2008 Nissan Altima CPE 3.5S: Mid-size coupe with full-size qualities
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Monday, July 07, 2008
The Nissan Altima can trace its lineage back to the Datsun (Nissan) Bluebird in 1957. Sitting in the Nissan line-up between the Sentra and Maxima, the Altima began as a compact, but is now a mid-size that is as luxurious, quiet and upscale as many full-size flagships.
The name Altima was first employed as a trim line of the Nissan Laurel mid-size sedan sold in the Caribbean before 1992. In 1993, when Nissan ended its Stanza line, the U.S.-made Altima compact hit the market. The fourth-generation Altima, billed by Nissan as the “True Coupe” first left the assembly line for the 2007 model year, and my test vehicle, the 2008 Altima CPE 3.5 represents a new member of the team, a two-door with a shorter length, lower height and updated engine.
Assembled in Smyrna, Tennessee, my Code Red Altima was accented by a Charcoal interior. The combination was attractive, classic and classy and the vehicle drew approving comments and nods from many who saw it during my seven days of testing in the tri-state area of Pennsylvania, Maryland and New Jersey.
My test ride was powered by a 3.5-liter DOHC 24-valve transverse V-6 engine, linked to an Xtronic continuously variable transmission. The set-up purrs out 270 hp and 258 lbs.-ft. of torque, which was enough brawn to propel the 3,271-lb. coupe from zero to 60mph in a smooth 6.4 seconds, en route to a 14.7-second quarter-mile.
The 2008 Altima Coupe 3.5 is EPA rated at 26mpg on the highway and 19mpg in city driving. During a week of tri-state test drives covering about 500 miles with a three-to-one highway-to-city-street ratio, I averaged 25.9mpg.
The coupe measures 182.5 inches long, 70.7 inches wide and 55.3 inches high on a trimmed wheelbase of 105.3 inches. With a 67-percent up-front weight distribution (33 percent in the rear), the ride is smooth and stable. The Altima coupe differs from its sedan sibling in size with a wheelbase that is 4 inches less, a height that is 2.5 inches lower and shortened overhangs that reduces the overall length by more than 7 inches. A more abrupt windshield rake and side glass reminiscent of Nissan’s Z-cars also gain the coupe better aerodynamics and a sportier appearance.
Front and rear stabilizer bars, sport-tuned suspension, independent strut front and independent multi-link rear suspension, power rack-and-pinion steering, and anti-lock brake system straighten out s-curves, lessen road vibration and flatten highway bumps to provide a confident ride worthy of a full-size with the easy handling attributes of a small coupe.
Standard safety items include Nissan’s Advanced Airbag System, driver and front passenger side-impact supplemental airbags, roof-mounted curtain side-impact supplemental airbags, front seat belts with pretensioners and load limiters, traction control system, LATCH seats for children, front seat active head restraints, tire pressure monitoring system, vehicle security system and vehicle immobilizer system.
The coupe offers front headroom of 37.2 inches with 35.6 in the rear; leg room is 42.5 inches up front and 34.4 in row two, and shoulder room is 53.9 inches for driver and passenger with 52.4 inches for rear-seat occupants.
Standard comfort and convenience items include a push-button start and intelligent key, power sliding glass moonroof with tilt features, 8-way power driver’s seat with lumbar supports, trip computer with temperature display, vehicle information display, air conditioning with cabin microfilter, cruise control with steering wheel mounted controls on the leather-wrapped wheel, power windows and door locks, an AM/FM/CD system with 6 speakers (upgraded with options for this test ride), cloth seats (upgraded to leather), easy rear access passenger seat lever, flat-blade speed-sensitive variable intermittent windshield wipers, front map lights and sunglass storage, rear window defroster and side window defoggers, two 12-volt DC power sources and dual XL illuminated visor vanity mirrors.
Base priced at $25,390, add-ons for my test Altima were floor mats and trunk mat ($175); the Technology package ($2000) that included Nissan’s touch-screen navigation system, 6.5-inch color display, voice activation, XM NavTraffic and a rear view camera and monitor; the Vehicle Dynamic Control Package ($600); destination charges ($600) and a huge list if interior comforts and upgrades that added $3200 to the final price-as-tested sticker of $31,980. That vast Premium package included leather-appointed seats, heated driver and front passenger seats, XM Satellite radio, Bluetooth hands-free phone system, Bose audio system with 9 speakers and an AM/FM radio with 6-disk in-dash CD autochanger. The set-up also provides MP3/WMA/ CD-Rom playback capability and speed-sensitive volume. The package also bestows dual-zone automatic temperature control, HomeLink universal transceiver, compass, auto-dimming rearview mirror, high-intensity discharge xenon headlights, leather-wrapped gear-shift knob, metallic interior finish, illuminated console lighting and radio data system.
The Nissan Altima Coupe is a perfect addition to the Altima line and the Nissan line-up, with enough power to appeal to performance fans and friendly fuel efficiency that plays well in today’s $4/gallon gas market.
Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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