Driven: 2010 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5 SR

It's easy enough to be wooed by the svelte form of the Infiniti G37 coupe, but its $36,915 entry price isn't exactly an easy hurdle for all consumers to clear. Perhaps G37 fans on a strict budget may be intrigued by the 2010 Nissan Altima 3.5 SR Coupe. It's hard to argue that the two-door Altima isn't an attractive car, but does the midsize, front-wheel-drive coupe have enough substance to support its good looks?

Business In Front, Party In Back
Arguably, Nissan's designers played it safe when crafting the front fascia. Although the Altima Coupe shares only its hood with its sedan sibling, the rest of the front end almost passes for a carbon copy. Headlamps, grille, lower air dam, and front fascia are all unique to the Coupe, but only the fenders-which are slightly more slender and curvaceous than those on the sedan-look substantially different.

Move aft of the A-pillars, and it's another story altogether. Here the Coupe looks nothing like the Altima sedan, with a roofline that flows over chiseled rear fenders and terminates in a stubby tail. Apart from the taillights, the rear profile of the car is a dead ringer for the stylish Infiniti G37 coupe.

What Lies Beneath
In contrast to the swoopy styling and the spiffy interior, the Altima's underpinnings remain rather humble. The Coupe is built off the same Nissan D platform used in the sedan (along with the larger Maxima and Murano crossover), which means it sends power to its front wheels alone.

A 175-horsepower, 2.5-liter I-4 is standard in base Altima Coupe models, while the 3.5 SR models scrap the four in favor of a DOHC, 24-valve, 3.5-liter V-6. Shoppers looking for power befitting the sporty styling should skip the four altogether. Although Nissan's VQ V-6 is aging, the engine still cranks out a commendable 270 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 258 pound-feet of torque at 4400 rpm. As is the case with the four-cylinder car, a continuously variable transmission is standard on the 3.5 SR, but if the wheel-mounted shift paddles don't offer enough involvement, a six-speed manual transmission is optional.

Opting for the stick shift isn't exactly as easy as ticking a single option box. On 3.5 SR cars, the six-speed manual also forces buyers to spring for the Premium Package and the Leather Package. The $2330 premium imposed by the manual may seem intimidating, until you consider opting for those two packages alone would normally cost almost $3500.

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