I'll second the notion that this car makes a lot more sense as a four-banger. The Altima coupe looks pretty good inside and out, but there is absolutely no performance to back up the rather attractive curves. Although 270 hp looks good on paper, the front-wheel-drive layout, rather soft springs, and excessive body roll make anything more aggressive than commuting futile. And for this $33,000 sticker, you're well into Mustang/Challenger/Z-car territory, yet those cars offer more power and rear-drive as well as good looks.
Not only do I advocate ordering your Altima coupe with a four-cylinder, I'd also recommend the CVT in place of the manual transmission. Again, when you take out any sporting pretentions, the car is much more palatable. The same goes for the transmission. I can't really drive this manual smoothly, and there's not enough performance to justify the clunky shifts. My past experience with an Altima powered by the smooth four-cylinder/CVT combo was quite good.
Long on style, short on substance. The Altima coupe is the sort of car you wish you could like more, but there just isn't enough oomph to justify anything but a base car, perhaps with some options like a better stereo or leather seats. If you're set on a front-drive coupe, look to the Honda Accord if you enjoy driving even a little bit. If you're looking for a genuine performance car, it's worth the extra money to buy a 370Z.
Phil Floraday, Senior Online Editor