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 |   |   |  2010 Nissan Altima V-6 Coupe - First Drive
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2010 Nissan Altima V-6 Coupe - First Drive

Solid Comfort And Performance At A Low Price.

Nate Hassler
May 25, 2010
Photographer: courtesy of Nissan

Specs & Details
'10 Nissan Altima Coupe
Engine 3.5-liter 24-valve DOHC V-6
Horsepower 270
Torque 258 ft-lbs
Transmission 6-speed manual FWD
Price $22,440 MSRP

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I'll admit, when I first heard I would be driving around in a new Altima Coupe for a few days, I wasn't expecting much. I never really considered the Altima to be sporty or fun in the past, but after a few hours in the driver seat I was pleasantly surprised by the '10 V-6 Coupe. Gone are the days of the late '90s where boring, uninspired econobox cars showed up again and again on Nissan sales floors, and not a moment too soon. Nissan has a few really nice performers in its current lineup; I was extremely impressed by the 370Z I drove not too long ago and the test drive I had in the '10 GT-R was nothing short of orgasmic. But lets be reasonable here, expecting GT-R caliber (or even 370Z level) performance from a car costing less than $25,000 is unrealistic, to say the least.

The new Altima Coupe is a good-looking car. The front end of the sporty two-door shares an unmistakable resemblance to the rest of the Nissan/Infiniti family tree - it almost looks like a miniature G35 with its long, swooping rear glass and split-spoke 18-inch wheels. With the new face-lift, no one would feel embarrassed to be seen in this car. Upon entering the Altima's cabin, I was greeted by the same sporty design inspiration right away. The gauges and center console are totally Nissan: easy to read, interpret and operate. The leather-wrapped steering wheel feels light and right at home in your hands; it's an easy car to get used to.

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The comfortable leather seats are easy on the back - perfect for relaxed cruising and supportive enough for spirited driving when the urge strikes. The rear seat of the coupe is a bit on the small side, so tall adults would most likely complain of leg cramps on a long trip. But with a two-door coupe like the Altima, the back seat is really just a formality. (There's a four-door Altima available for families who need more room.) After becoming familiar with the layout of the car's interior, it was time to get on my way. As I looked around for the ignition, I drew a blank. I'm not too proud to admit it took me a minute to realize that you don't need to actually put the key fob anywhere to start the car. As long as the fob is within range, the simple push of a button brings the 270hp, 3.5-liter DOHC V-6 to life - a delightful sound, I might add.

As I pulled out of the parking lot and onto the highway, I was surprised by a surge of smooth power, delivered quickly and easily through Nissan's well-designed 6-speed gearbox. Throughout the lower rpm range, power is consistent and smooth; jetting around town is quite fun with the torquey V-6. I would like to see a few more ponies milked out of the engine in the high end, but for a 100 percent stock, factory-tuned car, the joy was still there.

From a car that felt a bit fat and sluggish right off the bat, it moves with purpose - in a straight line, that is. The cornering abilities of the new Altima Coupe leave something to be desired. With a set of slightly stiffer adjustable shocks and possibly a beefier rear sway bar (some stickier rubber wouldn't hurt either, the factory Michelins aren't the greatest tires ever created), I think the Altima Coupe could be a very fun FWD car. However, without some major upgrades, I don't think we'll be seeing a lot of these cars on the track anytime soon.

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That's OK, though, driving on a track or even hard driving through the canyons isn't the intent of this car in the first place. The nicely designed stereo, comfy seats and smooth power delivery are great for carting around town or making long trips. I would feel fine about driving cross-country in the coupe and would never think twice about whether I'll need to schedule a chiropractor appointment upon my return. For a daily driver, the Altima is a good car, without a doubt, and a pretty decent bargain. Before you write it off as just another dull, fat, two-door, take one for a spin and see for yourself.

By Nate Hassler
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