Both coupes utilize a front-wheel-drive chassis, and suffer from varying amounts of torque steer, although they're quite quick off the line. As assistant editor David Zenlea wrote, "What never ceases to amaze me is just how FAST these coupes are when tied to a six-speed manual. If you're in an older Mustang or Camaro and see one of these pull up next to you at a light, don't laugh."
However, there is a difference in the way that the two cars drive, and most editors felt that the Accord delivered superior dynamics. Combined with the soggy manual gearbox and stiff clutch, the Altima's raucous engine note, less satisfying steering and body control did not harmonize. West Coast editor Jason Cammisa summed up the Altima coupe's personality: "It looks like it's supposed to be sporty, but it doesn't deliver in any way, shape, or form. Sure, it's fast as the Dickens, but it ends there." In contrast was the Accord's sharp steering and its sporty, yet well-dampened ride. The Honda makes good on the promise of its sporty pretensions without losing the character that defines the Accord sedan.
At the end of the day, it's the Accord's all-around refinement that sets it one class above its competitor. The Altima, conversely, overpromises and under-delivers both against the Accord and within the Nissan lineup itself. The highly entertaining 370Z is within $2000 of the Altima, or, for a bit more dough, sister division Infiniti offers the sporty and refined G37 coupe.
Perhaps deputy editor Joe DeMatio said it best: "The Honda Accord coupe has always felt like a discount Acura, whereas the Nissan Altima coupe feels like a dressed-up economy car." In this comparison of all-too-similar coupes, the nod goes to the Accord, hands down.