Nissan's Altima is now available in two different body styles for 2008: a four-door sedan, or a new two-door coupe. The coupe models share mechanicals and much of their interior appointments with the sedan, but they're four inches shorter and 2.5 inches lower in profile than the sedan, with unique sheetmetal and sportier styling.
Both engines offered in the Altima are among the most powerful when compared with those offered in rival midsize sedans and coupes. The standard 2.5L inline four makes 175 horsepower and 180 lb-ft of torque, while the 3.5L V6 makes 270 horsepower and 258 lb-ft. Both get variable valve timing and a dual exhaust.
Either engine can be paired with a six-speed manual gearbox or Xtronic continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT). The Xtronic features a "Sport" mode that adjusts to performance-oriented driving. All Altimas come with front-wheel drive and a four-wheel fully independent suspension that's tuned for sharp handling as well as a smooth ride. The coupe models have a firmer suspension than the sedan, with standard front and rear stabilizer bars and increased body rigidity for improved handling.
Front-seat side-impact chest air bags, roof-mounted side-curtain air bags, and active head restraints are standard. Anti-lock brakes are now standard as well, but electronic stability control is only available as an option on Altimas with the V6.
The Altima's interior has a design and materials that are quite different than those of other models in its class, with extensive use of soft and padded materials, along with chrome accents. The interior is available in three different colors--charcoal, blonde, and frost--and with either suede-like fabric or leather upholstery. Inside, the coupe gets sport seats with more lateral support, and the parking brake is located to the center console rather than as a foot pedal.
The Altima comes in four models: base 2.5 (sedan only), 2.5 S, the sporty 3.5 SE, and the luxurious 3.5 SL. The top 2.5 S can also be optioned with an SL package to keep the more economical four-cylinder but add the works otherwise. The Altima 3.5 SE model gets sportier suspension tuning, with larger-diameter stabilizer bars, different spring rates and strut damping, and larger, 17-inch wheels and tires. V6 coupe models get unique-design 17-inchers.
Key options include a rearview monitor system, touch-screen navigation, HID headlamps, heated leather seats, dual-zone climate control, steering-wheel audio controls, a power moonroof, a nine-speaker Bose sound system, and a Bluetooth hands-free system.