While there was a curious lack of rally cars on the show floor of the 2019 New York International Auto Show, there were still a few race cars to drool over.
2019 is a curious year for the New York International Auto Show – at first look, there are some automakers that are notably absent – BMW, MINI, Volvo, and Mitsubishi skipped the show this year. In automotive parlance, the show is leaner, or more “muscular”. However the space on the show floor was taken up by some fresh new faces, most prominently with Rivian, the U.S.-based company producing electric adventure vehicles with a 400-mile range.
There were some significant launches; among them, Hyundai showed up with the 2020 Venue, a new SUV, as well as a sleek new Sonata with a digital key. Lincoln thankfully dropped the confusing letter-number naming convention with the Corsair, a compact luxury crossover that can seat five people. Toyota’s new offerings include the new revamped Highlander as well as a cute Yaris hatchback. Subaru showed off their sixth-gen 2020 Outback in the middle of a rather nice-smelling booth highlighting national forests.
Concept cars were super slick, creatively named, and largely electric – Kia revealed their HabaNiro concept with 300-mile all electric range. The Genesis Mint luxury electric concept was hard to even get close to after an off-site reveal the night before. VW showed up with not one but three concepts: the ID. Buggy, the compact Tarok Pickup Concept, and the Basecamp (the latter two have combustion engines). Another company new to NYIAS, Mullen, revealed the modular, aluminum and carbon fiber Qiantu K50 electric sportscar.
In the “If You Have to Ask You Can’t Afford It” supercar section of the show, Swedish maker Koenigsegg introduced their road-legal Jesko to North America, and Sleepy Hollow, New York’s Glickenhaus drove his 700-hp SCG 003S to the show. Dubbed the world’s most expensive SUV, the oddly angular and very very large Karlmann King will set you back about $2.3 million – perhaps more if you choose the armored option.
And then there were the special editions – so many fancy badges! Nissan was celebrating the 5oth Anniversary of the GT-R with some beautiful classics joining the 50thAnniversary Edition. Tangentially, there is another larger independent booth display of classic of Z’s downstairs. (Not to be outdone, Toyota is displaying some classic Supras – JDM fans, this show’s for you). Dodge’s Challengers and Chargers will now be available in the Stars & Stripes Edition, and Alfa Romeo created a limited-edition 019 Quadrifoglio NRING (Nürburgring) for both the Stelvio Quadrifoglio and Giulia. Last but not least – Ford celebrated Mustang Day with the Ford Mustang Performance Package and hot dogs.
The New York International Auto Show in the Jacob Javits Center is open until April 28, 2019.
Despite the critics and naysayers, Formula e is sticking around. Even better, it seems to like New York City, and for the second year in a row set up a course in the Red Hook neighborhood of Brooklyn for the final two races for Season 4. There was a little less hoopla this time around, and New Yorkers flocked in the heat (and, a first for Formula e – rain!) to the 2.373km track – even if my NY brethren are still unclear on how to properly walk over the track stairs.
Because of the huge emphasis on being Green, the series ran shuttle busses to two main subway stations to encourage people to take public transportation. The track for the electric race cars is set on the large parking lot of the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal, with the narrow cobblestone feeder streets blocked to traffic. The series attracts a curious mix of race fans, techie types, and curious people just looking for something interesting to do on the weekend.
The behind-the-scenes technology is fascinating. Formula e uses 18” Michelin tyres designed specifically for the series, and can be used in both dry and rain conditions. Unlike Indy Car or Formula 1, a good portion of the sponsors are tech companies that also partner with the teams. Speaking with Patrick Hurley, Vice President and General Manager of Acronis Americas, he told me that each team generated hundreds of gigs of valuable information each day. That information needs to be saved and protected on site. Acronis partners with the Renault e.dams team to store data ranging from simulations, video feeds, and telemetry.
Most importantly – there was racing. Earlier in the year at the New York International Auto Show, inaugural champion Nelson Piquet Jr. did donuts in the Panasonic Jaguar Racing formula a car, and he was back in New York for the season finale. Last year Formula 1 driver Sébastien Buemi couldn’t make the NY race, but this year ended up winning the Pole in New York driving for Renault e.dams.
Much to the delight of the drivers, the track was changed this year – longer, wider in spots, with more turns. The longer straight into Turn 7 and out of Turn 10 actually allowed for the chance to pass, making the race more competitive and exciting. “Formula e started something completely new so all the tracks were very conservative. All the Formula e tracks are becoming faster speeds, and longer straights, less chicanes, so for this year the chicane here is quicker, and the new part allows you to have a slightly longer straight, so that’s what we need. We need longer straights, we need a little bit more fast corners,” said Lucas di Grassi, “…if you make a track without overtaking points, for example Paris, it’s very difficult to overtake. Short straights with not really much space it becomes less of a race.”
Starting out in 11thposition, Lucas di Grassi (Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler),worked his way up over the race. It looked like the race would finish under a yellow flag after Alex Lynn crashed, but with about five minutes to go the course went green, and di Grassi took the checkered flag followed by teammate Daniel Abt and Sebastien Buemi.
After the champagne spray, Jean-Eric Vergne, TECHEETAH was crowned the season champion. “I can’t believe it – what a crazy race – god it feels good… I have waited the whole season for this. When I crossed the line I honestly didn’t know I had won. My engineer told me, ‘I guess we’ve done it,’, so I said, ‘what do you mean?’ Then Lotterer went past me and clapped, so I knew something was up. When I found out I was speechless. I enjoyed the race, but obviously, it was very tough. Some drivers were quite hard and overconsumed energy to try and not let m e by. It was actually really complicated, a real fight unlike in Zurich – today, the drivers were tougher!”
SATURDAY GALLERY (Sunday race results and gallery follows):
Sunday’s qualifying took place on a wet course after some morning rain – then the course was completely close as a thunderstorm blew through. Not the sort of electric we were looking for, but it passed over fairly quickly and the drivers headed out to the starting grid on time. TECHEETAH’s Jean-Eric Vergne crossed the finish line first, with Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler’s Daniel Abt and Lucas di Grassi in second and third, respectively, and narrowly winning the team title over TECHEETAH.
The next season should prove to be the most interesting year for the series with the Gen 2 car. Using a new battery from McLaren Applied Technologies and Atieva will allow the drivers shed their range anxiety, running the entire race in the same car – no more car changes halfway through a 45-minute race. Season 5 starts in Saudi Arabia December, 2018.
There has been a lot of fretting going on around The Garage these past few weeks as we try to decide what our best approach to creating a new BBQ event rig for the 2018 BBQ season. A press release notice from Nissan today makes it clear that we need to up our game a bit!
Created for The Work Truck Show in Indianapolis this weekend, the “Smokin’ TITAN” might just be the ultimate mobile BBQ station!
Beginning with a 2018 Nissan Titan XD, Smokin’ Titan features a flatbed style work space with built in coolers, a fridge/freezer, a six burner stove, cutting boards and a sink with running water. The original bed has been moved back onto a a trailer, where it is fitted with a smoker/grill and storage for smoker pellets and wood chips.
Naturally, a variety of off-road accessories and a smokey graphics package have been applied to round out the look!
Nissan says the rig will be touring outdoor events throughout the Summer. We are hoping it makes its way to Toronto so we can get our hands on it!
At the season ending banquet for the popular Micra Cup Series on Saturday evening, Nissan Canada and series promoter JD Promotion & Compétition announced that their committment to the series has been extended to 2020.
With action like racing fans haven’t seen since the demise of the legendary Honda Michelin Series of the Seventies through to the early Nineties, the Micra Cup has provided incredible excitement for fans and racers alike.
The series wouldn’t have happened without the passionate involvement of automotive journalist and long time racer Jacques Deshaies and Nissan Canada’s Didier Marsaud. In a time when entry level racing has become increasingly difficult to market, the duo have worked tirelessly to create an affordable racing program that has been noticed around the world for its success.
Series press release
Mississauga, Ont. (November 12, 2017) – On Saturday night, JD Promotion & Compétition and Nissan celebrated the third season of the Nissan Micra Cup in Quebec with an annual gala event for those involved in making it a success – including drivers and their teams, partners, series organizers and staff from Nissan Canada. At the event, Joni Paiva, president of Nissan Canada Inc., announced that Nissan Canada and JD Promotion & Compétition have extended the Nissan Micra Cup contract for three more years, with races to occur in both Ontario and Quebec once again.
“The Nissan Micra Cup has grown a lot over the past three years – we’ve preserved the exclusive, but welcoming and professional series theme, and have opened our doors to a much larger audience,” said Joni Paiva, president, Nissan Canada Inc. “The Nissan Micra Cup is more than just a motorsport series. It is a testament to the reliability; affordability; and quality inherent not only in the Micra, but all Nissans in the portfolio. The Nissan Micra Cup is also another way for us to connect on a deeper level with the general public, the fans, Nissan owners and Nissan dealers, and we’re thrilled to bring the family spirit of the Nissan Micra Cup back to Canadian tracks for three more years.”
The Nissan Micra Cup was launched in 2015 as Canada’s most affordable racing series, with all drivers using identical, almost stock Nissan Micra S race cars offering fun behind the wheel and reliability. In its inaugural year, the Nissan Micra Cup took place in Quebec only, and in 2016, it expanded to Ontario, bringing new drivers and even more excitement to the track. In 2017, the vision for the Nissan Micra Cup evolved even further. With the goal of attracting more than just racing enthusiasts, the Nissan Micra Cup put on a number of special consumer-focused events and invited Nissan Micra owners to attend the race weekends free-of-charge.
Of note is that Nissan Canada was the main automotive partner for the 2017 Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières (GP3R). About 700 Nissan customers were invited to the race weekend, and were witness to a free concert, From the Track to the Stage, featuring Nissan Micra Cup driver and Quebec comedian, Michel Barrette, as well as winner of La Voix 3, Kevin Bazinet. This initiative brought a much larger audience to the GP3R race weekend, increasing the reach of the series.
“Since its launch in 2015, the Nissan Micra Cup has been a huge success, at all levels, both in Canada and even internationally,” said Jacques Deshaies, owner of JD Promotion & Compétition and the series promoter. “In three years, the Nissan Micra Cup has become a leading racing series in the national motorsports community, while also remaining the most accessible and affordable. We are very proud of this 100 per cent Canadian achievement and look forward seeing it grow and evolve even more over the next three years.”
Over the past three years, approximately 25 cars have competed for the championship title each season, with drivers from very diverse backgrounds and varying levels of experience. To date, the entry list has included drivers ranging from 18 to 64 years-old, four women, five international drivers and representatives from 12 Nissan dealerships. Additionally, the Nissan Micra Cup races have featured a number of well-known professional drivers from NASCAR and other prestigious racing series, including Richard Spenard, Louis Philippe Montour, Karl Wittmer, Bertrand Godin, Aaron Povoledo , Patrick Dussault and Jesse Lazare, to name a few.
Several celebrities also took part in the series and competed on the track at a number of Nissan Micra Cup race weekends. In addition to Quebec comedian Michel Barrette, Canadian figure skater and Olympic medalist, Elvis Stojko, Quebec actor Jeff Boudreault and TV anchors Carl Nadeau and Benoit Gagnon, had nothing but positive things to say about their experience racing behind the wheels of their Nissan Micras.
Another highlight is that both of the Nissan Micra Cup championship winners, Olivier Bédard in 2015 and 2017, as well as Xavier Coupal in 2016, were recipients of the Gilles Villeneuve Trophy, one of the most prestigious annual awards in the world of Quebec motorsports.
“We are very excited to announce the extension of the Nissan Micra Cup in Canada,” said Michael Carcamo, global motorsports director, Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. “The Nissan Micra Cup represents the most affordable racing platform in Canada. Along with competitive drivers and exciting race venues, the Nissan Micra has proven its durability and reliability in the most intense environment, motorsport racing. We look forward to more great racing in the years to come and we congratulate all the participants of the first three seasons.”
More details on the 2018 Nissan Micra Cup calendar to come in the winter.
For more information on the Nissan Micra Cup, please visit http://www.micracup.com/main.
This second generation Titan is easily Nissan’s boldest move yet. And as East Coast Editor for The Garage, getting a pickup truck is a rare treat. Living on coastal Connecticut, I’m in what’s considered the Metro New York City area. Why does that matter, you ask? There are plenty of pickups around, but in most cases, if you own a pickup, its because you need one for your job. Traffic around here is awful, and gas prices are among the highest in the nation. It’s not until you are well out into the country you start seeing people owning pickups simply because they want to, not because they need to. Nearly everywhere I went, people marveled at the gleaming Tower of Titan. And the near unanimous response was “That truck is simply too nice to use for work!”
And gleaming it is. Our Titan was a combination of imposing seriousness, bright chrome and more dark chrome that those more familiar with the sight of a luxury pickup truck will nod in approval. Climb into (I mean that-I’m 6’1″ and I needed the grab handle to hoist me up) and welcome to the luxury truck! Sitting high off the ground in command of all that surrounds you, you are instantly taken aback you are experiencing a level of comfort and material quality you would expect from an Infiniti. Anyone who has been in a modern Nissan will be right at home in terms of ease of getting used to the controls, you’re just sitting much higher. There is plenty of room for four full-grown adults front and rear, with plenty of storage space.
In your face styling and a luxurious cabin are all meaningless if your pickup can’t deliver the goods. Starting in the engine room, the Titan offers two choices. First, a 5.6L V-8 rated at 390hp, paired to a 7-speed automatic. However the big news is option number two, a 5.0L Cummins turbo diesel, with 310hp and a stump pulling 555 lb ft of torque, here mated to a 6-speed automatic. Working with Cummins is new for Nissan, and once people found a Cummins engine lay under the hood, our Titan had instant street cred. Titans can be had in rear or four wheel drive, the latter with a two-speed transfer case. Because of its weight, the Titan is not subject to EPA fuel economy testing, but in mostly in town driving our trip computer was indicating about 14 MPG.
Blistering acceleration is not what the Titan is about. Instead, the Titan pulls with authority with little noise or drama, and the towing controls are an instant indicator that this truck is ready for work. Our Titan can tow up to 10,610lbs, which puts it right in the middle of competing light and heavy duty trucks, a void Nissan intends to fill with the Titan. Looking at the sheer size of the Titan, one would be easily intimidated at how it might be to drive. In reality, it’s quite easy. Visibility is excellent, and Nissan’s all around camera makes parking easy. For a ladder on frame truck, the Titan is remarkably composed and civilized. You’re not quick to forget this truck is over 20′ long, so the best way to enjoy a Titan is to relax and take it easy.
As a pickup truck, the Titan is as serious as it looks. That Nissan was able to marry remarkable trucking ability in a relatively easy to drive package is an impressive achievement. The cute import pickups of my youth are a distant memory, the Titan is here in the present. While the notion of such a powerful truck offering such a high level of luxury may confuse some in Metro New York, I suspect few others will question the American made Titan.
When most people think of a great road trip vehicle, they have visions of a fancy grand touring car, or maybe a luxurious sedan. We aren’t like most people. For us, the perfect road trip vehicle is a car that is light, nimble and fun to drive, has lots of space for our stuff and whatever junk we might accumulate along the way and gets great fuel economy. If it can catch the interest of some onlookers along the way, that is even better.
With our event season about to go crazy, Mrs. G and I decided that a bit of a road trip was in order, so we poked about on Google maps to find an Ontario destination that we had not previously explored. We settled on the town of Perth, about an hour west of the nation’s capital. We had driven through the town before, in the Summertime, and took notice of the historic limestone buildings and bustling pubs and patios so we thought it was worth a look.
Our steed for the trip would be the second smallest roller skate in Nissan Canada’s fleet, a Monarch Orange 2017 Versa Note SV. Long time readers may recall that back in the day, we used to rally a tiny, front wheel drive Suzuki, and we are still passionate about sporty little econo-boxes. From a specs standpoint, it wasn’t too different from our old rally car, albeit a lot more comfortable and about 30 decibels quieter. The extra pair of doors makes the Versa a bit more practical too.
The Versa Note boasts 1.6L DOHC 4 banger which sends a massive 106 horsepower to the front wheels, through a 5 speed manual transmission, just like our old rally car too. Yes, I know it isn’t really massive, but it is just enough for a real enthusiast to be able to have a bit of fun on a challenging road.
We loaded our stuff into the cargo area, with no need to fold down the split rear seats, leaving the back seats open for any hitchhikers we might have picked up along the way. If this was 1976. A quick dive into the local McDonald’s drive through for breakfast and we were on our way. Unlike most people these days, I don’t look for the quickest way from A to B on a road trip. Most people leaving the outskirts of Toronto on Highway 401, but the reality is that the major highway route only saves about 10 minutes off this trip. Instead, we headed north on Highway 115 to Peterborough and then turned to travel east on highway 7. The speed limit on 7 is 80 km/h, but the average flow of traffic is about 105 km/h and the scenery is infinitely more interesting to look at.
Our first stop was in the tiny town of Norwood, where I dropped in for a bit of a sales visit at the well known Ralph’s Butcher Shop. Just opening up for the season, the owner, a delightful gent named James(?), told me that they make a whopping 81 different varieties of sausage. Needless to say, Ralph’s is a popular spot for cottagers on their way up from the city.
About 10 km up the road, we made a quick stop in Havelock to take some kissy face selfies by an old caboose, before heading towards the cool mid-sized town of Madoc. We were on the hunt for a pub, but we found butter tarts instead. On the town’s main drag, we came across a shop called Hidden Goldmine Bakery which is a nifty combination of bakery, antique shop and home decorating place. We picked up a six pack of tarts (with raisins of course) and were headed out the door, when Mrs. G spotted it. A vintage bacon press! If the words bacon press on the top weren’t already cool enough, when I turned it over, there is the image of a chubby pig on the bottom. Not only did I have to buy it, but that pig is going to be my next tattoo!
Leaving town, we chose a sort of backwards looking route back to Highway 7, which led us down a rough cottage road towards a closed Summer resort, where we were surrounded by a working sugar bush. While most trees were joined, modern style, by plastic tubing to collect the liquid gold used to make maple syrup, here and there were clumps of trees with old school collection buckets.
Back on to the main highway, we got into a less interesting rhythm and we were itching for a bit more fun. There aren’t many side roads that run east/west in this part of the province, because there are so many lakes and rivers, so we were excited to find Fall River Road. With a coarse gravel surface, this path has so many tight turns that the map doesn’t do it justice.
Fall River Road is pretty rough in sections, which means that speed must be kept lower than one might hope for, which is probably a good thing in a street car, as this road throws out a few gotchas! The first thing I did of course was flick off the Versa’s stability control, remembering that the ABS is still fully functional. That means that I would be able to get the car sideways to set-up for fun corners but that if I did anything silly like enter a turn too fast, the little car would understeer into the woods. That was not going to happen under my watch!
After about 10 minutes of super technical fun, we turned left on Armstrong Road and the road surface transitioned to the most beautifully smooth hard pack gravel. The turns were a bit more open, allowing for a bit more speed. The Versa Note is quite simply a champ at dealing with fun mixed surface roads like this at a somewhat enthusiastic pace.
This is the area in which the annual Lanark Highlands Rally takes place and most of the time, these roads are devoid of any traffic. Eventually, Armstrong Road straightens up and the occasional farm makes way to rural family homes and our drive takes on a more leisurely tourist pace.
Arriving in the town of Perth, we make a stop at the Perth Brewing Company to stock up our room before setting out on foot to explore the town.
Dating back to 1816, the town of Perth, Ontario is primarily a Summer tourist destination these days, with shops and eateries all through the town. When checking in to the surprisingly cool Best Western Plus right in downtown Perth, we asked the Front Desk Dude where he would go if he were looking for a late afternoon snack and a pint. Without hesitation, FDD suggested we check out Fiddleheads, which is conveniently located directly across the street.
Situated in the basement of the historic Code’s Mill, Fiddleheads has a super cool pub vibe that features 176 year old stone walls and wood beams. Our waitress had a lovely Irish accent, which made the place that much more inviting. We nibbled on fresh, house made pizza with locally sourced toppings. It wasn’t the best pie we’ve ever had, but it hit the spot. We will return.
After a swim and a nap, went for a walk around the town and eventually wandered over to O’Reilly’s Ale House, which has some pretty solid reviews on Yelp and a pretty sweet looking location. It was a Thursday evening, about 8 o’clock and every other place we passed was almost empty, but O’Reilly’s was packed.
We grabbed the coolest table, which was elevated above the bar, ordered drinks and a charcuterie platter. It looked fantastic and came on a wonderful, live edge wood tray. The ciabatta demi was nice and warm and the cheese duo were fantastic if a little bit on the skimpy side. The meats however seemed like a bit of an afterthought. Too thickly hand cut, basic, middle of the road grocery store deli meats were not what we expected. The quick pickled red onions were fab. The real surprise however, and the absolute star of the platter, was the dipping sauce, of which no specific mention was made.
That little, red dish of heaven is TOTALLY worth a mention of its own. Made by local company, Perth Pepper and Pestle, this stuff is a Curry Cardamom Everything Sauce. Click the link and either order some online or find some in a store if you live up that way. It will change your life forever!
While we were there, we noticed a tiny shelf on the way to the bathrooms, with nothing on it. We asked our waitress about it and she had never noticed it. She asked a long time employee and she hadn’t noticed it either. A couple of days later, we returned for a pint and left a friendly surprise on the shelf. I can’t wait for our next visit to see if it is still there.
The following day, we made a short trek over to Smiths Falls to grab some shoes. Yeah, I know, flip flops in March are a gamble. Anyway, we found the town to be absolutely gorgeous and yet hideously depressed at the same time. There wasn’t even a single pub that looked interesting enough to entice us out of the car. Very sad, as there is so much tourist potential there.
On the way back, we found an incredible spot that is worthy of its own episode of American Pickers. The gent who owns Rideau Antiques has been collecting stuff for 55 years. His assistant is just a pup, having only been helping peddle junk for 35 years. The place is on Rideau Ferry Blvd, between Perth and Smiths Falls and offers maybe an acre of hunting on one side of the road, and a barn full of stuff on the other. You know you are in for a hunt when the owner hands you a flashlight before you venture into the barn! There is a lot of new-ish junk, mixed in with some truly vintage finds, all sort of loosely organized. We easily spent a couple of hours, pretty much overwhelmed by the amount of stuff. I did at least by a scruffy old Matchbox Can-Am car.
Day 2’s dinner did not go as we had hoped. Perhaps the best thing I can say is to check out my Yelp review. Our post dinner visit to DQ was uneventful and successful.
The problem with short road trips is that they come to an end all too quickly, even if the final day starts with a tiny pumpkin and a mammoth wheel of cheese. For our trip home, we decided once again to stay off the beaten path as much as possible. With the final snow of the season laying heavily on the ground, that promised to give us an exciting day!
Roads which had been beautiful, hard pack gravel just a couple of days earlier had turned to legitimately treacherous passages. Even with proper snow boots and keeping speeds below 40 km/h, it took all of my years of performance driving experience to keep the tiny Nissan on the island. Icy bits, covered with heavy slush made the going tough. Super fun, but it required every ounce of concentration and what would have taken 20 minutes driving before took us over an hour. Meanwhile, the Versa soldiered on.
As we approached Madoc, I saw one of those blue Ontario Travel signs for O’Hara Mill. I had no idea what it was, but thought it was worth investigating. Talk about an awesome needle in a haystack sort of find. Out there, in the middle of freaking nowhere, was this incredible pioneer museum type of place with some great Ontario history.
Patrick O’Hara and his family settled the area in 1823 and his descendants lived on the farm until more than a century later. Over the years, the family farm grew to include a sawmill.
The Moira River Conservation Authority, bought the farm in 1954 and then the sawmill in 1965. It was designated as a park and to this day, five of the original buildings remain on the site, including the mill.
Run by the community, a number of log cabins have been re-located to the site from the area and a new visitor centre was added in 2009. The museum offers kids programs, hiking trails and seasonal events including ice skating and Christmas events.
While the buildings were closed at the time of our visit, the park is always open and there were people wandering around exploring the site. We are going to make an effort to return for a visit this Summer to explore further.
One last stop along the way was a quick photo bomb at the Actinolite Log Cabin Restaurant, just to make our friends at Actinolite smile.
If you think you need an expensive grand tourer to explore the back roads of your state or province, you are totally wrong. You need a fun and functional, economical little hatchback like our Versa Note tester. Our tester stickered out at just a tick over 17 grand, offered fuel economy that averaged at about 6.8 l/100 km and kept us grinning the whole time. Even if you only need a runner for around town, the Versa Note is totally worth a look.
Little known fact: This guy took his driver’s test way back in 1984 at the wheel of, wait for it, a Nissan Sentra. I failed.
It wasn’t the car’s fault. The cream coloured first generation Sentra belonged to my Young Drivers of Canada instructor and was a perfectly delightful little econobox. The problem was that I was used to driving a ’78 Dodge Monaco station wagon that was just a tick under 18 feet long, a full four feet longer than the Sentra. When it came time to parallel park, a skill which I had mastered in the Mopar, my sense of geometric movement(is that even a thing?) was all out of whack. It took two tries to get the job done and I failed my test.
The Sentra has changed a lot over the years, not the least of which is its size. The current model, the seventh generation, is now 182″ in length, a full 15″ lomger that the original. Two inches longer than a first generation Altima. This seems to be a trend within the industry, where each generation of vehicle is larger than the next. So where does that leave bump in stature leave the Sentra in Nissan’s model line-up?
To be truthful, Sentra still slots in below the now much larger Altima, but it is no longer the lowest rung on the brand’s model ladder. The excellent Versa Note is the Sentra’s next smaller sibling, while the economical Micra (here in Canada at least, sorry America) is now the entry level Nissan.
Suitably, the Sentra has stepped up its interior quality game, while adding a bunch of more upscale options as buyers will expect. It has also become that tough character that many auto scribes fret over: the nice car. In other words, the Sentra is a nice car. There is nothing horrible one can say about it, while at the same time there is nothing that makes a reviewer go off his nut with enthusiasm.
Attractive styling is evident inside and out. Cargo space is decent for a small sedan and interior fit and finish are what you would expect of a vehicle at this price point. The driving experience of the 2016 model was less than exciting though, mostly due to the rather disappointing 130 horsepower generated by its 1.8L four banger. The CVT transmission offered on most models did not help, but thankfully a 6 speed manual was available, which spiced things up a bit.
For the 2017 model year, Nissan has made an effort to bump the Sentra up from being a nice car to being a sporty car with the addition of a turbo charged version. That led many of us within the enthusiast community hoping that at least the spirit of the historic SE-R models would be riding along with the Sentra SR Turbo. The bump to 188 horsepower is substantial and squashes any commentary about the car being under-powered, but doesn’t go so far as to inspire any boy racer wet dreams.
What we have here is a really nice compact sedan which has just the right amount of oomph. In other words, a nice car.
Bear in mind that I have a bit of history with the brand and I am in their corner. I heartily recommend the boosted Sentra to those in the market for a nice little sedan. I however, want more.
The company takes its motorsport seriously these days, from international endurance racing to the born and bred in Canada Micra Cup. That passion for motorsport has led the company to create a bevy of NISMO branded machines that typically back up their aggressive looks with much improved performance. I would suggest that it is only a matter of time before a Sentra appears sporting NISMO badges, big brakes, stiffer springs, fatter tires, grippy seats and noisy exhaust.
When that car arrives, and it will, I will get excited.