Driven: 2010 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5 SR

Suave Interior, Little Space
All Altima interiors are treated to nicely grained plastic, but metallic trim accents on the dash, steering wheel, and shifter bezel help set Leather Package-equipped cars apart from lesser Altima Coupes. Staffers were split on the ruby red leather seating; some found it a little overbearing, while others thought it offered a nice contrast to the charcoal interior.

In the transition from sedan to Coupe, the Altima's seating capacity goes from five to four, but pity those forced to squeeze their way into the rear seat. The fastback roof works wonders from a styling perspective, but it pinches headroom-rear passengers have 35.6" of headroom, but taller passengers will likely butt their heads against the rear glass. If nothing else, the rear seats offer some additional cargo room, an important consideration, seeing as the coupe's sinewy form leaves it with a short, shallow trunk.

How Does It Drive?
Perhaps not surprisingly, the Coupe drives much like the Altima sedan, though this may disappoint those who expect it to perform like a G37. At low speeds, the car is rather benign, but any liberal application of the throttle results in significant torque steer. Steering weight is decent, but the steering is not exactly quick, a fact exaggered by the large, ovoid steering wheel.

To help curb body roll during spirited driving, Nissan gives the V-6 Altima Coupe stiffer dampers and anti-roll bars at all corners along with stiffer front springs. The setup is enjoyable over a long set of switchbacks, but only if they're constructed of flawless tarmac. On anything but glass-smooth surfaces, the Altima Coupe transmits virtually every imperfection in the road surface directly to the cabin. Several staffers noted the harsh ride is prone to creating random squeaks and rattles inside the car while traveling over Michigan's frost-heaved roads.

Although we love shifting our own gears, the six-speed manual fitted here left us frustrated. The shifter itself is lanky, its throws are long, and its feel is somewhat rubbery. We'd puzzled why Nissan would go to the trouble of adding a manual transmission-a low-volume option that only caters to pure gearheads-but not refine its action. That said, we're happy that engineers did design a parking brake lever for the coupe in lieu of the pedal-operated release used in the Altima sedan.

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