Click the image above for our full gallery of desktop wallpaper-sized pics Nissan determined that Miami would serve as the East Coast launching ground for the next addition to its SE-R legacy. Why Miami? We don't know either, but ignoring the hard bodies, mojitos and other stereotypes of this great proboscis into the Atlantic, the question to be answered is this: does the new Sentra SE-R live up to its predecessors or is it simply an econobox with a red seatbelt? We were invited to the Homestead Speedway to find out. This hotted up Sentra enters the market in the middle of a sport compact renaissance. Spearheaded by the Civic Si, elaborated on by the MK5 GTI and now, by many accounts, dominated by the Mazdaspeed3, the SE-R has its work cut out for it. Whether or not its combatants can be categorized as traditional "sport compacts" is debate for another day, but with performance figures within tenths of a second of each other, the competition in this particular segment has already been set to boil. To begin with, the Sentra SE-R comes in two flavors: standard and Spec V. The former comes equipped with a 2.5-liter QR25DE producing 177 HP at 6,000 RPM and 172 lb.-ft. of torque at 2,800 RPM. Power is sent down to the front wheels via Nissan's Xtronic CVT, complete with a set of steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters, allowing would-be racers to channel their inner Alonso. Nissan likes to tout the fact that the nearest competitor in the segment with a paddle-shift transmission is the GTI, at a $4k premium. However, comparing VW/Audi's delectable DSG to a CVT with artificial ratios is a like saying that Rosie O'Donnell is as hot as Pamela Anderson, just because they share the same cup size. Mechanical faux pas aside, Nissan understands that two groups exist within its target demographic, and the standard SE-R was produced to appeal to those looking for an increase in performance without sacrificing the smooth ride to which their delicate bottoms have grown accustomed. As such, the suspension on the base SE-R is made up of slightly stiffer springs that keep the stock ride height, however, variable-flow dampers, a technology pilfered from Infiniti, is employed to soak up the bumps in every day driving and firm up when the going gets twisty. Our time behind the wheel of both vehicles was minimal, as a lack of small helmets limited our hot laps, but the overall impression of the standard SE-R was favorable, though not awe-inspiring. Depressing the Manual button to the left of the shift knob engages the paddle shifters, although we would prefer a quick tap on either paddle to employ the system automatically. "Downshifting" was quick and intuitive, proving useful on a couple of the tighter bends, while up shifting with the paddles was useless as the CVT would quickly swap up as soon as it reached the engine's 6,200 RPM redline. Quite the killjoy, that CVT. As for handling, the standard …
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|MPG||25 City / 33 Hwy|
|Transmission||Xtronic 2-spd CVT w/OD|
|Power||140 @ 5100 rpm|
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