Back in the ’90s, Nissan basically had a turbocharged variant of every car they produced. Times changed, bigger non-turbo engines came in, but now it’s time for the turbocharger to reign supreme once more.

Almost daily I get notified about a news story with a different vehicle manufacturer announcing a new turbocharged model, and it’s all getting a bit too exciting. Throughout the late ’80s and ’90s turbocharged vehicles were commonplace and used to bump power outputs considerably. However, as the technology wasn’t quite there yet, turbocharger lag was replaced by larger-capacity non-turbo engines in a bid for throttle response, fewer maintenance costs, and less heat.

Thankfully, though, turbocharging technology has come a very long way with variable turbochargers, electric compressors to compensate for turbo lag, and twin-scroll turbochargers, which are the most common today. What this means, is vehicle manufacturers are now able to bin the larger and heavier engines, drop down a couple of cylinders, reduce emissions, and produce the same power. Perfect right?

The latest manufacturer to announce a new turbocharged vehicle is Nissan. Now, we all had Sentras, Primeras, and Bluebirds buzzing around in the early 2000s, as they were affordable and easily modified, and the Bluebirds even came out with a turbo. I feel those times are back now, with vehicles such as the Sentra SR. 

The Sentra used to pack a 1.8-litre four-cylinder non-turbo engine that was good for a yawn-worthy 97kW and 173Nm of torque, which is less than an SR20DE engine of the ’90s. Now, the Sentra will be packing a smaller engine (like we discussed earlier to aid emissions), but with the use of a single turbocharger and direct injection. Although smaller, the engine now produces 140kW of power and 240Nm of torque — a respectable number for a 1.6-litre with strict emission regulations.

Not only this, but as we’ve seen with other modern turbocharged vehicles, power outputs in factory trim are only a small percentage of what they can be with a reflash of the ECU, an exhaust, intake, and the usual bolt-on upgrades. It seems powerful four-door sedans are back and they’re easier to modify than ever before. 

Not only is the Sentra SR going to be a potent little machine, the engine will be backed by a six-speed manual if you choose, or an Xtronic transmission, which was available on the base model but has been modified to suit the turbo engine. The Sentra SR will feature larger brakes comprising of larger calipers and discs. To handle the extra pace that the mighty new Sentra will be able to pull, Nissan has upgraded the struts/springs front and rear and has tweaked the electronic power steering for winding road driving. 

Who is going to be next? Will Toyota produce a badass turbocharged Sedan like they did in the ’90s? Who knows, but we do know that with Honda wanting to drop a 1.5-litre turbo into the new Civic, the release of their extremely quick Civic Type R, and Lexus dropping turbos into everything, it’s only a matter of time before we have an entirely new range of turbocharged imports to play with — what an exciting time to be an enthusiast!

René Vermeer

Dutch, French, or just a Kiwi, René isn’t quite sure, but he does know he has a passion for Japanese vehicles like no other. A well-seasoned Gran Turismo player dating back to his single-digit days, René has a comprehensive knowledge of a wide range of performance vehicles and has owned more than 30 performance cars here in New Zealand, ranging from Nissans to Hondas. A lover of photography, you’ll find him either peeping under someone’s bonnet to snap a detailed shot, or on the side of the racetrack, perfecting his panning.