Strengths and weaknesses:
Sentra delivers performance if not looks
A good deal never goes out of style, even when it’s the bland-looking 2011 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V.
Though it may not be as aggressive-looking as a Lancer Ralliart or Mazdaspeed3, the Spec V is a heck of a lot of fun to drive. The car’s price tag is just the proverbial icing on the cake.Search available trim options for the 2011 Nissan Sentra
The Spec V has been the highest-performance production Sentra for nearly a decade now. For 2011, it gets all the features of the SE-R, along with a generous helping of additional standard stuff, from a lowered ride height and larger front brakes, to an upgraded engine and performance tires.
The Spec V manages to surprise day in and day out with its performance prowess. All that lowering and tightening and tweaking makes for a vehicle that deserves to be spoken of in the same breath as a Civic Si.
It stays nice and flat while cornering; the vehicle is much taller than its competitors, but that’s offset somewhat by its being wider than those same vehicles. Steering is quick and the car will go where you want it to, when you want it.
The only transmission in the Spec V is a six-speed manual (practically a requirement for anything in this segment), and it definitely requires the most work of any we’ve used in other sport compacts. Throws aren’t exactly short and you’ll really need to put some effort moving from one gear to the next. Your left foot isn’t off the hook either, as the clutch is plenty heavy. If you’re one of those who want to really feel in control, the Spec V gives it to you.
The engine under the hood of the Spec V has been tweaked to get a moderate boost in power over the regular SE-R (200 hp/180 lb.-ft of torque compared to 177/172). If you’re a fan of high-revving engines like those found in the Civic Si and Impreza WRX, the Sentra Spec V is sure to grab your attention. Its peak torque is available at 5,200 rpm, compared to the SE-R’s, which comes in at just 2,800.
It’s worth noting the Sentra Spec V’s more aggressive pricing means it’s missing a few things that come standard in competitors. A limited slip differential, for instance, is standard on the Civic Si, Mazdaspeed3 and Lancer Ralliart, but optional on the Spec V. That having been said, a limited slip doesn’t even come optional on the Impreza WRX or Golf GTI.
The interior carries a similar bare-bones theme. It’s missing things like Bluetooth, rear cupholders and cargo tie downs. Of course, there will be plenty of drivers who say these things are of no importance in a vehicle whose main purpose is to provide top performance on a track, and those people do have a point.
What this does is make the Spec V slightly less useful as a daily driver, though even then, it’s not bad. It’s roomy enough for four occupants; it has decent trunk space, and has useful cubbies throughout the cockpit. The Technology Package consists of just two features - nav system and rearview camera - but both are very helpful. I’m still trying to figure out what illuminated vanity mirrors and satellite radio are doing as part of the Sport Package, but maybe I’m looking into things too much.
The Sentra SE-R Spec V may be the best of both worlds to tuners. Yes, it’s already equipped with some sporty add-ons, but like just about any vehicle in the possession of a creative owner, it’s still plenty customizable. But the real ace in the hole for Nissan is how affordable the Spec V is right off the bat. It’s a good $6,000 less than other sport compacts.
That fun-to-drive attitude, meanwhile, is priceless.