Personally, I was very excited when I heard Nissan was resurrecting the beloved SE-R. When I found out that it was finally at the dealership, I rushed there to give it a test drive. I wanted to drive their top of the line SE-R, which was the Spec-V, because why settle for less?
Well, I must say, the car was not as great as I thought it was going to be. In fact, before the car was released, Nissan claimed the Spec-V to be 180hp, and the SE-R to be 170hp. I read in a magazine somewhere that they performed dyno tests (tests that determine the true horsepower at the wheel), and it showed that the Spec-V came about 30-40hp short of what was claimed. Thus, I am assuming that Nissan has lowered their claim of 180hp to 175hp for this reason, which still does not justify the lack of true horsepower. Another reason could be that Nissan had to follow the emission laws, so lowering the horsepower would produce less pollutant air.
Anyhow, let's get to the nitty gritty about this car.
The front fascia of the car was supposed to be designed after the well-known Japanese race car, the Nissan Skyline (a $90K car...yep, isn't that something?). Personally, it has SOME similarities, but it doesn't really look like it. In fact, it makes the car look rather "bubbly" because the lines are not sharp, and is really rounded. It does look better than the original Sentra, but still, competing with the likes of other import cars that are also getting into the more "sportier" upgrades, it does not impress (compared to cars like the Celica Action Package, Mazda Protege MP3, etc.). Although, I have to agree that the 17" rims that come standard on the Spec-V are REALLY nice. The standard 16" rims on the SE-R is decent, but is no head-turner. The spoiler gives the car a more sportier look, but is the same spoiler that can be added to the other Sentras, like the XE and GXE. Now, what's so special about that? The side sill extensions are there, but not that noticable. Besides the side sills, rims, and a more aggressive front end, the car is exactly the same as a regular Sentra.
Okay, one will immediately notice the "race-inspired" seats when you step into the Spec-V. The seats are red down the middle, and bordered by black (this also goes for the rear seats). Nissan calls it the "Lava Cloth". It's kind of tacky, and it seems that Nissan tried TOO hard to make it look like a four-door race car. The regular SE-R doesn't have these seats, and the cloth is SLIGHTLY different from a regular Sentra. The thing that is REALLY odd is that the Spec-V comes with the Lava colored seats NO MATTER WHAT EXTERIOR COLOR YOU GET. Umm, how's that car going to look with red/black interior when the exterior of the car is blue? Not the greatest. The room in the front was fairly large, and three can sit rather comfortably in the back, but it is slightly cramped if you are tall. What was also changed was the instrument panels, as they were a lot more race-inspired, and it lights up red at night. Nothing special, but it does look cooler than normal. In the Spec-V, the shift knob is not a regular black knob, but it's a metallic looking knob (which is kind of long) and says SE-R on it. The car I test drove came with the Rockford Fosgate 300 watt system, which included a CD player, 9 speakers, and a subwoofer. Rockford Fosgate is known as a pretty good car audio company, but for some reason, the sound was horrible. I really don't understand why they even bothered to put a subwoofer in the back trunk, since you barely can even hear it! It just sounds like the 6X9 speakers in the rear were putting out the bass. From a subwoofer, I expected a lot more bass, and it barely put out anything. In fact, the only way I heard the bass was when I opened the trunk to see if the darn thing was even working! The sound quality wasn't that impressive either, so I would advise not to upgrade to this audio system.
I have mixed feelings about the performance of this car. When Nissan claimed that their Spec-V will probably run 0-60mph in the high 6s, I couldn't wait to get my hands on this thing! But when I drove it, it really wasn't that fast. Not only that, but recent magazines have been rating the Spec-V running in the mid 7s or a little higher. For those who aren't racing enthusiasts, this shouldn't matter too much, as the car really has good pick-up from the huge 180 lb-ft of torque on the Spec-V (175 lb-ft on the SE-R). Also, the SE-R seems to have no problem driving up hills, which is probably due to the high torque. You don't really have to drive it hard, as most people will with cars that have small engines. The 2.5L 4-cylinder engine is rather good, as it performs nicely and sounds great too. With 175hp on the Spec-V, and 165hp on the SE-R, you won't have a problem passing cars or getting up to the speed you want. The only problem I have with driving this car is the stick shift. First off, it has a really rubbery feel, and seems to shift into second erratically until you get used to it. I have been driving an 2001 Integra GS-R, and became rather fond of the stick shift (and I personally think that it's one of the best manual transmission cars out there). When I drove the Spec-V, not only was the shifting erratic, but you actually have to push harder to the left to shift from 1 to 2, otherwise the spring will push it back to the middle, and you'll be shifting from 1 to 4. The gears engage well, but only starting from the 2nd gear and on (up to the 6th gear).
Is this car comfortable you ask? It sure is. The car is quiet enough to keep all the outside noise out with all the windows closed, but lets in the nice humming and aggressive sound of the engine to let you know the car is powerful. The bumps are also absorbed rather well, and isn't really felt unless travelling over bumps and holes at a high speed.
There are two packages offered for the SE-R and the SE-R Spec V. One package, which I advise not to upgrade to, is the "Audio Fanatic Package", which equips the car with the Rockford Fosgate system, vehical security system, and immobilizer system. It would be a better bet to buy your own alarm from an car alarm shop than to have a factory alarm, because buying your own alarm would have more functions, and probably a higher security. Normally, factory alarms aren't the greatest, and provide the most minimal securities. The second option is the "Sunroof Package", and as you can guess, equips the car with a sunroof. Not only that, but the package also comes with illuminated vanity mirrors on the visors (only on the Spec V).
Now comes the question, how much mileage does this car get? Well, a regular Sentra (manual transmission) would give out 27/35 mpg (city/hwy). The SE-R is 23/28, and the Spec-V is 21/28. Automatic transmission (which is not available on the Spec-V, which is a 6-speed tranny) will give out slightly less mpg, but it's not that big of a difference. As you can see, higher horsepower correlates with more gas consumption. So, if you are not too much into the power of this car, then it would be wiser to buy a regular Sentra, as you will also be getting better mileage.
I have to admit, for a car like this, the car is pretty cheap. The dealership over here in Illinois was selling the Spec-V for $16,999. With both options added to it, the total came out to around $18,500, which is still reasonable. Seeing how competitors out there are selling their car for much more, this SE-R will be a stiff competition for them. At this price, I will assume a lot of people will buy it.
Overall, this car didn't meet all the expectations I had. Don't get me wrong...it is a good car, but I guess I expected more, especially in the performance department, as this car is tuned for a more sporty kind of car (by the way, the SE-R and SE-R Spec-V has taken over the original 2.0 SE, so the SE is no longer in production). Nevertheless, for $17K base and $18.5K fully loaded, the Spec-V is a great buy.
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