It has been a while since I have driven a nice two-door coupe.
I used to drive one all the time until it started to become hazardous to my wallet, so I flogged it and got a sensible little four door. The decision was exaggerated by the fact that it would be a pain to get a kid in to the back of the coupe as the seats didnt fold too easily to allow room to get to the back seats.
Prior to the continuous problems the car was a blast to drive, it had tons of power, a kick-ass sound system and a bucketful of options. Every so often I miss that car, especially the power, but with my job it is never too long before I get the chance to drive a much newer, and better sport coupe.
So when I went to Northland Nissan this week and I was asked what I wanted to drive - although the GT-R was the first thing that came to mind - I figured a nice two-door coupe in the form of the Altima 3.5 SR would be nice.
The 3.5 is at the higher end of the Altima line with 270 horsepower - about 40 more than my old coupe - and a lovely six speed manual hooked up to a continuously variable transmission. Put your foot on the clutch - and the brake for safety as I do - push the big start button on the dash and the Altima comes to life with a muted rumble.
The shifter has to be moved toward the right leg if you want to engage reverse, but first you need to place your thumb on the top of the shifter and your forefinger and middle fingers on a little ring part way down the shifter, almost like holding a syringe. Pull up with the fingers to release the shifter before placing in to reverse.
It may sound awkward, but after you do it once or twice it becomes second nature.
Once in reverse, the 6.5-inch navigation screen turns in to a backup camera, making it easy to get as close as you need to any vehicles to the rear.
At slower speeds the Altima likes to champ at the bit a little - as if it wants to go for a run - however, going a little slower on the clutch release can sort this out. Power, heated seats and a tilt, telescoping wheel make it easy to find a nice, relaxed position for some comfy cruising.
The Altima is very good at cruising once you get it up to the higher gears, but keeping it in third or fourth makes for much more of a fun time. Even at 80 km/h in fourth, if you push your big toe down on the gas the Altima is still able to shove you back in your seat.
In some vehicles there is a bit of a lag between the time your foot pushes toward the floor and when the power kicks in. With the Altima it was instantaneous, and that it what you want. No one likes to hit the gas and feel like you have just sent a semaphore message to the engine and have to wait for the message to not only be acknowledged, but to be acted on.
The Altima came with lots of safety options - almost all with abbreviations - power roof and dual-zone automatic climate control as well as the voice-activated navigation, Bluetooth and satellite radio, but I could forgive the vast majority of those for its sublime BOSE sound system.
My old coupe was a handsome vehicle with a nice fin on the back, 16-inch rims and it had been lowered a few inches, which made it look sportier. The Altima does not have a fin, has not been lowered, rides on meaty, 18-inch rims and has been decked out in such a wonderful black shell it is hard to imagine someone not liking it.
It is a simple, yet elegant design portraying both muscular sportiness and refinement.
You could imagine a swarthy, well-dressed clothing model getting out when the door opens, instead all you get for now is me, a balding middle-aged guy with a heavy right foot.
Nissan has done everything right with this two-door Altima. It has the options, the power, the sound and it definitely has the looks to make it a top-notch coupe.
6-speed Manual CVT
270 @ 6,000
258 @ 4,400
Price as tested:
10.2 /100km 28 mpg city
7.3 l/100km 39 mpg hwy