- Loads of torque - makes Honda look like a bad joke.
- Awesome handling.
- Stylish interior.
- Well-reinforced body to handle the power.
- Firm suspension does not deteriorate ride quality too much.
- Torque steer.
- Bubbly Sentra styling.
- No manual gearbox offered for 2004 model year.
- Tight back seat.
- No limited-slip differential.
Press Coverage :
The Nissan Sentra SE-R was reintroduced in 2002 after the nameplate was discontinued back in 1993. A 200SX SE-R was offered in the meantime, but it never managed to capture the essence of the powerful and nimble original Sentra SE-R. The new Sentra SE-R comes in two flavors - base and Spec V. The base SE-R more or less looks like the Spec V, but the Spec V comes with larger wheels and Spec V badging to distinguish it from the base SE-R. Standard exterior enhancements for the base SE-R include a mesh grille, rear spoiler, chrome exhaust tips, foglights and 16 inch alloy wheels with 195/55R16 tires.
A standard four-speed automatic is the only tranny offered for 2004. The '02 and '03 models had a five-speed manual available. The Spec V has the same 2.5L DOHC inline four cylinder engine with variable valve timing as the Altima 2.5. It cranks out 165 hp and 175 lb-ft.
Four-wheel disc brakes are standard, but ABS is optional. Only the front suspension is fully independent, with a patented semi-independent system at the rear. Front and rear stabilizer bars are fitted to both cars, as is a front strut tower brace. The SE-R has firmer springs and shocks over the base Sentra, but not as firm as those on the Spec V. The base SE-R has no limited-slip differential
Changes for the facelifted 2004 Nissan Sentra SE-R remain minor. The front end design has been changed, but is now exactly the same as the base stock Sentra models. The only difference is that the SE-R has a mesh grille. The 2002 and 2003 SE-R models had an aggressive front end unique to the SE-R models. New headlight, hood and tail-light designs round out the exterior facelift.
The 2004 Sentra SE-R also upgrades its interior with a standard trip computer and a new charcoal fabric. Standard offerings include power windows and door locks. Storage compartments are plentiful. The large front bucket seats are adjustable, while a 60/40 split fold-down rear seat with locking seat back is now standard for 2004. A loud $550 300-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system is optional, as are $250 side airbags and $700 power sunroof. Other options include air-conditioning and cruise control.
Throttle response is immediate and strong torque propels the SE-R quickly. The power band is very linear. The SE-R has a 16.0:1 power-to-weight ratio.
Handling is even more impressive than acceleration. It's easy to rotate the car in corners using the throttle, making it a lot of fun to drive. The rack-and-pinion steering provides quick and direct control. The SE-R uses larger front and rear stabilizer bars and front suspension tower bracing.
The big brakes slow the SE-R quickly. We found them easy to modulate at Laguna Seca Raceway and on the Pacific Coast Highway. Braking is provided by large four-wheel disc brakes; the SE-R's front rotors measure a full 11 inches, larger than many so-called sporting machines. A four-channel, four-sensor anti-lock braking system is also available.
That much power that crank gets the front wheels spinning even when you don't want them to. Not necessarily a bad side effect, just don't spin the wheels in front of the po-po. Too much throttle and no clutch will induce a wheel spin that suffers from a whole lot of torque steer. This can be made less sever by reducing the amount of gas, but there's so much twist inside the engine that it's understandable.
From the get-go the QR engine has good acceleration and doesn't quit until the end of the higher mid-range. Pick up slows down a tad near the triple-digit mark, but is still more than acceptable for freeway passing--just don't try to pass a 3.5L Altima or Maxima. No matter, it really pulls and pulls; it'll surprise a lot of people, that's for sure. The engine sounds great and has a whine that gives it an almost electric pitch. Hit 5,000 rpm and the engine really comes to life with the exhaust note changing from a higher pitched whine to a lower sounding growl; we love it! This is most likely the point where the cam timing changes and thus sounds a whole lot different.
2000-2001 Nissan Sentra SE
1,998 cc / 145 hp / 136 lb-ft / 2674-2713 lbs / 0-60 mph 8.1 sec.