2008 Nissan Sentra review

This review focuses on the sportiest Sentra trim level, the SE-R Spec V. I already reviewed the regular 2007 Sentra, and that model is mostly unchanged for 2008. For more on the Sentra, read that review or check out a side-by-side comparison of the two model years.

I found the redesigned 2007 Sentra a vast improvement over the prior generation, and I'd hoped the sporty SE-R and full-bore SE-R Spec V (that's spec vee, not spec five) would similarly improve on their forebears when they joined the lineup a few months later. When I track-tested a Spec V in May of last year, I was disappointed (as detailed in the accompanying video). I've now spent a week with a 2008 Spec V in typical use, and my impressions are still lukewarm.

Within the affordable compact car class, this subclass of sportified versions has grown, and higher horsepower and capabilities are the orders of the day. Since the previous-generation Spec V's conception, Dodge even turned the Neon into a wild child called the SRT4 — a remarkable car with the most power for your dollar when it made its 2003 debut. If Dodge could turn a tragedy like the Neon into that, just imagine what Nissan could do with its newly competitive Sentra. Perhaps I did more imagining than Nissan did. The Spec V is good for many of the same reasons the Sentra is, but it breaks no new ground, failing to keep pace both with long-standing, long-refined rivals like the Volkswagen GTI and with come-latelys like the Mazdaspeed3.

I don't think the new Dodge Caliber SRT4 is a very strong performer overall — actually, when compared to the original SRT4, it's a complete turd — but at least it compensates with turbocharged power and faster 0-60 times than the Spec V. Likewise, the WRX improved little in its latest generation, but a full second's superiority over the Spec V in the sprints is dramatic.

The Spec V's stopping distance is a huge disappointment. Not only is it long for a performance variant — it's one of the lighter models listed above — it's long for any car, especially of this size. In normal driving the brakes never felt deficient to me, but neither did they feel as precise as those of some competitors. These are different brakes than the regular Sentra's, including discs in place of the standard rear drums, so an opportunity was clearly lost.

See also:

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