Twenty-odd years ago, Nissan established itself as the Japanese sportscar brand. It did so not with sporty go-fasts like the 300ZX and 240SX coupes, but with a pair of staid, boxy sedans: the V6-powered Nissan Maxima SE and the Nissan Sentra SE-R. Especially the Sentra SE-R. For 2014, Nissan is hoping to recapture some of that car’s magic by breathing some enthusiastic life into its cheapest offering and creating the 2014 Nissan Versa SR.
Lots of industry “experts” who were still in diapers while I was in college (and, yeah, possibly also in diapers- depends on the girlfriend) have already weighed in, saying the SR isn’t a worthy successor to the old SE-R. They might be right, but that doesn’t mean the SR isn’t worthy of your money.
First, take a look at the new Nissan Versa SR. It’s not a terribly bad-looking little car, if you can imagine it without that awful red/orange/maroon metallic paint.
Next, consider that the legendary Sentra SE-R was powered by a 140 HP 2.0 liter engine mated to a 5 spd. manual transmission. In contrast, the 130 HP Nissan Versa SR makes do with “only” 130 HP, but that’s mated to a CVT that will keep the Versa at its peak output and shift around it- compared to the 7500 rpm redline of the classic SE-R.
Does that mean the 2014 Nissan Versa is a match for the old Sentra SE-R on a racetrack? No, but it’s not as far off as you might think- and, like just about any car in 2014 compared to its 1991 equivalent, the new Versa is safer, has cleaner emissions, gets better gas mileage (39 MPG vs. 29 MPG, and that’s using the “old” EPA rating), and is cheaper to buy ($18,690 in 2014 vs. $11,720 back in 1991, which works out to $20,413 in 2014 dollars at 2.44% inflation). Keep in mind, too, that SE-R won’t connect to Bluetooth, won’t have a CD player, and- because of its smaller 14″ wheels- is at a serious traction deficit to the SR.
Adding the 2014 Nissan Versa SR’s standard VDC traction control to the equation would likely spell doom for the SE-R on most racetracks in the hands of most drivers- auto journalists included. In the rain? Forget about it- the SR would win hands-down.
So, is the new Nissan Versa SR a worthy successor to the 1991 SE-R? We’ll have to check back again in twenty years or so and see if the young turks of the next generation are rushing to its defense the way the young turks of this one are rushing to champion the cause of the SE-R. Until then, here’s ALL the official press pics Nissan gave me at the 2014 Chicago Auto Show.
Original content from Gas 2, photos courtesy of Nissan.