been witnessing the rebirth of the 240sx.

    Yup. But it’s still a blast to drive. As for fuel mileage, if you cane it and keep it near the red line like the 3.5L V6 seductively encourages, it goes downhill fast. It’s a hilariously fun engine to flog.

  • avatar
    shaker

    I looked at a 2.5S last summer — a nice car with a surprisingly good driving position and room for my 6’5″ frame (as long as you don’t bother with the sunroof!).
    But the trunk (especially with the optional subwoofer) is very small and shallow; I think that you’d have to fold down the rear seat to carry a golf bag. Nice, but not practical for a single-car household.

  • avatar
    matt

    When I first heard they were sticking the VQ V6 in a front drive Altima, I thought this thing would torque steer like crazy, but apparently this is not the case. Glad to hear it. Still not trading in my 350z though…

  • avatar
    AKM

    I can’t comment on the other ratings, but having seen the coup in person a few times, I’m not so hot about the styling. While the side looks good (although not as good as a 350z) and the front decent, the rear is way overwrought, and bulbous at the same time. Meh. But hey, tastes in design are so subjective that it’s hard to ever agree!

  • avatar
    Steve_K

    I was genuinely interested in the (exterior) look and potential of this car, until I reached this sentence: “…the 3.5SE’s a front wheel-drive car.”

    No thanks. The end. Zero stars.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    Oh yes, there is torque steer, but even without stability control it’s not unbearable (the one I drove did not have the VDC). I still don’t think anything I’ve driven torque steers as viciously as a Mazdaspeed3.

  • avatar

    People have differing reactions to the styling of this car: 1. It looks just like the G35 coupe, for less money. 2. It looks like a cheap Chinese knock-off of the G35 coupe, with vastly inferior proportions. I think the deciding factor is that some people have more of an eye for proportions than others. On an entirely different note, TrueDelta will have an initial reliability result for the 2008 Altima in a couple of weeks. So far twenty owners have responded. Always looking for more participants.

  • avatar
    Dayveo

    I don’t think it looks to hot in these photos but i walk past one everyday on my way to the train. It looks good in person.

  • avatar
    gamper

    I love Nissan’s VQ engine, even in FWD form, but I am generally not in love with the styling of the Altima Coupe. Perhaps someone knows if the 6-speed manual in the V6 is the same setup as the 6 speed in the 2.5 base model. I happened to drive the 2.5 with a 6-speed and found the manual transmission to be complete garbage. One of the clunkiest contraptions I have ever driven.

    I dont disagree with the review, but am I the only one who notices that very few cars, if any, on TTAC can get by on Performance alone. The ergonomic flaws of the Altima Coupe would have doomed just about any other car to 3 star status. Is Megan Benoit the only actual “car guy” writing for this site??

  • avatar

    In terms of handling, the 3.5SE’s a front wheel-drive car. Push it and you’ll be “rewarded” by the gradual onset of understeer. Thankfully, tight proportions (a small wheelbase and a stubby rear) mean you never feel like the nose is trying to plow a path to scenery, or an angry god controls the tail end. It’s Goldilocks material again: smooth, safe and predictable.

    Translation? Dreadfully boring.

    This is a fine car for housewives, secretaries, those with heart problems, and people who purchase greatest hits albums.

  • avatar
    durailer

    cretinx: I’ll take RWD, but if I have to live with a powerful front driver, please make it predictable.

    Sounds like Nissan has recaptured their quintessential niche with this car. Love the fact that it’s a stripper, and a relative lightweight yielding superior fuel efficiency and handling.

    Still, given its ergonomic shortcomings and vague helm, I don’t see this as a five-star offering. Entertaining review anyway.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    The ergonomics were annoying, but not a deal breaker, and the quality helped make up for some of the… ah, “eccentricities” of the design. My husband didn’t mind it half as much as I did, but I’m a bit more likely to whine about stuff like that. And once you start driving, you quickly forget what a pain it is to move the seats forward and that the armrest isn’t where you want it.

    The trunk is small, but it’s a coupe… if you want enough space for a set of golf clubs, go get an Accord coupe, or the 4-door Altima. And have fun cornering with either. If making it shorter helps the driving dynamics, so be it.

    You want to see bad design? Go find a manual IS250 and tell me what you think about where the cupholder is. It needs a sign or something… “Caution: Rapid downshifts may cause 3rd degree burns.”

    If a car could get by on performance alone, I’d have given the Legacy GT 5 stars. This car is *cheap* and has great performance, without sacrificing the interior or exterior quality.

    Oh, and if you want rear wheel drive, go buy a G37, or a Porsche, or a Lexus, or a BMW. In fact, let me know if you can find a new one for $25k.

  • avatar
    Jeff in Canada

    As a current 2.5S Coupe owner, I feel the need to offer a rebuttal to this glowing review.
    First: Intelligent key SUCKS! I hate it. The buttons on the fob are not recessed, so it’s very easy to say, set off the alarm, or unlock the trunk, or have the unlock button stay depressed, rolling your windows down in the middle of the night. I hate it, I WANT MY KEYS BACK!

    Second: For a ‘sporty’ car, the tires are awful. My base car has 16″ lousy all-seasons. This car handles so poorly, and its all because of the complete lack of grip. My last car was a Mazda 3 wagon, which was WAY more fun to drive.

    Third: The aforementioned seats. Not only are they very difficult to move to gain access to the actually usable rear seats, but they are quite uncomfortable, IMHO.

    Anyone considering this vehicle should definately drive the Accord first. Maybe I would feel differently if I had opted for the magical 3.5L, but the poor fuel economy and big price jump swayed me to the 2.5L.

    A car can only get by on it’s looks for so long, I feel the engineering under the skin isn’t up to the task.

  • avatar
    Nemphre

    I don’t know why it needs rear drive. The general public doesn’t want it, and why should they? Most people don’t take their car to a track or drive like a maniac.

  • avatar
    jerseydevil

    Michael Karesh :

    2. It looks like a cheap Chinese knock-off of the G35 coupe

    I am of this opinion. this car seems all – wrong – to me.

  • avatar
    Chaser

    Nissan’s formula is simple. They built a great engine in the VQ series, and now they stick it in otherwise subpar vehicles and call it a day. That’s how they win on price. I’ve owned an 02 Sentra Spec-V and an 05 Frontier, and they both looked great on paper. Fun for the first few months, then all the little flaws start driving you nuts. And I’m not talking about the actual problems that need to be fixed, although there are plenty of those as well. The dealerships around here are atrocious, too…high pressure, poor after-sales service, etc. Performance is great, but not at the cost of everything else.

  • avatar
    ericthejet

    Does Pontiac still make a coupe?
    Saw one in person, well done Nissan. The public will soon forget the G6.

  • avatar

    I like the review, Megan. But maybe its because I wasn’t raised with FWD cars…

    1. Putting the G35’s style onto a FWD chassis’ hard points makes this Altima looks terribly cheap and dorky. Chinese knockoff dorky.

    2. Any torque steer in a performance minded application is too much. FWD cars need less than 250hp…or need an AWD option to cater to the enthusiast crowd.

    3. This car would be irrelevant if the V6 Mustang had a better interior and the 3.5L Duratec.

  • avatar
    Steve_K

    “Oh, and if you want rear wheel drive, go buy a G37, or a Porsche, or a Lexus, or a BMW. In fact, let me know if you can find a new one for $25k.”

    Precisely. There are thousands of potential customers drumming their fingers on the dashboards of their trucks waiting for another powerful, affordable RWD car, myself included.

  • avatar
    timoted

    If you want an affordable RWD performer the Mustang GT fills in nicely. Granted the interior is crap but, the platform is great with a ton of aftermarket goodies to suit ones taste. A 1 or 2 year old GT can be had for around $25k. A ton of fun for a reasonable price.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    Precisely. There are thousands of potential customers drumming their fingers on the dashboards of their trucks waiting for another powerful, affordable RWD car, myself included.

    Precisely. And until there is (which is damn, DAMN unlikely), you take what you can get. This is a great car, and comes out at the top of the heap in its class. When “performance” cars have 300-400 horsepower (and up), 270hp is downright pedestrian. When it’s in a package that’s compatible with a car being a daily driver, and behaves with enough composure you don’t loathe the extra power, you don’t mind the understeer and torque steer as much. Yes, it’s not a true performance car. But it’s not marketed as such, either.

  • avatar

    ericthejet
    Does Pontiac still make a coupe?
    Saw one in person, well done Nissan. The public will soon forget the G6.

    They sell a rebadged Cobalt coupe as the G5, and have a G6 coupe and tin-top convertible.

  • avatar
    Virtual Insanity

    Megan, you said you drove the Speed3 as well. Power wise, how does this compare through the butt dyno? And did you really think torque steer is bad in the Speed3? I’m pushing around 370ftlbs of twist through the front wheels, and I hardly find it unbearable at all.

    And I saw one of these the other day, I kinda liked the looks.

  • avatar
    danms6

    Nice overall car for the price although I think that terrible lower grille should deduct a star alone. One can only imagine the potential of this car once they chop off the front overhang and get the right wheels laying down power.

  • avatar

    Expectations likely had something to do with it, but I found the amount of torque steer in the MazdaSpeed3 quite livable. The worst torque steer I’ve experienced: the previous generation Sentra Spec-V.

    The worst these days: just about any FWD CUV. There’s no chance of level half shafts with a CUV ride height. So any of those with a strong V6 is plagued by torque steer.

    On styling, I find the exterior of the Pontiac G6 much more attractive. The interior, that’s another story.

    In general I expect a coupe to handle better and look better than a sedan, given the loss of functionality. In the case of the Altima, the handling is much the same. I’ve already commented on the styling.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    So I’m gonna buy an Altima coupe for $25K when I can get a stripper 350Z for $28K? I don’t think so. If $25K is “cheap,” then so is $28K. If $3000 is a deal-breaker at this price point, then you can’t afford the $25K car either.

    And how exactly is this eating Subaru’s lunch? I don’t see this competing with the LGT. FWD in the rain and snow sucks. Even my GTI gets funny on paint stripes in the rain, and it’s no where near as powerful as a VQ.

  • avatar
    confused1096

    The ergonomics were annoying, but not a deal breaker, and the quality helped make up for some of the… ah, “eccentricities” of the design. My husband didn’t mind it half as much as I did, but I’m a bit more likely to whine about stuff like that. And once you start driving, you quickly forget what a pain it is to move the seats forward and that the armrest isn’t where you want it.

    Thanks for mentioning that. It is the sort that doesn’t matter for the first few weeks, but drives you insane six months into owning a car. Good review.

    So I’m gonna buy an Altima coupe for $25K when I can get a stripper 350Z for $28K? I don’t think so. If $25K is “cheap,” then so is $28K. If $3000 is a deal-breaker at this price point, then you can’t afford the $25K car either.

    The Altima coupe has back seats and is a tad more practical as a daily driver. The 350Z, while cool, is a sports car/toy. Different priorities for different buyers.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    Virtual Insanity
    The power band is much smoother on the Altima, and the car doesn’t feel as sluggish right off the line. But that’s what you get when you don’t have a turbo that needs to spool up. The MS3 is not a bad car at all, and a good deal, but I always felt Mazda sacrificed too much to get the gas mileage rating it has… the GTI has significantly less horsepower and yet the 0-60 is very, very close, and it shouldn’t be. The MS3 wasn’t nearly as enjoyable to drive, performance-wise, at least for me. It depends on what you dig, though.

  • avatar
    NICKNICK

    # Megan Benoit :
    January 18th, 2008 at 12:06 pm

    “the GTI has significantly less horsepower and yet the 0-60 is very, very close, and it shouldn’t be. ”

    that’s what’s wrong with FWD. no matter how much HP you throw at it, they seem to top out at 0-60 in the high 5s because you eventually can’t get more traction without drag slicks. Add more HP and you improve 30-70 or 60-90 or whatever, but you add torque steer.

    FWD sucks all around. Sure it lowers assembly costs, but you’ll probably pay for it in tire wear with 60% of the weight up front. The extra room they supposedly provide goes away when you put a giant console in place of the old driveshaft tunnel. also, sit in a 3-series and note the legroom provided by pushing the wheels to the front of the car.

    unless i become poor again, my GTI is the last FWD car i’ll own, and when you’re in the market for a $500 buick, who cares

  • avatar
    carguy

    While it’s not a bad car, I do have some issues with the whole concept of FWD ‘sports’ coupes.

    1.V6 equipped front wheel drive cars make for badly balanced vehicles – there is simply too much weight up front.

    2. If I have to put up with a front driver then at least it should be practical which this 2 door is not.

    3. If I wanted a Nissan sports coupe with the VQ engine I can get a RWD 350Z for only about $2K more.

    I really can’t find any compelling reason to want one – you have to sacrifice all the practicality of the 4 door and get too little in return.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    NICKNICK

    When you compare Nissan’s V-6 to Subaru’s V-6 (which, incidentally, is available in the LGT 3.0R), the falls short of it in every way — it gets much worse gas mileage, and is not nearly as powerful (granted, it is smaller, but I’d forgive it if it got better gas mileage). Heck, even the turbo 4 in the LGT gets worse gas mileage and it’s not appreciably faster 0-60. Oh, and both will set you back at least $4k more than the Altima.

    That is why Nissan is killing Subaru with this car. The VQ engine is kicking ass and taking names, while Subaru continues to ship their newest, best engines to Japan and Europe and not the US. Don’t get me wrong, I love the turbo 4 in the LGT, but I don’t need AWD, and better gas mileage (with nearly the same performance) would sure as heck be appreciated with gas prices expected to skyrocket yet again this summer.

    The 350Z only seats 2. Some people can live with that, some people would like a backseat to stow stuff in. If you’d like a less functional car that costs more, be my guest. It’s not that most people couldn’t afford to spend the extra $3000 on a car, it’s that they don’t want to if they don’t have to (don’t forget, most people finance — over time that $3k grows pretty fast), especially with depreciation being what it is.

  • avatar
    SWA737

    When I first read about this car I was hoping I had found the successor to my RSX-TypeS.

    I’ve always ben a fan of the VQ series engine, but I have to agree with some of the other posters, this platform just isn’t quite up to the level of the engine. The clunky shifter, the cabin, the “almost, but not quite” a G37 styling.

    For the $ it’s not a bad car, but it lacks the refinement and “all of a piece” feel of the RSX-S.

    It seems like all of the current cars in this class lean too far to one side or the other. Boy racer Nintendo cars for Gen Y, or 21st century Buick Riviera’s for the enlarged prostate set. No one seems to be willing or able to hit that perfect balance of sportiness, quality and refinement. The GTi is about the closest, but a nicely equipped one is pushing 30 grand, and the long term reliability of the Mexican built VWs just doesn’t seem up to Honda-Acura-Toyota standards.

    I wish Honda/Acura would get back into this market segment. Or at least build an Accord Coupe that didn’t come with a case of Viagra in the glove box.

  • avatar
    doctorv8

    If the Altima is a “dead ringer” for the G37, then Rob Schneider is a dead ringer for The Rock.

    (cast one most vote for the cheap Chinese knockoff contingent)

  • avatar
    Johnson

    I must admit I am perplexed by some parts of this review. Eating Subaru’s lunch? I doubt that. On quality and reliability alone Subaru wins hands-down. Subaru also has a nice market niche with it’s AWD cars, and this Altima Coupe does NOT fit into that niche. This car’s closest competitor is the Accord Coupe.

    Megan Benoit:
    If you want a fast cheap coupe, you cannot do better than this. Bravo, Nissan.

    I guess it depends how you define “cheap”, but I must respectfully disagree. From most driver accounts, the new Accord Coupe looks to have better handling and a more balanced chassis than this Altima. The Accord hands-down has the better interior and better ergonomics. Also Honda makes some of the best manuals in the industry.

    Then there is the issue of style. Looks are subjective, but I view the Accord Coupe as having far better styling than the Altima Coupe.

    If I was in the market for a “fast cheap coupe”, then the Accord Coupe would be the easy choice.

    Chaser:
    Nissan’s formula is simple. They built a great engine in the VQ series, and now they stick it in otherwise subpar vehicles and call it a day. That’s how they win on price. I’ve owned an 02 Sentra Spec-V and an 05 Frontier, and they both looked great on paper. Fun for the first few months, then all the little flaws start driving you nuts. And I’m not talking about the actual problems that need to be fixed, although there are plenty of those as well. The dealerships around here are atrocious, too…high pressure, poor after-sales service, etc. Performance is great, but not at the cost of everything else.

    I agree. Since the time that Nissan restructured itself with Ghosn and revamped it’s lineup, it’s been putting performance and styling above everything else, new products included. Even the newest Nissan interiors still have quirks and flaws and are not on the same level as class leaders. Styling is subjective, so I won’t get too into it. All I will say is that competitors like Toyota and Honda are adding more style, for better or for worse to their models. If we move onto performance, same thing. Nissan’s main competition equals or exceeds Nissan in performance now.

    So with style and performance no longer unique to Nissan models, how does Nissan go into the future? They may try to make all-round vehicles, but Toyota and Honda are masters at that.

    Nissan had a unique thing a few years back in 2003 or so, but now Nissans no longer stand out style-wise nor do they stand out performance-wise.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    I don’t get it.

    This car doesn’t deserve 5 star. Very heavy and it drives like a bulldozer. Try driving a Nissan on curves. I hope the knob for the side mirror doesn’t look like a knob for your computer speakers.

    I prefer the Acura RSX Type S

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    I was genuinely interested in the (exterior) look and potential of this car, until I reached this sentence: “…the 3.5SE’s a front wheel-drive car.”

    No thanks. The end. Zero stars.

    Some people prefer FWD, and can even flog such vehicles. Check many enthusiasts under the age of 30.

    Another consideration in comparison with the Z is the insurance costs. Way high for many age groups.

    At first I was all “whoa-G37 rip-off” when I saw pics of the vehicle. But the design lines wear better in person, and actually it’s classy in the old Acura CL manner (the CL-S was awesome. Demur, but awesome. Where have you gone, cool Acura coupes?). Except for the overwrought grill, this car is easily a triple. Clean up the interior ergonomics and it would be a homerun.

    Good job, Nissan.

  • avatar
    blue adidas

    With all of the great cars on this site that get 3 or 4 stars, the Altima doesn’t come close to deserving 5 stars. Not that it isn’t a good car, but it isn’t great. Even though it loosly resembles the G37 coupe, the Altima is downright dull… even fully optioned. And with FWD, the architecture is all wrong. It’ll sell like mad. But it’s not anything close to automotive perfection.

  • avatar
    SWA737

    “Where have you gone, cool Acura coupes?”

    Can I get an AMEN……….

  • avatar
    HEATHROI

    If the Nissan takes Subaru’s, Honda’s and Toyota’s lunch money, its going to be flushing the Mustang V6’s head in toilet block, FWD and all.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    Johnson

    See my earlier comment on the engine performance. That’s where Nissan is eating Subaru’s lunch. And if you think current Subarus are more reliable than Nissans, go check out Consumer Reports sometime. Nissan is making quite a name for itself in terms of quality and reliability, and Subaru has actually gone down somewhat.

    As far as your thoughts on the Altima vs. the Accord, I’ve driven both, and I wholeheartedly disagree. For starters, I also can only get the manual V-6 in the EX-L trim, which of course is going to be nicer than the Nissan… after all, I’m paying $32k for it, it had better be (and at $32k, it’s no longer a cheap coupe). The Accord coupe is too fat and heavy, and too long. The ergonomics are marginally better (different quirks and all that), but not outstanding, and the cabin was noisy as hell. The manual gearboxes are about even with each other… the Accord is a little better but I thought it was one of the worse Honda manuals I’ve used (don’t think you’re getting Civic Si type shifting in the Accord). I disagree with BEAT, the Accord drives like a bulldozer compared to the Altima, and I’d rather corner fast in the Altima.

    I did a review of the Accord EX-L Coupe not long ago — you may want to give it a read.

    SWA737
    FWIW, the GTI is manufactured in Wolfsburg, not Mexico. You can tell the difference, too, when you look at the Mexican-built Rabbit and compare it to the GTI.

    Two people now have brought up the RSX-S, and I have no idea where that comparison is coming from. They’re not even in the same class. If you want a stiff suspension, bumps and rattles included (and it will rattle), no torque, and a engine that must be red-lined constantly, but with excellent steering and shifting and a sporty feel, yes, the RSX-S is your car. But most adults want something a little nicer as a daily driver, with a more forgiving suspension, more room, and more power. The only thing the Altima has in common with the RSX-S is the number of doors (and even then that’s a stretch, as the RSX-S is technically a 3-door).

  • avatar

    @ SWA737:

    Amen.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    I mentioned the RSX-TYPE S Because they are in the same class 2 door sport coupe. If I compare RSX-S with Sentra that wouldn’t be the same.
    If I compare the Nissan GT-R with the RSX type S that wouldn’t be the same either.

    Just look at front end of this Altima from a rear view mirror you will notice right away it is a Nissan without beyond unreasonable doubt.

    I don’t get that RWD drive scenario of an Altima.

  • avatar
    BobJava

    This is more of a problem if you’re a G37 owner/potential buyer, but I can’t understand why Nissan would give both this and the G37 such similar styling.

    Somehow, for reasons I haven’t really identified, the G37 seems much less appealing, knowing there is a cheap “Chinese” knockoff in the next driveway.

    I love the styling of the G35 couple (understatement is a dying art) and think the G37 looks about as good. At a stoplight last fall, I looked across and said “hey, that’s the G37 … wait, is that the Altima?”

    When a car aficionado can’t easily distinguish between two very different cars (in terms of class, capabilities, and price) in the same manufacturing family, you might have a problem.

    What was Nissan thinking?

  • avatar
    Jordan Tenenbaum

    Beat,

    I don’t think the Altima is a sport coupe. It’s more of a GT than anything else.

    Seriously, what do you guys drive daily? Pagani Zondas?

    Good, spot-on review.

  • avatar
    BEAT

    What is GT means anyway? Grand Turismo or Grand Touring or just a PS3 game.

  • avatar
    Dave M.

    This is more of a problem if you’re a G37 owner/potential buyer, but I can’t understand why Nissan would give both this and the G37 such similar styling.

    Not the first time they did this – let’s jump in the wayback machine and revisit 1993 – the Infinity J30 and first Nissan Altima were the first “droopy butt” shapes out there. Soon enough the ‘people in the know’ can tell the difference. It’s the ignorant neighbor I’m more worried about…..

  • avatar
    B.C.

    GT = Gran Turismo. Big comfy car for long distance driving.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_tourer

    Problem is, ergonomics are very important for GT cars. I too disagree with the 5 star review here.

  • avatar
    bleach

    Interesting review and I want to try one out. This should sell well with the looks and the price point. Unlike the people frequenting this site that have the G37, branding and rwd dynamics all for context, most people will just say “hey it looks nice and seems to go fast.”

    As for the new Accord, it seems even duller than ever. In fact the high rear makes it look incomplete when you can so clearly see the 2 shiny exhaust tips connected to all the exposed plumbing. Driving behind one all I keep thinking is pull up your pants. Or is that fix your skirt?

  • avatar
    Johnson

    Megan Benoit, it seems that your experience with the Accord and Altima Coupes has been opposingly different than most people out there. Driver accounts talk about the Altima feeling like the porkier, less agile of the two. Also, *objectively* speaking, they both offer roughly equal straight-line performance, even if one may “feel” faster than the other.

    This may be a trivial point, but if anything the Accord Coupe will likely have an advantage of lower bumper repair costs when in a low speed impact. Nissans (and Infiniti models) over the past few years have done notoriously poor in low speed bumper impact tests, requiring very pricey repairs. Hondas have done much better (requiring much lower repair costs) in the same tests.

  • avatar
    Gardiner Westbound

    The famous Avis “We try harder” advertising campaign moved Avis from an unprofitable company with 11% of the USA car rental business to 35-percent of the market within three years.

    Nissan tries harder. Good for them!

  • avatar
    Chaser

    How Nissan earns a good reputation for reliability is beyond me. This is anecdotal evidence, I know, but of my friends and coworkers who have bought Nissan vehicles in the last 4 years I only know 1 who has had a flawless vehicle. I know 5 Frontier owners including myself and two of us traded our vehicles within two years because of major problems and dealerships that wouldn’t support their product. Another owner still has his but is dealing with an unresolved issue, and still another friend has a constant rattle under the hood. He just doesn’t want to fight the dealerships to get it repaired. Also, when I was on the Frontier forums we’d regularly get dissatisfied buyers who’d had numerous problems with their trucks.

    I totalled my Spec V on ice, but in 18 months it had one minor problem and 2 recalls. My ex-girlfriend’s Sentra had numerous recalls and TSBs as well. One of my coworkers recently traded her Altima because of all the problems and again, hostile dealerships.

    Like I said, this isn’t an official CR Test of Reliability ™ but just from talking cars with friends I hear of more Nissan problems than any other brand. The general consensus seems to be that Nissan is well behind Toyota and Honda for quality and reliability. Maybe Mr. Karesh can share what he’s learned from his reliability studies.

  • avatar
    Shannon

    For what it’s worth, the Nissan Altima sedan was ranked #1 by Consumer Reports, both in 4 cylinder and 6 cylinder guise. Anecdotal info aside, that’s praise from a non-enthusiast organization.

    The coupe is still a mystery to me. I understand that it’s a looks thing. But the Altima SE sedan actually weighs less than the coupe, doesn’t suffer from the same ergonomic maladies, and is available with the same engine, suspension, and 6 speed manual that Megan reviewed and enjoyed.

    I’ve driven the Altima V6 (SL and SE), the Accord EX V6, and the Camry SE V6. I found reasons to like each car, but really thought the Altima was an eager playmate, where I felt a little disconnected in the new Honda, and completely insulated from the experience in the Camry. I liked the interior materials in the Honda and Altima better than the Toyota. I’m afraid to admit, I actually loved the CVT transmission.

    Megan, did you try moving the adjustable center console armrest? It slides fore/aft and both my husband and I were able to position it so it was comfortable.

  • avatar
    bodayguy

    I bet they sell six times as many 2.5 models as the V6 versions.

    When I picked up my new 350Z this spring, I checked out the new Altima coupe. I thought the interior was awful the way the plastic seemed to jut out and swallow you.

    And the proportions of the car … not flattering. Bigger wheels help. Have you seen one of these with the small wheels and tires? Ughh.

    The market for these cars works in the cheaper model. Single women drivers who want to spend $20K.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    Megan, did you try moving the adjustable center console armrest? It slides fore/aft and both my husband and I were able to position it so it was comfortable.

    Fore and aft didn’t matter — the darn thing was too high for me and took a while to get used to. From the driver seat it’s not so bad until you hit the highway and aren’t shifting as much. From the passenger side, it’s irritating from the moment you sit down. But for someone with a different build, it might not be so bad. Car comfort is fairly subjective though, which is why I didn’t ding it too heavily for that or the bolstering.

  • avatar
    SWA737

    I certainly think the Altima Coupe and the RSX are in the same category; sporty hatchbacks priced in the low to mid 20s.

    Maybe I shop for cars differently than others, I don’t know, but the differences in ride, power, handling, etc aren’t issues that put one car in a different class than the other, they’re just pluses and minuses in each one’s column. High torque – low torque, good shifter – bad shifter, soft ride – firm ride. They’re still both sporty hatch backs in the mid 20s to me. If the RSX were still in production, I bet a lot of people would cross shop it against the Altima Coupe.

    As far as rattles, after 3+ years and 60,000 miles, I have zero rattles in the RSX, and I think that’s part of the dilemma; I have yet to find another car that offers the build quality of the Acura but still has as much refinement, practicality and performance for anywhere near the price.

    The current crop of offerings have generally benefited from the ever escalating horse power wars in terms of performance, but it’s hard to find that balance of performance and refinement for under 30k.

    Thanks for pointing out the GTi is still built in Der FadderLand. Do they fare any better than their Mexican built cousins in terms of mechanical reliability?

  • avatar
    Johnson

    Regarding Nissan’s quality/reliability: let’s see what Nissan achieves in 2010 on JD Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study. 2007 models will appear on that study.

    The latest long-term quality and reliability surveys STILL show Nissan as being below that of Honda and Toyota. New models right now don’t count as they haven’t been on the market long enough to judge long-term reliability.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    I certainly think the Altima Coupe and the RSX are in the same category; sporty hatchbacks priced in the low to mid 20s.

    Except one (well, this one) has a six-cylinder and produces half again as much horsepower and torque, and would absolutely smoke an RSX in anything but the twisties. And the Altima is a coupe, not a hatchback. Big difference there, if you’re a hatch fan like me. The Altima Coupe also weighs considerably more, is considerably larger, and is not targeted at the same demographic as the RSX was (since Acura killed it). Maybe the 4-banger Altima coupe is a more direct comparison, but you just can’t compare the RSX to the V6 Altima coupe, even if they do cost somewhat the same. Price and number of doors do not make up a class of automobile. The Acura was branded a luxury vehicle, and was priced as such.

    Every RSX I’ve driven had rattles, and my Integra suffered all the more as time went on. That stiff suspension and great handling are loads of fun, but you’ll be hearing from every door panel in your car eventually (not to mention your spine). Don’t think I don’t love the RSX — it (and the Integra) were great cars, and great bargains… if you got them used. Which is pretty much the only way to get them now, unfortunately. The Civic Si just isn’t the same thing.

    I’m not sure how the new GTI is faring in terms of reliability, at least compared to the prior iteration. I certainly hope it does better (owning one myself). In the year I’ve had mine, I’ve had one recall and zero problems. If you want to see what people think, go hang out on http://www.vwvortex.com and see what goes on there. I’d say they’re faring better overall so far, but only time will tell.

  • avatar
    sandi beale

    I’m with SWA737 here. I wanted to buy a new car this year…but am waiting and I guess will keep waiting. My ’02 GTI was the best in the class when I bought it (with the 3 things SWA mentioned) and I believe it still is. Unfortuanately, the reliability is a big problem. Still love to drive the car, don’t like the indent my butt has made on the seats at the service dept. The 350z is out for me, ’cause I need a car that has a back seat for my 70lb lab (she fits comfortably in the back of my GTI). Oh, wait. What about at mileage? I don’t understand why I can’t find a coupe or hatch with some spunk (not mega horses) but some punch and also environmentally decent. I looked at the new Volvo C30 and said to myself that 19 mpg city is just unacceptable. The option package was just too brain numbing, too. Also thinking about the Audi TT (realizing that we’re up at least $10k – $15k here and an even smaller back seat, I guess. Haven’t seen one up close.) Decided it was overpriced esp. considerting reliablity history and FWD.

  • avatar
    Nue

    Probably not a fair comparison from RSX to Integra there Megan as my last Integra’s ergonomics were downright atrocious compared to my current Mazdaspeed3 even though they cost roughly the same amount when new and inflation adjusted.

    RSX’s IRC from sitting and driving around in others have varying amounts of quality instilled upon them as I remember that Acura buffed up the luxury elements in the later years but they were a definite improvement regardless compared to my Integra at the time. Rattles were significantly better tuned out in base RSX imo as Type-S had (I think..) stiffer suspensions setups then the base ones and were a good deal softer on the spine.

  • avatar

    thanks for your review megan i like this
    car; damn near the performance of the deceased
    mazda speed6 with none of the pityfull styling.

    a question: you state “a cackle-worthy exhause note would be the cherry on the icing of the cake”. does
    this mean that the car sounds good or that it would
    be a nicer car if it sounded better? i don’t get it.

    i like your comment on the new-car smell of the
    interior being “the worst you have ever suffered”
    one thing that appeals to me about the car is the
    std. micro particle filter, as i am chemically
    sensitive. perhaps comments like yours will
    lend some awareness to the manufacturers that
    not everyone appreciates the offgassing of new
    plastics, and that if one type SMELLS worse than
    another, than that is a factor worthy of consideration.

    i like nissan, but i have heard that they charge
    more for their repair and maintanence parts.
    where is the value factor now?

  • avatar

    sandi beale:

    Consider a Civic SI maybe?

  • avatar
    tonycd

    “Nissan is making quite a name for itself in terms of quality and reliability”? Huh?

    I have to agree with the several dissenters from this statement. Everything I’ve seen for the last several years suggests that Carlos Ghosn has fundamentally tossed out the finicky Japanese way of building cars and replaced it with the French/American model of squeezing your suppliers’ unmentionables until your fingertips touch your palm.

    The upshot has been Japanese Infinities that score very well, Tennessee cars that have been on a gradual slide into mediocrity, and Mississippi trucks that have been an unmitigated disaster. I don’t care how fast an Altima is — I keep my cars past the end of the warranty, so it’s not getting my money.

  • avatar
    casper00

    At least it looks better then the new Honda Accord. People can easily mistake this car for a G35 with it’s front view…..overall it’s a nice sporty car.

  • avatar
    pb35

    tonycd

    I was just going to say the same thing, our 2004 Infiniti has been nearly bulletproof so far but it’s made in Japan. Not sure how the Tenn Nissans are faring.

    Also, Nissan seats have to be among the worst in the business. I took the Infiniti to work today and the drivers seat is like sitting on a park bench compared to my car.

  • avatar
    jthorner

    I’m a little confused when I read the text of the review and then see 5 stars. This is the first time I’ve seen a TTAC review reward 5 stars, yet obviously this vehicle is far from perfection even at it’s price point.

    What gives?

  • avatar
    matt

    tonycd:

    don’t forget about the 350z. thats still made in japan. at least it was for 05. they may have moved production for the new 07’s, but i doubt it.

    and i know its anectodal, but my 350z has had no problems whatsoever, besides a minor rattle from the cupholder.

  • avatar
    RGS920

    jthorner :
    January 19th, 2008 at 10:33 am

    I’m a little confused when I read the text of the review and then see 5 stars. This is the first time I’ve seen a TTAC review reward 5 stars, yet obviously this vehicle is far from perfection even at it’s price point.

    What gives?

    The Cooper S, Jaguar S type, and the Lambo got 5 stars I believe. I hear what the author is saying about this car and I can see giving 5 stars to it. It is not automotive perfection.. but for 24K for this car and what it offers at this price, I could objectively see how it is worthy of 5 stars.

  • avatar

    I publish a magazine in the Palm Springs area and would like to reprint Megan’s column on sat-navs in my February issue.
    Please contact me ASAP.

    Stewart Weiner
    760-275-2770

    Thank you,
    Stewart

    To see how your material will be handled, go to our web site:
    http://www.seasoninthesun.com

    Thanks!

  • avatar
    sandi beale

    Samir,

    Yes, but something about the styling of the Civic SI bothers me. The lines from the hood to the nose are just not right somehow. Reminds me of the Celica (ST?): a wannabe sports car for the youngsters. Not that there’s anything wrong with that and the GTI ain’t exactly a Porsche, but to my eyes, the GTI has a nerdy chic and performance that other cars in it’s class can’t match. Might look into the MazdaSpeed as I’d like what I’ve read here and like its looks, but it’s 4-door.

  • avatar
    Dorian666

    Since most people will by this with the v6/Cvt setup. Thats what it should of been tested with. A week or two with that CVT with its fuel economy setup would put things in different light.

    So basically this is a point and squirt car and the handling is PS3 like. As breaks the rule of maximumn of 200 HP through the front wheels so its going to be compentent as best.

    I would like to see Top Gear test this car CVT/V6 on a wet steet or track. The faces they would pull would be classic.

    Styling ? I dont think the G37 is good looking, so I will leave it at that.

    This is Nissian Monte Carlo on a good day.

    Good value car ? yes, 5 star TTAC car – no .

  • avatar
    muffinman

    Sorry, but how in the hell is this a 5-star car? If I didn’t see the 5-star rating prior to reading the review, I would’ve expected 3.5-4 stars.

    As for your viewpoint on Accord Coupe vs. Altima Coupe, I think you’ll find yourself in the vast minority. In fact, Edmunds Inside Line did a back-to-back direct comparison of the Accord Coupe and Altima Couple.. it wasn’t even close, the Accord won hands-down.

  • avatar
    Macca

    ^ I’m sorry, but this last post baffles me. Edmunds Inside Line did a test of the two coupes and chose the Accord as the winner – making Megan’s opinion of the Altima’s superiority incorrect? And since when was being in the vast minority an indication of being wrong? It is an opinion after all. I’d rather read more differing opinions from publications such as these than bring up review after review that sounds eerily similar, praising the same car in all the same ways.

    I don’t own an Altima coupe, and nor do I want to, but this was her take on it, so I’d say get over it. Apparently some Accord owners take this personally, however.

  • avatar
    bravenrace

    Does anyone else hate this design trend of using huge wheel arch lips? To me that one design feature kills this car for me. It makes it look like a toy. Am I the only one?

  • avatar
    socsndaisy

    This is likely to get the “apples and oranges” response but the RX8 is the Grand Poobah of the low buck coupe arena kids.

    See a Mustang GT at $25k is like Vin Diesel, and a Alimaccord is maybe Chuck Norris (on a good day…or maybe during his Walker Texas Ranger days)….but the RX8 is pure Bruce Lee.

    At the low end of the financial food chain, Mazda knows that you dont bring a nerf bat to a knife fight.

  • avatar
    deaner23

    5 Stars?!? Are you sure? “But there is nothing to dispel the notion that you’re in a souped-up economy car” somehow rates 5 stars? From the review it appears as though I would have a tough time fitting in this car – 6’2″ 215lbs. As thorough as the review is I was shocked to see this car receive the highest rating TTAC can give. I think I liked the system better when a car had to be truly exceptional to garner 5 stars. The review suggests 3, maybe 4 tops. But that’s just my opinion…

  • avatar
    f8

    Wait a second – we have a car with crappy, uncomfortable, and “bargain basement” interior, numb steering, and torque steer issues (no doubt stemming from the retarded decision to make a 270hp car FWD) which are “kept at bay” (and what the hell does this mean, by the way – is it there? is it bad? why not tell us?)

    I’m sorry, this isn’t a five-star car. TTAC gave Infiniti goddamn G37 4 stars, and G37 is a far better car. And if TTAC scolded Acura for making the 270hp TL a FWD car, then please be consistent and do the same to another 270hp FWD car (and TL even had stability control).

  • avatar

    This car looks NOTHING like the Infiniti G37 or its predecessor. Its ok looking, but it looks more like the slightly chubbier cousin of the Scion tC. The interior is a mundane, uninviting, and banal. The torque steer is insane, and I happen to prefer the styling of the new Accord Coupe inside and out. I’m in love with the VQ engine (current G37 owner, former G35 Coupe owner)

  • avatar

    I disagree on aesthetics.

    I’ve seen this car in person in gray and it is TEH SEXXEEE!

    Can’t imagine anyone complaining about Weight, as (though denser) it’s lighter than it’s Altima Sedan counterparts (3052 lo – 3271 hi). Hell, a MkV GTI with 4 cyl. is 3,100 lo – 3213 hi. A Cooper is at least 2700. If you subtract some for the Haldex, the SE3.5 is on par with an R32, also.

    Maybe they screwed up on chassis/suspension & didn’t put a big enough bar in the back. All Mk2 VR6 swaps required a 28mm rear, for even normal handling. (when they weren’t going down the road inverted, that is) -Maybe these coupes need a bushing swap, too.

    Nissan is Smart, this car is Perfectly positioned as a more reasonable Z, intro G35/37 and will probably sell like crazy. i!: Altima sells, so let’s make a diff. version to capitalize. ->Voila. They could’ve done SO much worse.

    I cannot imagine anything better about Any Toyota or Honda. -Reliablility? EVERYONE’s lower than Toy/Hon. -So what? -No wait; you’re right, I should trade in my S4 for a Camry.

  • avatar

    >>The high-revving, hefty Accord feels downright sluggish next to this beast. Astonishingly, the Altima has more torque and horsepower and better gas mileage.

    Is that due to less weight?

    From the back and the side, the styling is actually pretty nice. But the front is just as bad as the appliances.

  • avatar
    huy

    i too love how this car looks. the front is a little bland, but its forgivable. while shopping for a car with a $40k budget, I was looking at the G35/ G37 and the 350Z… as well as the BMW 335i. The problem is, all these cars would surpass my budget given the options I wanted. The Altima Coupe with all the options only came out to about $30k and in some cases it looks better. It is a shame that it isn’t RWD because that is all that is missing from the equation, but its still a phenominal car for the money. On the street, you won’t really notice a difference, except for having an extra $10k to spend on anything you want. If the lack of RWD breaks it for you because you like to race, then take that money and get a used Miata for track duties. You’ll thank me for that…

  • avatar
    drewbomb

    Just to set the record straight to Mr. or Mrs. dumb dumb, the key-less entry is amazing. Lincoln has already copied it and all the rest soon will. The key in your pocket has to be 37 inches from the ignition for it to start and the same for the opening of the doors. For those of you who still have to use a physical key, you have now idea how convenient a key-less is. For those of you who will make fun of my comment: talk to you in 5 years, not.

  • avatar
    lahmhunter

    I purchased the 2008 2.5 coupe….loved it loved it loved it for the first 6 months then satrted hearing a knocking noice…nissan told me to to try a higher octane gas even though my sales guy told me i could use 87 as well as the maunual notes 87 can be used (i didnt have a problem using a higher octane and my previous car was a 2000 dodge stratus and i used high octane gas froom the day i purchased it)…nissan has since given me a new engine as well as new resignator(neither of these has stopped the knocking). my car has been in and out of their service department 6 times for the same problem. the last time my car was in service a woman came in complaining about the fact her battery died, her window jams and she had a knocking noise since she purchased her car. she said she didnt know what to do but had not pushed the issue with our dealer….she didnt know what to do…i have since filed a bbb report and contacted a lawyer…..it is very depressing to have a lovely looking car but everytime you drive it you hate that you are in it.


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