The Nissan Sentra SE-R, and its Spec-V sibling, is entering a market rife with performance bargains. On the turbocharged side of the fence lays the GTI and MazdaSpeed3, while the coupe and sedan versions of Honda's Si covers the naturally aspirated realm. Simply put, the SE-R has got serious competition from all sides.
In order to do battle with its competitors, Nissan's Spec-V version of the SE-R brings the required 200 HP to the game at 6,600 RPM, but unlike the Civic Si, it produces torque to match: 180 lb.-ft. of it at 5,200 RPM. That power is fed through a close-ratio, six-speed gearbox and then sent to the wheels via a Helical Limited-Slip diff.
Making effective use of all that potential energy is a sport-tuned independent front suspension, with stiffer springs and shocks. While in the rear, an antiquated torsion beam rear suspension gives the Civic Si the upper hand. Both the standard SE-R and the Spec-V come equipped with 17-inch, 10-spoke wheels that frame 11.7-inch rotors on the former and 12.6-inch rotors on the latter, in front. Both models get 11.5-inch binders in the rear, along with ABS and Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD).
The base SE-R gets a de-tuned version of the 2.5-liter, 16-valve, inline-four, found in the Spec-V, only creating 177 HP at 6,000 RPM and 172 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,800 RPM. Instead of the six-speed gearbox found in the Spec-V, Nissan's Xtronic CVT is used, complete with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
The exterior of the SE-R is noticeably devoid of any boy-racer aesthetic, relying only on mildly revised front and rear fascias, side sills, headlights and taillights. The inside gets custom buckets with red stitching and aluminum pedals, while the Spec-V gets a set of red seat belts and a leather-wrapped shift knob. By far, the most outlandish piece of kit has to be the additional duo of gauges, angled towards the driver, that displays oil pressure (good enough), but also a G-meter to measure lateral forces.
If Nissan's press material is to be believed, the Spec-V version of the SE-R will make it to market at under 20-large. Even with the Si selling for $19,999 (if you can find one at that price), the Nissan has lots to offer, but we can't help wanting a bit more.
200-Horsepower SE-R Model Joins 2007 Sentra Lineup,
Offers Serious Performance at an Affordable Price
– Sentra SE-R, SE-R Spec V Set to Join Sentra Lineup in March 2007 –
When Nissan first launched the Sentra SE-R in 1991, it helped establish the concept of a "sport compact" car. With a high performance 4-cylinder engine stuffed into a compact body, the original SE-R offered sports car-like performance for buyers on a budget. Enthusiasts and the media recognized this unique combination of performance and value and the Sentra SE-R became an instant hit – and has maintained a loyal following through two successive generations of SE-R.
The latest incarnation of the SE-R joins the Nissan lineup in March 2007 with two exciting versions, the Sentra SE-R and the higher horsepower Sentra SE-R Spec V. Both the new SE-R and SE-R Spec V are powered by Nissan's advanced 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine (QR25DE) and are equipped with a range of unique performance-oriented equipment and features, including standard 17-inch wheels and tires, 4-wheel disc brakes with Anti-lock Braking System (ABS) and specially tuned electric power steering (EPS) – as well as unique exterior and interior appearance modifications.
"The new SE-R takes full advantage of the redesigned 2007 Sentra and adds a level of power and performance that is usually available only through aftermarket modifications," said Bill Bosley, vice president and general manager, Nissan Division, Nissan North America, Inc. "With the 2007 model, Nissan has undertaken its most in-depth development effort yet for the SE-R." Development of the SE-R engine was guided by Motohiro Matsumura, Chief Vehicle Engineer, who previously led the development of Nissan's highly acclaimed "VQ" series V6 engine.
Special emphasis was placed on the SE-R Spec V's new high output version of the QR25DE 4-cylinder engine, with extensive modifications to the top end of the engine developed exclusively for the SE-R Spec V. Among the unique Spec V engine features are use of a unique resin intake manifold and dual branch exhaust manifold; revised piston crown shape to support a higher compression ratio (10.5: 1); iridium tipped spark plugs for improved combustion characteristics; and a revised cam shaft profile, reinforced connecting rods and 8-counterweight crankshaft to achieve a higher redline limit of 6,800 rpm.
With these modifications, the power achieved is 200 horsepower at 6,600 rpm and 180 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 rpm (when using premium unleaded fuel). Helping to put all this power to the ground is an optional Helical Limited-Slip Differential (available with Spec V only). The Spec V model is available only with a close-ratio 6-speed manual transmission. It also has unique suspension, brakes, tires and body structure changes (versus the base SE-R).
In the area of chassis, handling and braking performance, the SE-R Spec V is equipped with higher rate springs, shocks and bushings; 225/45WR17 uni-directional high performance tires; high capacity front disc brakes with 12.6-inch rotors; and a revised cowl top structure and a unique trunk mounted "V" brace, both utilized for increased body rigidity.
Chassis performance and vehicle dynamics tests were conducted on the grueling Nurburgring Nordschleife closed circuit outside of Cologne, Germany. Behind the wheel of the SE-R Spec V on the Nordschleife circuit was Nissan's chief development driver, Yukio Kamiyama, who was also responsible for Nissan's legendary Skyline R32 and R33 models.
"With Nissan's top development staff working on Sentra SE-R, it has achieved unprecedented levels of power and performance," said Bosley.
The SE-R model offers fun-to-drive performance and aggressive, sporty appearance to those who want the convenience of an automatic transmission. The Sentra SE-R, equipped exclusively with Nissan's Xtronic CVT™ (Continuously Variable Transmission), is a unique offering in the sport compact market.
Enhancing the driving experience of the SE-R model are steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters. Designed to be fun and engaging, the paddle shifters allow for quick and responsive up shifts and down shifts while driving on mountain roads or just negotiating through daily traffic.
"As we've shown with the Xtronic CVT-equipped Altima and Maxima, CVTs are not just for smoothness and fuel economy – they can be tuned for performance also" said Bosley.
Performance in the SE-R is delivered by the QR25DE engine tuned for 177 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 172 lb-ft of torque at 2,800 rpm (on regular unleaded fuel).
The new SE-R's independent strut front / torsion beam rear suspension design, shared with the standard 2007 Sentra, has been tuned for sporty handling, while not being overly firm during everyday use.
Stopping power for the SE-R is provided by 4-wheel disc brakes with 11.7-inch front rotors. Contact with the road is handled through 225/45VR17 all-season performance tires.
Inside the Sentra SE-R cabin are a number of unique SE-R features, including an exclusive black interior color, sport bucket front seats with SE-R stitching, unique seat fabrics, red seat belts (Spec V only), aluminum foot pedal pads, leather-appointed steering wheel and shift knob, and an additional two-gauge meter pack.
These two additional gauges, canted towards the driver, provide information on oil pressure and acceleration/deceleration g-force.
Like all 2007 Sentra models, the new SE-R also offers an array of comfort and convenience features including standard power windows and door locks, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD 6-speaker audio, and an integrated overhead compact disc holder. Optional features include a 340-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system, factory installed satellite radio and Nissan's Intelligent Key keyless entry system (SE-R only).
Standard safety features for the Sentra SE-R include an Advanced Air Bag System (AABS) with dual stage front air bags and occupant classification system for the front passenger seat, front seat side air bags, side curtain air bags (for front and rear outboard occupant head protection), front seat Active Head Restraints and Zone Body construction.
"The last great component of the new 2007 Sentra SE-R is price. We're targeting a price of around $20,000 for the Sentra SE-R Spec V – which means 200 horsepower for $20K – which we believe makes SE-R Spec V one of the best values in the sport compact segment," said Bosley. "This new Sentra SE-R has a lot to offer even the most demanding enthusiasts. It'll be a thrill to drive, right out of the box."