Saga of the sporty coupe continued: The 2010 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5 SR

May 4, 2010, 6:13 PM UTC

One of the most enthusiastic proponents of the sporty coupe is Nissan.

As CEO Carlos Ghosn tries to revive interest in the Nissan brand, he has invested in high-profile coupes.  He revived the 370Z sports car and launched the GT-R supercar.

But the Altima Coupe doesn’t quite fit in with that crowd.  While the other two cars are purpose-built two seaters, the Altima Coupe is derived from the humble Altima sedan and has room for four occupants, not two. It’s expected to account for 10% of Altima sales this year.

Despite its pedestrian pedigree, I found the Coupe satisfying in every way, from curb appeal to road manners.  It is a highly-functional compromise between a sedan and a true sports car, with expressive design and a 275-horsepower engine that provides the right amount of oomph.

By pricing the Coupe at $27,990 (including delivery), Nissan is following industry practice by charging nearly $3500 to delete thee two rear doors (the sedan starts at $24,520). The Coupe is priced out of the range of most 20-somethings, but it makes a reasonable choice for higher-earning couples in their 30s who have only small children to squeeze into the rear seats.

In profile, the Altima coupe reveals the high beltline and raised rear deck of a 370X, but it is less extreme overall. In place of a hatch, it has inherited a 8.2 cu. ft. trunk from its sedan ancestor.

Entry and egress to the front seats can be accomplished without contortions, and the interior is intimate without being cramped. The finishes are appropriate for a car in this class.  Only the band switches for the audio system failed to operate as designed and required finessing.

My test car was equipped with the premium package, technology package, and leather package, as well as a “floor & trunk mat set ($175!) and carried a $33,425 sticker price.

Prominently displayed in the upper right corner, and rightfully so, were the EPA fuel economy estimates: 20 mpg city and an exemplary 27 mpg highway. (The 2.5 liter four-cylinder, which carries a base price of $22,940  is rated an even better 23 city/31 highway.)

Underway, the Coupe displayed excellent road manners: ample acceleration, proper engine noises, and an absence of torque steer, which often bedevils high-horsepower front wheel drive cars.

All in all, I liked the Altima well enough to increase my appreciation for the whole sporty coupe segment.  Now, if they could only figure out a way to add two more doors…