- Feb 28, 2008
First encounter of the fast kind: 90 seconds in a Nissan GT-R
When a friend tipped us that there might be an R35 Nissan GT-R drifting around Southern California, we tried to get more details. As the facts started trickling in, we realized we might actually be able to get some seat time if we played our cards right. Well, we did get some seat time and we were definitely impressed. So what if the "seat" was on the opposite side of the steering wheel? Even amidst car-jaded Southern Californians, this thing drew a huge crowd. We were lucky enough to work our way to the front of the line and were eventually invited inside for a short ride around the block. So, what did we think? The most highly anticipated car of the day is one helluva ride, as you might expect. But the levels to which Nissan has gone to make this car a world beater had some in the crowd comparing this to the Bugatti Veyron for sheer technology overload. Follow the jump for more first impressions and click on the gallery below for some more high-res live shots. And don't think this is our last time in a GT-R, as we'll also be on hand for Nissan's official media ride and drive in the near future.
You probably already know the specs and have heard the lap times, but we can tell you that the way it all comes together is nothing short of miraculous. So smooth and powerful and effortless. Comfortable as a Benz, fast as a Ferrari. The first thing that struck us when we got in was the rear seats. We tried to see if a real-sized human being could actually fit in back. After adjusting the front seat forward enough to still allow a driver of average dimensions, we wound ourselves in the back seat. Bonk. If you are over 5 feet tall, you will have to slouch. If you are over 5 feet tall and 150 pounds, you'll have to lean across the whole rear seat, and that isn't as easy as it sounds with a center console that splits the cabin port and starboard from stem to stern. After that brief foray into the absurd, we hopped into the front bucket. A bit narrow, it is an incredibly comfortable and supportive seat that rivals any we've flet in a production vehicle. Think Porsche, Aston Martin, AMG or M-car and you won't be too far off.
As this particular model is actually a JDM example recently imported to help Paul Walker and Vin Diesel plod through a fourth installment of Fast and the Furious, the steering wheel was on the "wrong" side. Other than that, everything else felt just about perfect. Oh, there were a few buttons that had strange markings, but the big red one on the console was easy to spot and easy to read. With the key in your pocket, just depress the Start button and the twin-turbo V6 comes to life. We have to admit we were a bit underwhelmed at that point because there was virtually no noise associated with the feat. It didn't take long for our impression of the motor to change dramatically. Before we get to the driving bit, we have to point out how well done the interior is. Compared to a similarly priced Corvette Z06, this thing LOOKS and FEELS like it was intended to be sold in a market that includes cars costing twice as much. The leather-wrapped dash is especially attractive.
Stepping back outside, we have to acknowledge that the styling was a bit less warmly received. Although everyone seemed to agree that it looks better in person than in photos, many of those on hand said it looked too evocative of other Japanese cars. We heard everything from an Eclipse to a 350Z and even a Mitsubishi 3000GT was mentioned. Nobody seemed to swoon over it, so much as they had more of a sense of awe at its technological marvels. Most thought it looked very big, even in its slimming black paint. The R35 takes GT-R styling in a different direction, growing the model into something closer to an M6 than an M3 now. Other than those two cars, it was hard to think of many competitors for the Nissan that offer even a vestigial back seat at something close to this price and performance level. And speaking of performance...
The car is very quiet, as we mentioned. The ride is smooth and compliant, at least with the suspension set to normal. We didn't have time to sample the other settings. We did toggle through the center display screens, marveling at the Playstation Gran Tursimo designers' handiwork. While they all probably could be useful in tuning, they make great entertainment on their own. The g-meter alone is worth hours of fun. As we entered traffic, our hearts sank a little at the congestion ahead. We were barely able to get up to the posted speed limit during our drive out. On the return though, the driver was able to accelerate a bit harder and we got to sample that amazing engine and all of that engineering in action. This thing is a freight train. Coupled with the paddle-shifted tranny, that twin-turbo 6 felt more like a V12. We could barely feel the upshifts and the power never sagged. Normally a turbo will have a slight dropoff between gears and the accompanying gearshift will cause a break that makes your head rock forward. Not in this car. We were pinned back the whole time.
The power delivery alone makes this feel more like an AMG CL65 than something that costs around 70 grand. The last car we were in that felt more powerful was the Ferrari 599 GTB Fiorano. Now, we aren't saying this competes at that level, but for the price it is a great performance bargain, assuming you are lucky enough to avoid the gouging. The Nissan is definitely an impressive ride. Not perfect, but an incredible bargain with more technology packed into it than anything short of a Veyron. It feels heavy and solid without feeling lumbering, at least at low speeds. When speeds increased, the car felt lighter. We didn't have time to sample the handling or braking on this trip, but we have been promised some additional time in the car this weekend. We are praying for sunshine. Actually, maybe a little rain would be fun.