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Prices start at $21,115 for the stick-shift 2.5 S and top out at $26,015 for the CVT-equipped 3.5 SE. The test car was the 3.5 SE with the six-speed manual, which had a base sticker price of $25,515.

Standard equipment on the test car included traction control, anti-lock brakes, tire-pressure monitoring, active front-seat headrests, side air bags and side-curtain air bags, air conditioning, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, push-button ignition, remote locking, a motorized sunroof, power driver’s seat, cruise control and 17-inch alloy wheels. However, it also had a load of options, including a navigation system, XM satellite radio, leather upholstery, automatic climate control, Bluetooth hands-free telephone system, garage-door opener, upgraded audio system with MP3 capability and has high-intensity Xenon headlights. The options brought the suggested delivered price to $31,575.

Nissan expects about six out of 10 buyers will choose a four-cylinder model, mostly with the automatic CVT. The four-banger is certainly adequate for most people, with decent acceleration and easy highway cruising. Of course, enthusiasts likely will be smitten by the tested 3.5 SE, which has 270 horsepower and can accelerate to 60 miles an hour in less than seven seconds. The six-speed manual shifts smoothly, with only a hint of resistance, depending on the engine revs when the driver decides to shift.

Clutch action is progressive and light. Unlike its four-cylinder sibling, however, the 3.5 SE requires premium fuel.

Both the six and four-cylinder models share the same independent suspension system. However, the 3.5 SE has quicker steering and a larger turning circle, which gives it a somewhat more precise handling feel.