First Drive: 2007 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V

SER

The lesser 2007 Sentra trim levels have been on sale since last year, but there's been no SE-R Spec V since the previous generation retired. Now it’s here, and what better place to test a high-performance model than on a track? However, the SE-R left our writers a bit perplexed about its go-fast aspirations.

Joe Wiesenfelder: I was looking forward to this redo, in part because the 2006 didn't cut the mustard ... or even the custard, which, I think you'll agree, is marginally easier to cut. Also, the redesigned Sentra improves on the previous gen, and I hoped Nissan would dial it up on this version, too. Having driven the new one, I'm sad to say I'm disappointed.

The only thing the old Spec V had going for it was an engine larger than the high-revving type of, say, a Honda Civic Si. The 2.5-liter four-cylinder gave it more low-rev torque for launching off the line and powering out of turns. The new generation again gives you a 2.5-liter four-cylinder in place of the regular Sentra's 2.0-liter. Even though the power is higher at 200 hp, up from 175 hp in the old Spec V, the torque peak has stayed at 180 pounds-feet, and it comes at higher engine speeds — 5,200 rpm rather than 4,000 rpm. This car is also nearly 400 pounds heavier. Numbers don't always tell the story, but this time they do: The car feels sluggish when accelerating, only pouring on at higher engine speeds.

The old Spec V was never much of a handler, and though this one isn't sloppy, it also failed to impress. On the racetrack, I was sure the tires had to be all-seasons; they just didn't have the grip. In fact they are summer performance tires. They give up traction gradually and aren't dangerous, but neither do they glue the car to the pavement as we've come to expect.

In a sense, the car's better aspects are gone, and its shortcomings aren't dramatically improved. Some competitors that use smaller engines now get superior torque from them by means of well-executed turbochargers. (You know turbos ... the ones you expect to be weak off the line.) Where competitors have added it, the Sentra has taken low-rev torque away. Granted, cars like the Mazdaspeed3 and VW GTI are more expensive, but it's not only about cost. When you have a Sentra, Sentra S, Sentra SL and the ostensibly sporty Sentra SE-R and Sentra SE-R Spec V, shouldn't the top-of-the-line deliver more and compete better? Nissan isn't a clueless company, but we're a long way from the scrappy 1991 model that introduced the SE-R badge. This version is a missed opportunity.”

slr slr slr

David Thomas: I too was really excited that the SE-R was at the event. I’ll admit, I read great things about it in other publications, but after taking it on the track I couldn’t believe anyone could pen glowing words about its performance prowess. In fast turns, the SE-R felt like it was ready to tip over, and that limited how hard I wanted to press it. The tires didn’t help either, as the grip was hardly reassuring, as Joe mentioned.

I had to hop into the new Mitsubishi Lancer GTS right afterward because I had just reviewed it and remembered how great it handled corners in the real world. Not to my surprise, it handled the track better than the SE-R even though it might not have been as fast through the gears. And remember, the Lancer GTS isn’t going to be that model’s top performance trim. There will be a larger engine coming to it in the future, and of course the next Evo. I won’t even list all the other cheap speed demons that bested the SE-R on the track, but they included the Mini Cooper S and Mazdaspeed3.

Oh, I almost forgot — to get this performance, Nissan put crossbars behind the backseat to improve rigidity and handling. That means no fold-down rear seats. D’oh! So, the performance isn’t that much better and you lose utility. Great. I did dig the red stitching and seat belts, and the upgraded stereo. None of that would get me to line up for another ride on the track, though.”

slr slr slr

Mike Hanley: In the Sentra SE-R Spec V's defense, I've only driven a handful of production cars that have felt at home on Road America's fast four-mile circuit. I didn't take the car on the track, but instead opted for some country roads surrounding it and came away with a more favorable opinion of the car than Joe and Dave.

The Spec V responds well to driver commands, and tossing it around on the winding roads near Elkhart Lake, Wis., proved to be entertaining. Its ride and handling reminded me of Subaru's Impreza WRX, and the short-throw six-speed manual transmission is positioned high, which puts it in easy reach of your right hand. Even though the 2.5-liter four-cylinder is pretty noisy and the steering has a little too much assist to be considered sporty, the compact sedan's fun factor seems reasonable for the money.

By David Thomas | May 4, 2007 | Comments (19)

Comments 

George

Are the wheels only 7" wide?
Most 225/45 tire use 7.5" wide wheels, and some german cars run 8" wide wheel with 225/45 tires.

George,
Yes, the SE-R Spec V's wheels measure 17x7 inches.

Colin

It's funny how that "service engine soon" indicator is on for a brand new car.

Colin,
It was being thrown around one of the country's fastest race tracks by JOURNALISTS. I'm surprised it wasn't saying "Get me out of here!"

That said, you're right. This photo was taken at idle and stayed on for the lap. and no other car I took out that day had its engine light on.

George

One would think Nissan would re-engineer the rear seats for at least a pass through.

Maybe it would make sense to get wider wheels for those tires, and use the stock wheels for 215/50 snow tires.

A quick check at BMW's website, 225/50 17 on 7.5"x17" on the 530, and 225/45 17 on 8"x17" for the 335

Amuro Ray

George,

What you are pointing is basically what most people had done to their Spec V/regular SE-R in the past (at least in the West Coast) - tuner vehicles. Though I'm a Nissan fan myself, the Sentra SE-R has never been my favorite. However, for the Spec V (or just the regular SE-R), it is an ideal vehicle for tuning. No, I ain't defending the Sentra itself, but this car does have a lot of tuning potential. Think 'bou it this way - thanks to the much cheaper price of the Sentra compare to its competitors, your wallet won't feel too much pain when you throw out all those junk factory parts and install some serious performance modifications. Throw in a turbo here, a super charger there, some nice wheels and rims, and with the 2500cc engine displacement, you car surely get a lot when compare to the 2000cc Mitsubishi engine (Honda Civic's the exception).

No available stability control, which the Civic Si has standard. Nissan is behind the bandwagon here, as well as with their other cars.

Ken G

I have about 200 miles on my Spec -V “day one”
no it not a BMW or a Porsche but it very fast and fun for about $20,000 this is not anything like the past models Sentras, I have read all the reviews ands then test drove all the models of 2007 Sentras - SE, SE-R . The SE-R 170 horse is ok but does not drive much better than the base models Sentras “boring” but a little less tippy - -

When turning the Spec V during sharp curves I have not felt much body lean when especially when compared to the other Sentras – no I have not drove it on a race track but I have going out of my way to make my drive exciting
The Sec-V is a much different car than the SE-R it drive like a sport car suppose drive –
I purchase it because I like the style – roominess and it fun to drive

Ray, I can't agree with any of that. A 3000lbs+ FWD car says "stay the hell away" to any intelligent "tuner." My wife's 02 is a ton of fun to drive (and nearly as fast as my WRX at autox), but its almost entirely due to being relatively light and having a good amount of torque. And I wouldn't care what they did to the motor -- an extra 400lbs means this car couldn't possibly be anything like it was 5 years ago.

THE INTERIOR WORKS OUT BUT WHERE IS THE FUN AND FAST DRIVE FACTOR OF THE PAST? THE DRIVE COMES FIRST THEN ALL THE BELLS AND WHISTLES. PROBALY CONSIDER A REVISED SUSPENSION (NOT UPGRADING THE PREVIOUS GENERATION FOR COST), MAKE LIMITED-SLIP DIFFERENTIAL STANDARD, FOGLIGHTS APART OF THE LIST AS WELL AS REAR SEAT RED BELTS. BUT ABOVE ALL, THIS IS A EXCITING COMPANY BUT THIS PRODUCT MODERATELY DISSAPOINTS. THIS MODEL HAS SO MUCH POTENTIAL AS BEING THE LEADER IN PRICE FRIENDLY FAST CARS, MAYBE THE NEXT GENERATION WILL PREVAIL WORTHY.

Sam

I think everyone is losing sight of the real benefits of the Sentra SpecV, Its not a race car but a highly tuned sporty sedan. Perhaps its Nissans fault for advertising the car as what it isnt, so all you adrenline crazed tuners with small wangs can just relax now. THe car is a ton of fun for the price, and I dont notice the extra poundage when I peal out and dust all the small sport compacts off the line. Im not a race car driver, so when I kick asphault in your face on the road thats what matters to me. Tracks are for track car, this is a road car for your every day driver. And, everyone complains about the styling in the same breath as they exhault the VWs and Hondas. Last time I checked the VWs havent won any beauty contests, and the hondas arent anything to write home about. I like getting 27mpg and having power and comfort when I take my girl out, so what the car isnt the fastest best handeling car on the road; has anyone ever heard of drivability? Taking a 90degree corner at 40 in 3rd gear and having power on the way out is my idea of fun. Whats yours?

Shant

I personally think the the 2007 SE-R Spec V is an awesome car. I'll admit I haven't driven on yet, but it really appeals to me. The only problems I have with it are the lack of red rear seatbelts, non-folding rear seats (at least a pass-through would be nice), and no rear cup holders. Oh, and to those of you complaining about the V-brace: These are commonplace in Europe. They actually do help significantly when it comes to cornering.

joe lamperelli

so i just bought a sentra ser spec v about 2 weeks ago and personally think it is an awesome car. however, i got a flat already. the dealerships in connecticut are telling me that this car has tires that can't be bought on the market but that is absolutely ridiculous. any ideas on where to find a damn tire?

robert

i own one of these and i own a bmw e30.

i have owned a few cars including a tuned 93 mr2 turbo being my fave of all.

this car is by no means meant to go on a drag strip and dominate, nor is it made to be the king of the autocross...

nissan put the daily driver in mind.

someone that has to commute a few miles to many miles everyday to work and sometimes school. (like me working and going to school full time)

it gets amazing gas mileage for the power it puts out...

especially compared to the 15mpg i was gettin in the mr2, i get slightly better in my e30 2.7 stroker... but not much.

those cars are made to race, are rwd and meant for the track.

this car is meant to commute by day, but on the way home, take the long curvy roads that make you a few minutes late cause you wanna twist and turn before you get home.

the car that when you are out with friends or with your girlfriend you can fly by a solstice or an si and laugh.

thats what i bought it for.

a reliable daily driver that has some kick to it.

then when i wanna have some real honest fun and suck some gas... i hop into my e30 and heel toe the corners :D

Bill

Very disappointed in alignment-tires worn out @10,000--alignment is unadjustable--Nissan warranty failed to correct the problem--they replaced 2 rear axles,tires and then changed specs. Now they won't study the problem--just offered a maintenance contract for 75,000 miles. I think there's an engineering error and we'll see a recall in the rear suspension in the future. Nissan's warranty and consumer affairs don't back up their reputation--although I think their reputation will come back to bite them someday.

GangstaSpecV

SERVICE ENGINE SOON could be result of:
When I purchased my 08 Spec-V 5 months from the dealer, after driving couple days and experiencing rough idling bad mpg I was reading the manual and it said use ONLY Premium unleaded for SPEC-V.

So, couple days later I was at the dealer dropping off the check for the car(yeah, my credit is that good) I asked what kind of gas do they fill? Oh, we only have regular here at the dealerships we fill all cars with that!!!

The manual says you can damage the engine if you drive the Spec-V with regular fuel. I can imagine what it would do if you drove the car hard with it: Service engine soon!

GangstaSpecV

Here are some driving impressions for the SPEC-V in my 5 months of adventures:

*Judge a car by the size of it's brakes! (brake size to weight)

Keep in mind, this is a sports sedan, not a sports car. In that regard it would be fair to compare Spec-V to Acura TSX. Spec-V beats TSX hands down. I know, cause not only the numbers say so, but I've done it, over and over.

Civic SI is the nemesis, yet in real world where you're required to slowdown then accelarate due to traffic SI looses due to weak torque, and it get's even uglier when both cars have passengers as SI's weaker torque lets it down. At 0-60 SI looses(proven) Overall I wooped couple civic SI's (coupe and a sedan) However, Civi SI is more stylish and I think it's more refined to drive. But, Spec-V wins with the crude power.

Spec-V is not much to look at, but Nissan reliability and overall engine performance is good (real world usable performance requires torque) I would have most definitely purchased an SI sedan if it had real torque (at least 160Lbs)

One problem is with the TPM, the dealer is jerking me off on that. I also had a recalled master cylinder for the brake. But, the braking is better than and at par with much more expensive vehicles. Braking performance reminds me the brake assist on my brother's Mercedes Benz.


Daniel

In the 07 nissan sentra spec-v. What gas grade should it take...its says premium but whould that be the 93octane or which grade? can any1 please tell me...

bryan rodgers

i put a 07 ser spec v motor in my 04 sentra and it runs like a bat out of hell i love it way faster than the stock 04 motor

Post a Comment 

Please remember a few rules before posting comments:

  • If you don't want people to see your email address, simply type in the URL of your favorite website or leave the field empty.
  • Do not mention specific car dealers by name. Feel free to mention your city, state and brand.
  • Try to be civil to your fellow blog readers. This blog is not a fan or enthusiast forum, it is meant to help people during the car-buying process and during the time between purchases, so shoppers can keep a pulse on the market.
  • Stay on topic. We want to hear your opinions and thoughts, but please only comment about the specified topic in the blog post.
view posting rules

If you have a TypeKey or TypePad account, please Sign In

Search Results

KickingTires Search Results for

Search Kicking Tires

KickingTires iPhone App
Ask.cars.com