2017 Nissan Sentra SR Power To The People!
By Thom Cannell
The Auto Channel
There has always been the canny few who knew how to get around limitations, and we don’t mean political operatives. Over the years car enthusiasts have figured ways, for instance, to get Mustang GT-like performance without huge insurance premium. Later, certain early Acura, Honda, and Nissan models offered more performance than the brand seemed to offer. At Nissan that car has been the Sentra SR.
Sentra SR tops the model’s range in price, with either a 6-speed manual or Xtronic automatic (CVT transmission) included in the $22,000 MSRP (plus shipping). To get more performance you’d have to ascend, not step up, to far pricier Focus SRT or VW GTI. For SR’s price you get a lot more than you might expect given Sentra’s modest cost and compact car vibe. You get more than the LED headlamps, new corporate nose with its distinctive V shape. Yes, you get a very spunky 1.6-liter inline four with Direct Injection and a turbo. You get 64 plus horses, 188 horsepower total and 177 pound feet of torque which is far more important in the “get out of Dodge” department. In fact it’s a 50 percent horsepower injection over the standard normally-aspirated Sentra.
There’s more than that, of course, particularly if you spend the extra bucks for the only available upgrade package— Premium, which we drove. The reason we’d reason with our banker is the leather interior, navigation screen and Bose 8-speaker sound system. We also want its Blind Sport Warning and rear Cross Traffic alerts. Together they elevate Sentra SR Turbo at least a full grade upwards in scale.
Already Sentra SR offers soft touch surfaces on the instrument panel and door armrests, an intelligent key fob with keyless entry, and a rear view monitor. Other upscale features like premium sport cloth seats, heated front seats and a 5” Driver Information Display add to value. For instance look at the steering wheel, it has botique-ish aluminum escutcheons as well as inset buttons for the wheel-mounted controls.
Plus there’s Siri Eye’s Free if you’re an iPhone user and those exterior improvements like LED headlights, sill trim, fog lights, LED turn light-embedded exterior heated mirrors, LED brake lights and power sliding glass moon roof standard in its price structure. As we said, there’s meat in the dish.
To handle the extra power there the usual alterations to suspension, like stiffer dampers in the front and rear, and stiffer springs. With power comes responsibility, so brakes increase from 11 inches to 11.7 inches. They have an excellent feel.
All of these changes and promises come true in driving. There’s grunt to actually move the needle and press check your body in sixth gear, which was a surprise. There’s a revised power steering system with revised mapping to make the chassis respond more quickly, though we did find it (like a majority of cars) to be relatively numb. Nissan’s 6-speed gearbox shifted smoothly with reasonably short throws and positive resistance; clutch feel was good.
What impressed us most on our necessarily short drive was how willing everything was to scramble ahead and how absolutely instantly we reached the rev limit buzzer in first and second. Shades of a race car, we were on the rev limiter and well over 6,000 rpm no such ill intent.
Moving about on unfamiliar public roads we didn’t challenge top speed, but noted cornering that was highly competent and just plain fun. Pointing in to a turn was smooth, exiting smoother and we felt like this was a far more expensive car — which has long been SR’s strength. Those upgraded brakes felt solid and more importantly, smoothly additive. Even pedal location must have escaped lawyers as we could heel-and-toe in our clunky Rockport hiking boots with ease. Mostly we felt very secure while wanting very badly to put it on the track to feel how it really performs.
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