Nissan's Sentra SE-R has more tasteful styling than some of its
boy-racer competitors. It has a more grown-up driving feel, with a
smooth highway ride and refined suspension.
While it still has
plenty of hard plastic, the Sentra SE-R's interior actually looks nicer
than you'd expect in an economy car. It's a well-designed cabin with
good visibility and controls that are easy to use.
The first time I drove
a Nissan Sentra SE-R, a 2002 model, if I remember right, it left me
terribly disappointed. I was expecting a screamer akin to the Mitsubishi
Evolution, or maybe even a scaled-back Subaru WRX, both ferocious cars
that can test how healthy your heart is.
Instead, I thought the
SE-R was just an economy car that was too loud; both in terms of its
Maxwell House exhaust tip and middle-school styling. I didn't like it
Now fast-forward to
2008 and I find another Sentra SE-R sitting in my driveway, only this
time I don't hate it. Perhaps it's because I've had a couple of kids, or
the fact that the new Sentra is a much better car, but I thoroughly
enjoyed spending a week driving this one-time object of scorn.
And that's because it
has split personalities. On one side, it's a Sentra, which is a Japanese
word that translates to mean, "Boring as the Fred Thompson campaign."
Drive it on the Interstate and it settles in for a smooth, quiet lull
that feels surprisingly refined for an economy car.
On the flip side, the
SE-R acronym stands for Japanese words that, when carefully translated
into English, mean "goes like stink." So there you have it: the Sentra
SE-R means, "Boring as the Fred Thompson Campaign, but it goes like
It's an interesting
combination in a car, and I actually like it. It's docile and easy-going
when you want it to be, but it becomes playful whenever you choose, just
like the perfect Labrador retriever.
The SE-R's fun side is
really enabled by a decent engine and a great suspension. The 2.5-liter,
four-cylinder power plant makes 177 horsepower, which is enough to have
fun, but not enough to tempt the Grim Reaper.
suspension, though, makes good use of the available power with its Dr.
Jekyll and Mr. Hyde response. It actually feels quite normal, even dull,
when you're driving the Sentra like a normal car, but when you start to
push it, the car pushes back with the sensation of a true sports sedan.
The dramatic difference between normal driving and spirited driving is
what gives it that split personality.
And, no surprise in a
Sentra, the SE-R is actually quite affordable. It starts at $19,680,
which is impressive considering its performance and level of standard
equipment, including things like keyless entry, a trip computer,
leather-wrapped steering wheel with shift paddles, plus a nice stereo.
Just don't expect it to
come with lithium pills. It's a bipolar car, and it's perfectly fine the
way it is.
What was tested?
The 2008 Nissan Sentra SE-R with a base price of $19,680. Options
include: XM Satellite Radio at $150, splash guards at $140, a stereo
upgrade for $750, the moonroof package at $750, full floor mats at $165
and the intelligent key at $250. MSRP price as tested, including the
$625 destination charge: $22,510
Why avoid it?
It's not as exciting as some of its competitors.
Why buy it? It
can instantly transition from boring economy car to thrilling sports
By Derek Price ©
AutoWire.Net - San Francisco
Nissan Home Page
Byline: Car Review
provided by Tony Leopardo © AutoWire.Net
Column Name: There are two sides to the Sentra SE-R
Topic: The 2008 Nissan Sentra SE-R
Word Count: 656
Photo Caption: The 2008 Nissan Sentra SE-R
Photo Credits: Nissan Sentra Internet Media
Series #: 2008 -
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2008 Nissan Sentra