Car Tech Video: 2013 Nissan Sentra
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Car Tech Video: 2013 Nissan Sentra

7:15 /

Nissan refreshes the Sentra line with some Infiniti DNA, but it's still a simple car with a navigation option that is a steal.

Well, well, well. The once homely Nissan Sentra seems to have picked up some lines. It also lost a lot of weight, shed a little power, and picked up some Google tech. That's a pretty good set of headlines for 2013. Let's drive this '13 Sentra SL and check the tech. Now, if you're wondering why this Sentra looks more upscale but can't put your finger on it, it's basically one word-- Infinity DNA. Nissan's been bringing a lot of these styling cues from the basic look of Infinities inside and out down into the Nissan line from the Infinity brand. And this car has shown a dramatic change because of that. Now inside, the Infinity touches continue. Not a ton of them in this priced class, but the gauges are more Infinity-like. Everything's much more grown up in here than you typically saw on a Nissan. And check this out. They must be watching my videos; they finally did something to improve the maps. By the way, the navigation rig, as you can see, is SD card-based. Lots of car makers are doing that now. I think Ford was the first. But now, everyone's getting on board. Now, to have navigation, that means we have this 6-inch Nissan Connect head unit. This is optional, you won't have this. For sure, you'll have a 4.3 smaller LCD if you really go base on one of these cars. This is-- let's start off with that navigation system. And one of the things I like about the way this thing operates is it's very quick partly because of that SD card, partly because it obviously got enough processing power behind it. And where this unit's really cool and really dopey is here, when you go to these Google functions. We have Google's "Send to car," and more interestingly, Google POIs-- points of interest. Let's do a search. Let's just say I'm gonna go something generic like a pizza joint. And I start my search. What's gonna happen is a phone call is going to initiate on my connected paired device. This thing does not use the data connection, per se, as much as it does-- what's basically a modem connection over the voice network. As a result, it's slower than hell. I've sat here and watched this thing take literally minutes to go out, do the search, pull some results, and then cache the rest of them. And worse than that, once you get to a result you're interested in, it doesn't have that nice, rich contextual stuff that Google is known for. Where are the ratings? Where is StreetView? I can see a map, but where is all that stuff? A couple of other gripes on this, you cannot enter anything in that POI Google window while the car is moving. That means a passenger can't, either. That's a fail. And voice command does not tie in to the Google services. Everything else but not that. So, it's basically a pullover in use and experience for results that I find not worth it. Now, on to our media sources. All the big boys are here with the exception of HD radio. We've got satellite radio, AM and FM, single-slot CD above it right there, and under AUX, it rotates from the several modern sources, including your iPod or USB device. I've got an iPod in now. Tagging looks fine. You've also got Pandora support, but it will not work on my Android phone for whatever reason. And you have Bluetooth streaming as well. And the [unk] of tech support on that is also quite good. Oh, by the way, the Bluetooth support on this guy also includes text message handling, and you can type in a handful of custom text message replies so you can actually send something back that makes sense in your words. A lot of cars give you can replies that are so generic, you'd never actually send one. Now, on to what's on the gearbox, this controller right here is for your CVT gearbox which is the only way to go with this vehicle. No gate, notice that. No shifter paddles, but you do have a Sport mode button over here, which is gonna change some power trained performance, and shift points, and throttle response, we'll check that on the road in a minute. Backup camera is part of a package that we'll talk about momentarily. And it's pretty straightforward. You got the ability to turn on and off some guidelines, there's no multi-view, there's no trajectory. It's basically distance on or distance off. But at least it's in there. And I mentioned at the top, the Sentra has actually lost a few horsepower since the last model. We have a pretty petite model here, a 1.8 Liter inline four with nothing real tricky about it. No turbo-charging, no direct injection; just a good old modern inline four. But at 130 horse and 128 foot-pounds of torque, those numbers are pretty modest which yields great mpg-- 30, 39. While getting this 2,850-pound car, it's about 150 less than the outgoing model, up to 60, and a little under 10 seconds. Not spritely but not a slug, either. We'll see how it actually drives on the road. And as you can imagine, it's front wheel drive only, no all-wheel drive option or anything like that. Let's go see how that transmission, that Sport mode, and that Eco mode all work on the road. Now, on the road, right off the back, you're clearly aware this car is tuned for economy and not any kind of performance. Even though it's got a Sport mode, we'll try that out in a moment. Now, Nissan generally does CVTs well. This one does well, although CVTs sometimes can get caught on their own flat-footedness. That doesn't happen often with this. It's still about as good as they get in the industry. So, Eco mode. You hit that and you'll feel a noticeable deadening of the power train response. It's as if the pedal wants to think for a minute and let you think for a minute. Do you really want to use that gasoline to accelerate right now? While you stay on it, it eventually will deliver. Same thing goes for deceleration. It starts to really kind of become a non-decelerating engine for a little compression breaking. Switch over to Sports and use-- have a little difference in the throttle responsiveness, how it holds higher RPMs that aren't really shifts on a CVT the way there are on a gearbox. But it's still the same engine. There's not a lot of zap in there. So, it's kind of a silly mode to me. What you should appreciate about this car, that's understated interior, good sight lines-- better than most, all the way around. Nice, high airy greenhouse-- a very well-balanced drive. It's not a sloppy ride at all, even though it's not a sporting undercarriage. And it's built real solidly, at least off the factory line like this. Look, this entrance, it's a nice place to sit while you're doing your commute. And that's 80 percent of what 80 percent of cars have to do. Okay. Let's price this '13 Sentra. We have SL here, the top trim to start with, 20,004 deliberate. Two packages to go CNET-style. First, add in premium, 1,200 bucks. That gives you a glass moon roof and the upgraded Bose audio. I would do that. It's a fair price. Here is the one you have to get-- the navigation package. It gets you navigation, obviously, a 6-inch-- that touch LCD that we saw that had such great response, the Google services-- for better or for worse-- Bluetooth streaming, text message support, Pandora support, backup camera for 650 bucks. What? I thought it was a typo. Probably, they left off a one or even a two; and it wouldn't be a bad value. But it's 650 bucks. This Sentra is a nice car all around. Nothing about it stands out in particular, but it's a very [unk] everyday car. It's a tremendous refresh. And when you get it with that navigation package, you'll feel like you stole some tech legally.

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