Nissan Altima: Two Doors, No Waiting

by : RyanThomas

The Altima has been one of the Nissan Motor Co.'s hot selling cars since its introduction in 2001. The second generation, introduced in 2006, toughened the sedan's popularity. To broaden its overall appeal, Nissan introduced a hybrid version of the car in January. And now the much-awaited coupe has arrived.

Compared to other coupes, the Altima is not just a two-door version of the sedan. Nissan engineers has shortened the wheelbase by 101 mm, cut the overall length by 185 mm and lowered the height by 66 mm. The modifications gave the coupe a handsome look that could turn heads.

How distinct is the coupe from the sedan? Well, the only sheet metal shared between two- and four-door Altimas is the hood. The Coupe has been endowed with a pair of idiosyncratic bucket seats with striking side bolsters for extra lateral support. In the back, a 60/40 split rear bench extends the cargo space. The feature is ideal for a weekend of skiing or to hold few odds and sods from the store. Also, a more conventional parking-brake hand lever has also been added to the Coupe, substituting the sedan's foot-operated control.

The other big difference between the models is power. The base car is equipped with a 2.5-litre four-cylinder that generates 175 horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. This is more than enough to be amusing when mated to the six-speed manual box. A significant part for the spirited drive is attributed to the transmission's close ratios and a light, progressive clutch that puts the bite point in the precise place. It makes rowing the gears an enjoyable experience notwithstanding the twisty road surface.

In terms of performance and agility, the new Coupe also has plenty to offer. The suspension is made firmer than the sedan. The steering, meanwhile, is also adequately weighted and responsive when turned off-centre. The biggest difference between the two models is the tires. The 2.5 S comes with P215/60R16 Continentals, while the 3.5 SE comes with P215/55R17 Bridgestones.

Other remarkable features of the Coupe include the , a push-button start, the dual-zone climate control, cruise control and heated seats, power mirrors, windows and sunroof, a six-speaker audio system with an auxiliary plug-in, six air bags and standard anti-lock brakes.

According to critics, the Altima Coupe is going to earn quite a following, simply because it blends an upscale interior with good road manners and affordability. The fact that there are shades of the Infiniti G35 coupe in its bold styling only helps the cause. It will also go a long way in legitimizing the much-maligned CVT.

Nissan recently invited some journalists to test-drive some of their new and revised product lines. Aside from the Altima Coupe, Nissan flaunted the new long-wheelbase Titan, upgraded the Pathfinder with a V8, and the quieter Armada.

The way Nissan explains it, there is a need for this vehicle in the marketplace, even if Toyota has decided to drop its Solara model because of declining sales. Main competitors for the company will be the Honda Accord coupe, Pontiac G6, and the Hyundai Tiburon - all of which the new Nissan entry beats on price in every similarly-equipped head-to-head price battle.

The automaker expects the coupe to be well-liked by women, many of whom will go for the more economical 2.5-liter I-4. Nissan also foresees that the average purchaser of the Coupe to be younger - those not quite ready to take the dive into the more responsible and mature sedan or minivan market. Also, the Coupe is expected to pull in some older purchasers who might want to exercise their "free-spirit" wings as their kids start leaving the house.