Downside: Foppish, pseudo-sporty exterior that increases cost without improving the drive.

Ride, acceleration and handling: Excellent in all three categories. No complaints.

Head-turning quotient: C'mon, dude. You have a wife and kids, a mortgage and utility bills. And you probably do the soccer thing on weekends. Stop pretending otherwise.

Body style/layout: All Nissan Altima cars are front-engine, front-wheel-drive, four-door sedans with traditional notchback trunks.

Engine/transmission: The Altima SE-R is equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 that develops 260 horsepower at 6,000 revolutions per minute and 251 foot-pounds of torque at 3,600 rpm. The engine is linked to a standard six-speed manual transmission.

Cargo and fuel capacities: The Altima SE-R, like its Altima siblings, has seating for five people. Maximum luggage capacity is 15.6 cubic feet. The fuel tank holds 20 gallons of required premium unleaded gasoline.

Mileage: I averaged 26 miles per gallon in mostly highway driving.

Safety: Head and side air bags are optional. Ditto traction control. Stability control was not available at this writing.

Price: The base price on the 2005 Altima SE-R is $29,200. The dealer's invoice price on the base model is $27,005. Price as tested is $30,560, including $800 for the optional head and side air bags and a destination charge of $560. Buy the bags. The dealer's invoice price with bags and destination charge is $28,259. Prices are subject to change. Quotes here come from Nissan, Edmunds.com and Cars.com, the last of which is an affiliate of The Washington Post.

Purse-strings note: The Altima 3.5 SE is a better deal. Compare with the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, Subaru Legacy and Volvo S40.