Unveiled at the 2006 Los Angeles Auto Show, and manufactured in Tennessee, Nissan's Altima Coupe was slightly shorter than its sedan counterpart, with a lower roofline, and a smaller wheelbase.

Front-wheel-drive, it was built on the company's D platform - as was the sedan - but when it was introduced, Nissan was quick to point out that this wasn't just a sedan with two fewer doors, but a bona fide sport coupe with an aggressive design and performance-oriented personality. The only body part it shared with its four-door stable-mate was the hood.

Stylistically, the new Altima Coupe resembled a cross between, oh, the Pontiac G6 and Honda Civic. Not hard to look at, it wasn't as dramatic or eye-catching as its more expensive kissing cousin, the Infiniti G-series Coupe, although there was a family resemblance.

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Nissan made it clear that it was hoping to attract younger buyers, and claimed that its styling and driver-oriented interior gave the coupe "an extensive amount of separation" from the sedan. Its main competition came from the Pontiac G6, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Honda Accord Coupe and Toyota Solara.

In 2008, there were two engine choices: Nissan's ubiquitous VQ series 3.5-litre V-6 and a twin-cam inline-four cylinder that displaced 2.5 litres. The former generated 270 horsepower and the latter 175 hp. Two transmissions were available: six-speed manual or Xtronic CVT, and you could have either one with the engine of your choice.

The CVT/V-6 combination also featured a built-in "adaptive shift controller" similar to that found in the new Maxima, which gave the new coupe more of a high-performance feel. The driving performance of the new coupe was biased toward a sporty feel, especially when equipped with the V-6.

Also contributing to the coupe's overall sporty flavour was a new suspension geometry, which was a little firmer than that of the sedan, and put the coupe closer to the ground. It had stabilizer bars front and back and came with four-wheel disc brakes with ABS and electronic brake force distribution. There were two wheel sizes: 16- and 17-inch, the latter coming standard on the upscale SE V-6 model.

In total, Nissan offered the new coupe in four different drivetrain combinations and several trim levels. Depending upon the model, you could order leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control system, XM radio, Bluetooth capability and an upgraded sound system. There was also a navi package, which featured a touch-screen, voice activation and Nissan's unique "bird-view" screen. This arrangement, with its horizon and unfolding panorama, was easier to take than the one-dimensional grid utilized by most other manufacturers.

Things like push-button start, heated seats, power sunroof, steering-wheel-mounted audio controls and a 60/40-split fold-down rear seat all came with the base coupe, and safety equipment included front, side, and side curtain airbags, child seat anchor points and a tire-pressure monitoring system.

One safety recall to report, and it concerns a possibly flawed passenger side airbag sensor that may not deploy in the event of a front-end collision. This glitch may affect other Nissan products as well, including the Altima Hybrid, Murano, 370Z and Rogue.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has 27 technical service bulletins on file for this vintage of Altima coupe, and they cover everything from engine cooling issues, to tire pressure monitoring glitches, to brake booster issues to assorted electrical problems.

Consumer Reports doesn't distinguish between the coupe and the sedan, and gives the latter an "average" reliability rating, mainly because of problems with the braking system and "squeaks and rattles." Some comments from owners: "Gets pricey when adding optional equipment," "noisy a/c compressor" and "transmission replacement." Most comments about the CVT transmission are favourable, but inordinate road noise and loud tires are common complaints.

Market research company J.D. Power, meanwhile, gives the 2008 Altima - both coupe and sedan - a slightly below-average grade for dependability. It gets top marks for powertrain quality and overall performance and design, but falls a bit short in terms of powertrain dependability. Most other areas of the car get "about-average" grades.

From a base price of just more than $27,000 for the S model, the Altima Coupe, some three years on, is now fetching $17,00 to $20,000, depending upon drivetrain and trim level. The V-6 models tend to be several thousand dollars pricier than the four-bangers, but there doesn't seem to be a price difference between the CVT automatic and manual six-speed.


2008 Nissan Altima Coupe

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Original Base Price: $27,798; Black Book: $17,025-$19,725; Red Book: $16,650-$18,750

Engine: 2.5-litre four-cylinder/3.5-litre V-6

Horsepower/Torque: 175 hp/180 lb-ft for four-cylinder; 270 hp/258 lb-ft for V-6

Transmission: Six-speed manual/CVT

Drive: Front-wheel

Fuel Economy (litres/100 km): 8.9 city/6.3 highway (four-cylinder with CVT); regular gas

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Alternatives: Honda Accord Coupe, Toyota Solara, Mitsubishi Eclipse, Pontiac G6