Pros: Torquey, more powerful, and better handling than the SE
Cons: Overpriced, Lava-coloured seats
Oh my god! It is finally out! IT IS FINALLY OUT! Oh, the excitement!
Oh...is that it?
That was my reaction when I first got the call from my local Nissan dealer that the 2002 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V was available for a test drive. When I got there, the magic feeling when I was awaiting for its arrival was gone. It has now materialized in front of my face, and in the showroom floor, it smells, and feels like my good old trusty 2001 Nissan Sentra SE, with the proven SR20DE engine.
Okay, I hate to do this to you guys and gals, but please read my review on the 2001 SE ( http://www.epinions.com/content_26589171332 ) for more details on a little of everything about this car. A lot of things have NOT changed at all. This is especially true when I climbed in and looked around. About the only thing that screams "Spec V" are the gauges and the seats.
The gauges are now a somewhat annoying RED. It's not so much of it being red, but being very tacky looking. It screams "aftermarket"...or even "did that myself!".
Oh, and the seats do match that annoyingly red color... with a color Nissan calls Lava. You get these red-colored seats no matter what color you choose for your exterior. Most people have already expressed that they will be getting the Aztec Red exterior to match the interior because of this. Very sad. The seats themselves are very comfortable, and very supportive. More so than the 2001 SE, which is a great welcome (again, read why on my SE review). The material used on the seats are very grippy! The seats almost gave me a wedgie when I hit the brakes hard, as I was flung forward a bit. However, the seat of my pants stayed where they were, and...well..you get the idea...
Music on the Road
Roxford Fosgate gets dibs on the rights for this edition of the Sentra. I was surprised that Nissan did not use Bose for their stereo of choice, but being a Roxford Fosgate says alot about Nissan and their new attitude about the modification scene. With an enclosed subwoofer included, does this system finally match aftermarket units? Not really... it sounds a little more boomy over the SE's offering ( remember the 180 watt, 7 speakers including an open air sub? ), which is good enough for most people to keep this system. However, turn up the volume, and the poor mid speakers still distort. Perhaps it's the head unit itself that is at fault. Whatever the case, because it is not a Bose system, you can easily change it, which is great news for people like me who love the JVC KD-SH99 in dash MP3-CD player ( http://www.epinions.com/content_38340693636 ). It goes without saying... with a CD-based MP3 player in the dash, you won't need a CD changer...unless you really want to (still possible, of course). An in-dash 6-CD changer is available.
Nothing much changed, actually. The front facia looks different, thanks to a new grill and bumper. This combo makes it look a little more like the performance-oriented (and only available in Japan) Nissan Skyline. or at least that's what most say... I say it looks a bit like the new Nissan Frontier pickup truck. The rear (unfortunately) looks the same, except that it dons the SE-R badge. It does not, however, indicate that it is a Spec V.
The Spec V is only indicated on the side of the car, on the front doors. The SE-R badge on the sides also reminds your opponents what they are up against.
The most popular colour most are looking for is the race-like blue called Vibrent Blue. With Aztec Red and White produced more, and only a hand full of Blacks and Vibrent Blues are out. The Vibrent Blue, unfortunately, is not the same that you would find on Acuras, or even the Mazda MP3. Many who had the privilage to see the blue SE-R reported that it has a greenish, and sometimes purplish tint, depending on lighting conditions. This is very disapointing, indeed.
About the only thing that feels the same (as the SE) is the clutch. This is a good thing as clutch feel is very good on the SE. Everything, thankfully, is improved.
The engine is very powerful, feeling torquey almost everywhere in the band. This is due to the QR25DE, which is a 2.5 liter (up from 2.0) 4 cylinder, 175 hp, 180 lb/ft torque engine. The engine can still pull hard in 4th gear; something I can't say about the SE. The engine and exhaust sounds more aggressive, as well. Unfortuneatly, fun is cut off at 6200 RPMs, which is the redline of this particular ECU. The SR20DE engine in the SE (2.0 liter, 4 cylinder, 145 hp, 135 lb/ft torque) redlines at 6700 RPMs. Still sigificantly low compared to the classic '93 SE-R, which SR20DE engine redlines at 7200 RPMs. However, even with this low redline, the Spec V does not dissapoint.
Also, it is worth noting that the exahust note, paired with the roaring engine, gives us a reason to turn off our Roxford!
The 6-speed transmission (no auto available), however, is VERY dissapointing. Althought still connected by a rod (again, please read my SE review for more info), it is very rubbery, stiff, and hard to get into the 5th and 6th gear. More than often, I found myself hitting the reverse gate when trying for 5th and 6th gear. A very disturbing feel when driving at high speeds. In fact, when I got back to my car (yes, it's an SE), it made me appriciate my current shifter. However, I must admit I am curious at what revs the 6th gear would bring at 70 MPH. At 5th, the revs was at 3000 when I was doing 70 MPH (Same as my SE's 5 speed). The 6th gear would definately help in gas/mileage.
The suspension is definatly stiffer, and surprisingly still gives a very conforming ride. Driving fast onto and off of ramps, body roll is minimized, though still appearent. The grippy seats, as stated above, helped keep you stable in situations like this. My SE's suspension (which is suppose to be sport-tuned as well) is harsher on ride comfort, but still did not help cornering. This was a very well welcomed in the Spec V. However, the SE-R had more road noise than the SE. I guess you can't have everything.
The 215/40R17 stock tires are very grippy! The low profile makes the Spec V look VERY aggressive, and give us the impression that Nissan is finally realizing that the SE-R needs special sporty treatments (remember the classic SE-Rs? Uhg! At least they were fast!). This aids in the aggressive turning manuvers used to test the suspension. My SE couldn't do that! As the front tires will actually slip during heavy braking and acceleration, and even on MILD TURNS at relatively low (25-30 MPH) speeds.
Paired with grabby brakes, and you can feel the G force when you brake hard! ABS is included as tested, and brake feel was very good! It may be difficult to stop smoothly, though. This may change as you break (no pun intended!) them in. The brakes have not been changed from the SE.
Value and Pricing
This is where I was VERY dissapointed. At $19k, this car is really making itself known that it is no ordinary sport compact! What's more outragous, the dealers here in California is asking for a $5000 markup, which brings the total to $24K.
Their reason for the markup? "This is a limited production car". For now? "Yes, for now". If you read www.carbuyingtips.com , you will see that they are raping the consumers with this excuse! (Read my 2002 Altima review at http://www.epinions.com/content_45256969860 )
Nissan dealers are being very greedy and arrogant lately, thanks to the Spec V and the new Altima. Gee, I do wonder what will happen when the newly redesigned 2003 Maxima and (hopefully) the Skyline (R35!) debuts at our shores. Nissan is quickly becomming like BMW dealers.
With the pricing in hand, I can quickly say this: NO! Very unfortunate that this very impressive addition to the Sentra family is overpriced. With this price, the Acura RSX Type S comes into the picture, as well as the Suburu Impreza WRX. With these high performance cars in the same pricing league, what was Nissan thinking? Because these cars are in limited production, it's the consumer's fault, so we are punished by paying more for it? HELL NO!
Unless Nissan comes to term, I do not recomend it unless you find a dealer that is willing to cooperate.
On a last note, the SE-R Spec V shows that Nissan seems to be willing to give us the sporty and aftermkarketish edge we deserve. To keep us even more on the edge, NISMO is announced to be here in US shores in 2003! ( Check out http://www.nissannews.com/cgi/frameset.pl?/nissan/news/products/reltim20011030173711.html ). NISMO stands for Nissan Motorsports, and was available in Japan for who-knows-when. They make performance parts that are aproved by Nissan, much like TRD does for Toyota, Saleen for the Ford Mustang, and Mugen for Honda. This allows performance mods to be covered by the manufacturer's warrantee. Finally!