Nissan’s Turner-Ready Sentra

 Now that the volume models of the new Sentra sedan are on sale, Nissan can take care of the boy racers in the audience with the addition of the Sentra SE-R and SE-R Spec V.

 Now that the volume models of the new Sentra sedan are on sale, Nissan can take care of the boy racers in the audience with the addition of the Sentra SE-R and SE-R Spec V. Aimed at two similar but distinct sets of performance buyers, the models replace the base Sentra’s MR20DE twin cam four cylinder engine with the larger and more powerful QR25DE from the Altima. The 2.5-liter inline four comes in two variants: a 177-hp/172 lb-ft version for the SE-R and a 200-hp/180 lb-ft version for the Spec V. The former is mated to Nissan’s Jatco-supplied CVT, though paddle shifters are fitted behind the steering wheel to allow the driver to toggle through six distinct ratios in manual mode. The latter comes attached to a six-speed manual gearbox, and is modified to reach the higher output levels.

According to Tony Pearson, manager, Technologies and Motor Sports at Nissan North America, the high-output Spec V engine is a bit different than its less powerful sibling. “The high-output version features a unique block casting to make room for the strengthened crankshaft, reinforced connecting rods, and revised water jacket.” In addition, this engine has a higher compression ratio (10.5:1 vs. 9.6:1), revised cam profiles with 4? greater lift, stronger valve springs, short-branch resin intake manifold, low inertia dual-mass flywheel, low backpressure exhaust system, and a 4-2-1 exhaust manifold with dual catalytic converters.

One thing missing from under the hood is the near-ubiquitous strut brace found in every tuner magazine on the planet. Says Pearson: “A traditional strut tower brace was initially considered for the Spec V. However, while it would have offered solid improvements in one axis of motion, it would not have had any effect in others. Reinforcing the cowl area with thicker, stronger sheetmetal was found to be a superior solution in this application.” According to Nissan product planning specialist Matt Cragin, customers told Nissan they wanted the factory to take care of those areas that are difficult for buyers to modify correctly. “That’s why we upgraded the structure, brakes, suspension, and engine,” he says, “and left the customization to the buyer.” Nevertheless both the SE-R and Spec V get unique wheels, front fascias, rocker covers, badging, and a rear spoiler.

The SE-R is fitted 11.7-in. front and 11.5-in. rear disc brakes, while the more powerful Spec V has 12.6-in front discs (the rears remain the same) and unique “SE-R” front calipers. Both cars are equipped with digressive variable-flow dampers, but they are tuned for a sportier feel than the standard Sentra units in the Spec V. Similarly, the SE-R shares the standard Sentra’s ride height while the Spec V sits 10-mm lower, has internal rebound springs on the rear dampers to keep the tail from “hiking up” during cornering, and sports a larger 25-mm front anti-roll bar, and has a V-brace in the trunk. “It gets in the way of using the fold down rear seat to increase luggage space,” says Cragin, “but the Spec V buyer won’t mind given his preference for performance.” The 2007 Sentra SE-R goes from a base of $19,400 to a high of $21,450, while the Spec V starts at $19,900 and tops out at $22,100.