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2008 Nissan Altima Coupe review:

2008 Nissan Altima Coupe

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Starting at $18,620
  • Engine 4 Cylinder Engine
  • Drivetrain Front Wheel Drive
  • MPG 27 MPG
  • Passenger Capacity 5
  • Body Type Sedans

Roadshow Editors' Rating

7.5 Overall
  • Cabin tech 7
  • Performance tech 8
  • Design 8

The Good The 2008 Nissan Altima Coupe injects some sporty styling into an affordable model. For a front-wheel drive car, the four-cylinder Altima Coupe displays some respectable performance characteristics to go with its admirable fuel economy.

The Bad Like other Altima models, the Coupe's option packages are expensive if not overpriced. Interior fit and fitment on our tester was disappointing.

The Bottom Line The 2008 Nissan Altima Coupe combines head-turning styling and gutsy performance with some advanced--albeit, pricey--cabin technology options, including GPS navigation and a great hands-free calling interface.

The Altima Coupe is the sportiest-looking model to come out of Nissan's factory since the iconic 350Z. Nissan promises that the two-door version of its midsize sedan will deliver "true performance, true technology, true coupe." The last of these claims is irrefutable: with its raked fastback roofline and flowing shoulders, the Altima Coupe marks a bold styling departure from the staid lines of the sedan. Aesthetes may disagree over the car's bulbous rear-end styling, which, depending on your school of thought, is either a dashing, Infiniti-inspired touch of style or a flabby appendage that looks like an aftermarket body kit.

The aesthetic merits of the Altima Coupe's rear end are in the eye of the beholder.
And Nissan has a case for pushing the performance and technology merits of the Altima Coupe. With a choice between a 2.5-liter in-line four and a 3.5-liter V-6, the coupe is not found wanting for power, and we are inclined to favor the smaller engine choice, which is less likely to overpower the front wheels. On the cabin tech front, the coupe has the same available arsenal of gadgets as that of its sedan sibling, including GPS navigation and Bluetooth hands-free calling, although most of the goodies come as part of pricey options packages.

Test the tech: Tunitas Creek Road
The Altima Coupe may look like a sports car, but we had our doubts about whether the front-wheel drive model would actually perform like one. To settle the matter decisively, we set out toward one of our favorite proving grounds south of San Francisco by the name of Tunitas Creek Road. It is difficult to overemphasize the demands that this forest trail high up in the Portola Valley puts on cars during spirited driving. With its corkscrew corners, blind bends, and hairpin turns, the serpentine Tunitas Creek Road is less of a race track than a rally course--the perfect place to test the mettle of the Altima Coupe.

Tunitas Creek Road is not for the faint of heart.
Our test car was equipped with the baseline 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine mated to the standard six-speed manual transmission for which we were eternally grateful: had our loaner come with the optional $500 continuously variable transmission (CVT), we suspect we could have kissed all hopes of a sporty ride goodbye. To get to our test track, we had to drive Skyline Boulevard, a windy, single-track road, but with wider sweeping turns rather than the chicanery of Tunitas Creek Road.

Driving Skyline at around 50 mph, we had a chance to see how the Altima Coupe responded to cornering at speed and short bursts of acceleration and braking. While were impressed with the ability of the punchy four-cylinder engine to get us up to speed quickly, and by the linear quality of the brakes when approaching a turn, we were underwhelmed with the Altima Coupe's handling ability on corner exits. The Altima demonstrated considerable understeer lunging into corners and requiring us to constantly overextend in steering to push the car through the bends.

The Altima Coupe stood up well to the heel-and-toe driving that the winding trail demanded.

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