Nissan's Altima is available in two different body styles for 2009: a four-door sedan and a 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 sheet metal 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-4 makes 175 horsepower and 180 ft-lb of torque, while the 3.5L V6 makes 270 horsepower and 258 ft-lb. Both get variable valve timing and a dual exhaust. A 158-hp 2.5L gas-electric hybrid with an Xtronic continuously variable transmission (CVT) is available as well.
Either engine can be paired with a 6-speed manual gearbox or Xtronic CVT, which features a "Sport" mode that adjusts to performance-oriented driving. All Altimas feature with front-wheel drive and a four-wheel fully independent suspension 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 airbags, roof-mounted side-curtain airbags and active head restraints are standard. Anti-lock brakes are standard as well, but electronic stability control is only available as an option on Altimas with the V6.
The Altima's interior design and materials are quite different from those of other models in its class, with extensive use of soft and padded materials as well as 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 hand-operated in the center console, rather than as a foot pedal.
The Altima comes in five models: base 2.5 (sedan only), 2.5 S, the sporty 3.5 SE and the luxurious 3.5 SL. A hybrid sedan is also available. 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.