2017 Nissan Sentra SR Turbo
LAKE OCONEE, Ga. — An engine doesn’t necessarily make a car, but it can certainly give it swagger. Take the Nissan Sentra for example. Earlier this summer, I tested the Sentra and liked it very much. But, when Nissan mentioned shoving the Juke’s turbocharged engine under the hood, stiffening the suspension, quickening the steering, and sporting out its exterior, I was ready for a drive. At the recent Rogue and Rogue Hybrid preview in Georgia, I had my chance.
Let’s just get to the heart of the matter. Driving the Sentra SR Turbo is a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 188 horsepower — 64 horsepower more than the normally-aspirated 1.8-liter engine in the “regular” Sentra. A robust 177 lb.-ft. of torque gives the car scoot off the line. Both six-speed manual and Xtronic continuously-variable transmissions are available. Rev it, listen to it sing, and drop it down the road.
Engineers went to town on the chassis and handling too. Like other Sentras, the SR Turbo rides on an independent front, torsion beam rear suspension system. Although, it’s been firmed and finessed with revised steering and suspension tuning for strafing backroads. Larger front brake discs bring the car to a halt quicker. Look deeper, and you’ll find a stiffer body structure better suited for handling the stiffer underpinnings. It’s a more mature design, ready for a more mature driver.
The first clues you get to this more invigorating Sentra come from a quick glance. Look for standard LED low beam projector headlights with LED accents and LED turn signals. Accentuated lower body sills, fog lights, rear spoiler with LED brake light, and chrome exhaust tip continue the sporty vibe. Place it all over 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels with all-season tires.
Moving inside, the SR Turbo reflects its athletic nature and a more luxurious side. Buyers get premium sport cloth seats (leather optional), heated front seats, and faux-carbon fiber dash trim. A soft-touch instrument panel and armrests keep hard plastic in the background. Push button ignition, adds convenience. Throw on the tech with a rear camera, Siri Eyes Free, and available safety tech that includes Blind Spot Warning, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, and Bose premium audio.
But, on those two-lane backroads in East Georgia, it wasn’t the Bose audio system or suite of safety equipment that impressed my co-driver and I. We could have driven an SR Turbo with the continuously-variable transmission, but we chose the six-speed manual instead.
A light clutch and click-throw shifter encourage shenanigans. Rev it, drop the clutch, and hone in on the next corner where the suspension is ready to grab it by the scruff. OK, this is still a compact-based fun machine, but it is still substantial fun. And when my co-driver accidentally took aim at a fence post, she was just as quick to avoid it with the Sentra SR Turbo’s reflexes.
“The Sentra SR Turbo is designed for buyers who want all of the attributes of traditional compact sedans but also desire some serious turbo performance,” said Michael Bunce, vice president, Product Planning, Nissan North America, Inc. “The SR Turbo builds upon the redesigned Sentra and adds 50 percent more horsepower and more than 40 percent more torque, as well as the upgrades where drivers will feel them. It’s truly the complete package for compact car buyers and enthusiasts alike.”
I like the idea of a car that can take you to work and back, drop the little ones at daycare, sip fuel, and still retain a fair amount of driving pleasure for those quick shoots coming and going or on weekend fun runs.
Sentra sales have nearly doubled since 2012 with 2016 sales totaling 155,806 units – an 11% increase in 2016 through August. That’s impressive in a segment that’s being scalped by compact crossovers and with market sales down 7%. This is a fun little car at a groovy little price.
During the drive, my journalist friends and I were guessing the price tag. One guessed $28,000. I went lower, closer to the VW GTI’s base price, around $25,000. We were all wrong. When Nissan posted the price, it starts at $21,990 – for either transmission. At that price, Nissan better crank up the assembly lines because this is a really good deal. Competitors include the Chevy Cruze RS, Subaru Impreza Sport, Honda Civic, Hyundai Elantra Sport, and VW GTI.
— Casey Williams (MyCarData)