The standard Sentra models come with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 140 horsepower. It's offered mated to a six-speed manual transmission or a continuously variable automatic transmission. The sporty SE-R models get a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine, rated at 177 horsepower for the SE-R and 200 hp for the Spec V.
The SE-R's engine has a number of improvements that make it ideal for the performance model, including crown-shaped pistons, a higher compression ratio and a higher rev limit of 7000 rpm. Meanwhile, the 2.0-liter engine in the other models is tuned for low-rpm responsiveness and good fuel economy, making it well-suited to the CVT. In this trim, the 2.0-liter Sentra is rated at 25 mpg city, 33 highway.
The 2.0-liter models have ride quality than is better than is typical for the small-car class. Underneath, the Sentra features a front independent strut design and torsion-beam rear suspension. The SE-R comes with a sport-tuned version of the same suspension, along with an upgraded four-wheel disc brakes and V-rated tires. The CVT version comes with steering-wheel paddle shifters and simulated gears for better control in spirited driving. The Spec V has the goods to be track-ready, with higher-rate springs, shocks and bushings, as well as W-rated performance tires, high-performance brakes and body bracing. The Spec V model can be specified with a helical limited-slip differential for those who want to make the most of its high-performance potential.
Inside, SE-R models get a number of exclusive features such as sport seats, special seat fabric, aluminum pedals, a leather steering wheel and additional gauges. Spec V models also get contrasting red stitching and red seatbelts. Trunk space can be expanded for longer items with a pass-through, and the back seat can fold completely forward for a longer cargo floor and is split 60/40. A so-called Divide-N-Hide trunk divider has a pop-up divider wall, keeping items from rolling around and has hooks for grocery bags. Throughout the interior there are various cubbies and cup holders, including a glove box large enough to hold an 8x11-inch tablet.
All Sentra models come with front seat-mounted side airbags, roof-mounted curtain side bags good for front and rear outboard occupants, and Active Head Restraints in front. Anti-lock brakes are not available on the base 2.0 model but standard on all others.
While the base 2.0 comes with a minimum of standard equipment, the 2.0 S model brings cruise control, keyless entry, and a sound system with MP3 compatibility. The 2.0 SL adds leather seats, alloy wheels, a Bluetooth hands-free calling interface, XM Satellite Radio and the Intelligent Key system. SE-R models come with standard power windows and locks, and a six-speaker MP3 audio system.
Top options include a 340-watt Rockford Fosgate audio system, a moonroof and heated seats.
For 2009, the Sentra is carried over virtually unchanged, though there are a few small changes to its appearance and standard feature list. All models get a redesigned trunk lid. Automatic door locks are made standard across the line and MP3 playback capability is added to the sound systems.
There's also a new 2.0 SL Premium Package available, and SE-R models have a new Upgrade Package option. Three new exterior colors are offered for the Sentra--Red Brick, Sonoran Sand and Arctic Blue--while the SE-R and Spec V get Metallic Blue and Midnight Sky.