Being an automotive journalist is like being a male porn star. We're little more than Piloti-shoed buffers between the reader and the objects of their lust, and really, no one cares about us. Still, you only get one chance to make an initial impression, so my first review here on Autoblog had to be big. As luck/fate would have it, I got a phone call a few weeks back that went a little something like this: "How'd you like to drive the first 2010 Nissan GT-R on the West Coast, before the buff books get it?" Needless to say, the answer was obvious. But what to do with the brand-new R35, one of the most heavily and relentlessly covered car-stories of the past year? This takes us right back to that porno metaphor: How do I give the people what they want?
Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.
We hatched a plan – take the uber-Nissan down to San Diego and pay a visit to Comic Con! A story about 400-pound guys in Batman suits drooling all over the new GT-R practically writes itself, so we contacted various video game companies to see if they would let us drive the GT-R right onto the convention center floor. Perfect! Our stunt would be like lowering a nude, greased-up Megan Fox into a frat house. What could possibly go wrong? Without getting into the epic fail of that last bit, it didn't happen. What you're left with then is yet another review of a Nissan GT-R where some "pounding at 11/10s" wannabe hamfists Godzilla through envy-inducing, tight, twisty Southern California canyons. Lucky you... err, me.
My task then would be to answer the following: There's endless talk about whether or not the Nissan GT-R has a soul. Yes, we all know it's supercar quick and hypercar capable. And yes, Japan's most recent foray into the segment can utterly dominate and humiliate most British, Italian and German machines – all costing two, three or five times as much – and give like-minded American all-stars a run for their ACR/ZR1 money. But is the GT-R anything more than a numb supercomputer, mindlessly parsing bits of data and then spitting out traction and velocity? Are its capabilities a credit to Nissan's mechanical engineers, or its electrical wonks? To put it another, more Comic-Conny way, is there a ghost in Nissan's machine?
First and foremost, we should cover what's new for 2010. The big news is bye-bye launch control. We found the GT-R's penchant for grenading transmissions humorous (from a distance), but alas, farewell. However... maybe it's still there? Maybe Nissan was only telling people launch control had been deleted? We found a very deserted stretch of road, put the transmission and suspension into R mode, turned the VDC all the way off, planted our left foot on the brake pedal and pushed the throttle with our right. Instead of the tach zinging up to 4,500 rpm, fuel cutoff happens right around 2,000 rpm. Launch control is deader than last Thanksgiving's turkey. That's not very soulful.
That said, the Transmission Control Module (TCM) has been reprogrammed. Not only can the six-speed dual-clutch gearbox shift faster (when in R), but the chances of a customer having to shell out $20,000 for a new cogswapper is greatly reduced. The 2010 GT-R also sports five more horsepower, bringing the total to 485, while torque output remains unchanged at 434 lb-ft. Rumors still persist that since each GT-R engine is hand-built, power levels vary and some engines churn out as much as 520 hp, if not more. Let's chalk this up to some engines running 100 octane and others dealing with California's crapola 91 high-test. Bottom line, the power feels freakishly adequate.
The suspension's been retuned and the Bilsteins are a new design, while the brakes (somehow) have been revamped and fitted with more rigid lines and fresh pads. Our Premium GT-R tester arrived with dark, "near-black" wheels and when coated in Super Silver (like this car) you get a polished front bumper (there's also a new hue called Pearl White). More power, faster shifts, better handling, stouter brakes, blacker wheels and a transmission that's much less likely to eat itself? That sounds fantastic. Soulful, even.
As far as looks go, let's face it: You've been staring at the GT-R through your computer screen for as long as I have. Not a single body panel was changed for 2010, so you either love it, or you're indifferent. I will say this, Godzilla is huge. I knew the Nissan was a big boy, but it's nearly ten inches longer than a C6 Corvette; its wheelbase is fifteen inches longer than a Porsche 997. But hey, we were able to fit a case of wine and a large pizza in the trunk, so I'm sure owners aren't complaining too much about the GT-R's dimensions.
Well, maybe a little about the back seat. No joke: You cannot fit your hand between the front and rear thrones. Even children would be miserable. As far as the front of the cockpit goes, for a Nissan, it's pretty much okay. For an $86,000 vehicle, it's not nearly as nice as you'd like. Sure, there's leather all over the doors and on part of the dash, but it's budget, cheap-feeling leather, not that opulent, veal-fat rubbed and pleated cowhide you'd find in a Spyker. However, all that really matters is the usable stuff. The pedals, steering wheel, flappy-paddles, seats and handbrake are all up to supercar snuff. Especially that burly handbrake.
So then, how's it drive? In a word, Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. From a standing start, the forward thrust is obscene. Pornographic, to stick with our earlier metaphor. 60 mph happens in less than four seconds (thanks to launch control delete, the GT-R no longer hunts in the 3.2/3.3-second Enzo/ZR1 woods) and the quarter-mile is annihilated in less than twelve. Trap speed? 120 mph, give or take. Top speed? North of 190 mph.
All these numbers are as quick or quicker than a $200,000+, all-wheel drive, paddle-shifted, 552-horsepower Lamborghini Gallardo LP560-4 or a $280,000 502-hp Ferrari F430 Scuderia. But forget about the numbers, the price tags and the competitor's badges. Instead, concentrate on the massive brutality taking place and hair-splitting wail of the turbos at full clip. You get to watch the scenery deform all around you as the buzzing builds to full cresendo. After giving one pal a quick blast up an empty freeway, he didn't want to shake hands because his palms were so sweaty. The GT-R is a face-puller, a neck-snapper, a pulse-pounder. Especially when you're banging off shifts in half a second with one of the world's finest paddle-shifted dual-clutch gearboxes. And that's in default. Pop the transmission into R-mode and the shifts are over and done with in two-tenths of a second. Bloody hell, indeed.
Yeah, yeah, yeah -- 485 hp cars with 434 lb-ft of torque and AWD traction should be blisteringly fast when pointed straight. But the GT-R weighs over 3,800 pounds. Can the near two-ton porkster mechanically handle the twisty stuff? Simply put: Yes. But 'handles' is not even the right word. Dispatch, conquer, dominate, tear asunder, murder – that's it – the GT-R murders corners dead. Starting with the donk-sized tires (255/40 R20 in front, 285/35 R20 out back), moving to the retuned suspension and ending with the innards of a Swiss watch-fancy AWD system, the GT-R has world-class Stickum.
If I may quote McLaren F1 designer Gordon Murray after he climbed out of the Bugatti Veyron for the first time, "One really good thing, and I simply never expected this, is that it does change direction. It hardly feels its weight. Driving it on a circuit I expected a sack of cement, but you can really throw it at tight chicanes." Replace the word "circuit" with "stomach churning canyon road" and those are my sentiments exactly vis-à-vis the 2010 GT-R. 3,829-pound cars shouldn't change direction like Barry Sanders in his prime. Yet this one does.
Did I mention the stoppers? Going by the ancient caveat, "A car's only as good as its brakes," the new GT-R is the third best car in the world. Period. Cymbal-sized 15-inch discs at all four corners and six-piston Nissan-branded Brembo calipers join forces to mess with the space/time continuum. Slowing the car from 60 mph is near effortless. When you dip deeper into the near-bottomless well of power -- say around 140 mph – the brakes still work flabbergastingly well, hauling you down to something resembling a speed limit in mere moments. At one point in downtown L.A, a school bus cut us off and neither driver nor passenger were the least bit worried. Why? We'd been using the brakes all day – we knew.
Ah, but here it comes. Here's the part of the story where I'm supposed to tell you that yeah, you can hoon a GT-R harder and faster than a Lamborghini or a Ferrari. But the Italians are works of art, a living, breathing symphony filled with arias pointed right at the heart of an automobile where man and machine become one via harmony, divine intervention, etc. The GT-R? Nothing but a Silicon Valley automaton, precisely but passionlessly going about its servile duties while totally disconnected from the world around it and driver within. Well guess what? I'm not saying that – or anything resembling that. In fact, I'm going to say that those who complain about the GT-R's supposed soullessness simply aren't pushing it hard enough. Because once you do, you hear the angels sing. New rule: All observations concerning the GT-R at less than 80 mph or 5,000 rpm (whichever comes first) are meaningless. Under that and Godzilla's not even breathing hard.
When the gloves come off (transmission's in R-mode, suspension's in R-mode, VDC's in R-mode, nitrogen-filled tires are nice and warm and tacky) not only can the new GT-R rundown the aforementioned farm animals, but it's just as rewarding to drive – if not more so. Why? You can brake later, you can hold the road longer and you can blast out of corners quicker. Isn't that why we drive? Like many great cars, the GT-R seems to shrink when pushed, and the harder and meaner, the smaller it gets. Italian exhausts sound a thousand times better, but the GT-R is simply the better supercar. You'll be continually shocked that such a heavy, civilized and inexpensive car is not only capable of, but eager to rotate on its axis, accelerate like a rally car over busted pavement and keep its driver cool/comfortable after hours of use and abuse.
One caveat: during all of our testing we left the VDC on (except for our ill-fated attempt at launch control) and in R-mode for several reasons. The first being that Nissan strictly forbids operating the car with the VDC defeated unless you're stuck in snow or mud – it straight-up voids the warranty – and we didn't feel like returning a handful of broken half-shafts and shredded gears to the good folks at Nissan. The second reason being that most of our evaluative drives were on two-lane public roads with the high possibility of oncoming traffic and blind corners.
That said, the VDC in R-mode has such incredibly high limits that we were able to register full back-to-back 1g lateral acceleration pulls in two different directions (as indicated by the g-meter oscilloscope) again and again and again. The car almost never lets go. And if it does step out (journo-speak for, "I entered the corner too hot, mashed the brakes while chopping the wheel and staring at a squirrel"), the sensation is akin to a hand reaching down from the clouds, grabbing hold and gently performing a quick course correction – the same way you used to play with your Hot Wheels. There's no sudden loss of power, no cruel nanny coming in like a guillotine. Just a little bit of wiggle, and you're back in the game, pushing the edge of the envelop, gunning for an M6, Ducati Monster, Dodge Viper and a few Ferrari F430 Spiders (yes, we did). Over the course of five days, five tanks of high-grade gasoline and more than 600 miles, we experienced the full force of the VDC saving our butt exactly once. And yeah, it was when we were trying to pull away from the damn Ducati.
So what's up then? Why the bum rap? Why do so many journalists (and I can't name names because I'm friends with so many of them) write off the GT-R as highly competent but ultimately soulless? Sure, it's one of the four or five most mindboggling performance vehicles on sale, but... meh. They just don't dig it. Besides not driving it hard enough, here's another explanation: Remember when compact discs came out? There was a seemingly endless series of interviews on MTV with guys like Tom Petty bemoaning the loss of the pops, hisses and scratches inherent to records. The flaws were part of the sound, man. You can't flip a CD over – how do you know what side of the record is playing? That's fine, but it's just knee-jerk reactionary nostalgia.
Let's look at the 2005 winner for supercar bang-for-the-buck: the Corvette Z06. It makes about identical power compared to the GT-R, but weighs 700 pounds less. Yet the GT-R is faster, both in a straight line and around corners. Stops better, too. Neat party trick, no? Yes, laying fat, smoky strips of incinerated rubber a hundred feet long is fun, but it's old fashioned, and in many ways, it's making the best of a compromised situation. On the other hand, the GT-R inhabits the same plane of existence as Porsche's legendary 959. Better driving through science. Of course, the Nissan is faster, more nimble and worlds less expensive than my favorite Porsche. Now I'm not blind, deaf or numb. A certain number of imperfections do add flavor. But that's hardly the only way to build character. Might I suggest a 485-hp, twin-turbo 3.8-liter V6 coupled to a fancy-pants AWD system and a dual-clutch tranny from hell? For my money, that's about as soulful as a car gets.
Photos copyright ©2009 Drew Phillips / Weblogs, Inc.
New Car Test Drive
An enormous performance envelope.
Nissan has been selling a very high-performance car known as the Skyline in Japan for about 20 years and in several generations. Now in its fifth generation, in 2009 it was brought to the American market as the Nissan GT-R. It has enormous performance in all directions. Considering its capabilities, the GT-R can be thought of as a performance value.
The Nissan GT-R boasts the performance level of far more expensive cars. Its advanced, extraordinary all-wheel-drive dutifully and invisibly channels the engine's 485 horsepower and 434 pound-feet of torque to those tires with the most grip. This is most remarkable when enlisted using Launch Control. Its twin-clutch, sequential-shifting, six-speed manumatic transaxle is competitive with, and certainly equal to or better than, the best from Porsche, Mercedes, BMW or Ferrari.
This car is terrifically good and great fun to drive, whether just tooling around, darting through rush-hour traffic or blurring telephone poles on empty back roads.
The GT-R comes with every comfort and convenience a driver and passenger need, and most of what a driver and passenger could want. The sports car-like cabin is climate controlled. The navigation system responds to voice commands. Behind the navigation system's LCD are 11 pages of data, graphs and virtual gauges that tell the tale on more of the car's dynamics than most drivers can, or want to, be bothered knowing. All this makes the red start/stop button that takes the place of a perfectly functional key almost tolerable.
The Nissan GT-R comes in one body style, a two-door, 2+2 quasi-coupe. There's also but one powertrain offered, a twin-turbocharged, 3.8-liter V6 driving all four wheels through a six-speed, twin-clutch, sequential-shifting, automated-manual transaxle. Shifts are managed either by computer or by steering column-mounted magnesium paddle shifters.
Even though it has been on the market only a short time, for model year 2010 there are some significant enhancements. The engine's horsepower is up from 480 to 485 hp, and torque has been increased from 430 to 434 pound-feet. There is new Transmission Control Module (TCM) programming that optimizes clutch engagement, thus improving drivability and acceleration with the Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) system turned on (activated). More rigid brake lines offer better durability, brake calipers carry both the Brembo and the Nissan logos. There has been suspension re-tuning, with redesigned Bilstein shock absorbers that have a new valve-body design, and revised spring and damper rates. The base GT-R model has a slighter darker high-luster smoke finish on the standard 20-inch RAYS forged aluminum wheels, and a new near-black metallic finish is standard on the Premium model. There is a new Pearl White color, and the Super Silver exterior color has been enhanced and now includes a polished front bumper. The Dunlop summer tires have a revised compound. Finally, and very important for safety, front seat-mounted airbags and roof-mounted side-curtain airbags are standard.
The 2010 Nissan GT-R comes in two trim levels. The standard GT-R ($80,790) doesn't lack for much: dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, power mirrors, windows and locks, eight-way adjustable driver's seat and four-way adjustable front passenger's seat, AM/FM/XM/CD stereo with MP3 and WMA playback and six speakers, 30GB hard disk that supports voice recognition, seven-inch color-LCD, GPS-based navigation system with 9.3 GB for personalized audio tracks, dash-mounted Compact Flash card reader, and Bluetooth phone system for hands-free operation. Run-flat summer compound Dunlop tires wrap around aluminum alloy wheels.
The GT-R Premium model ($83,040) adds heated front seats, a Bose audio system with 11 speakers, including two subwoofers stacked vertically in a panel separating the rear seats, and run-flat summer Bridgestone tires.
Options include the Cold Weather Package (no charge) with all-season Dunlop tires and a 50/50 coolant mix. The Super Silver special paint ($3000) is hand-polished before receiving three clearcoats. An iPod converter ($400) and GT-R floor mats ($280) can be installed at port of entry or by the dealer.
Safety features that come standard include pretensioners on the front three-point belts; pretensioners on the rear-seat three-point seat belts; and dual-stage frontal airbags, seat-mounted side-impact airbags, and roof-mounted side-curtain airbags. Active safety features include antilock brakes that let the driver steer during a panic stop; brake assist, which reads the way the driver hits the brake pedal to quicken the system's response in emergencies; electronic brake-force distribution, which optimizes front/rear brake balance for what a computer decides is the quickest, best-controlled stop in all conditions; traction control, which minimizes wheel-spin during acceleration; and Nissan's Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC) system, which monitors various sensors and inputs in an effort to keep the car going where the driver wants it to go and to reduce the possibility of losing control on slippery surfaces. A tire-pressure monitoring system comes standard.
Aesthetically, the Nissan GT-R is neither a modernized Jaguar E-Type nor a resurrection of the earliest Z cars, way back when they wore the Datsun badge. This car has none of the natural beauty of those cars, which looked like they'd gone directly to the showroom from whimsical sketches on a dinner napkin. What it does have is a sense of polished purpose, of function dictated by the need to slip through the air with minimal disturbance blended with a form shaped to let the eye flow over its lines and curves just as easily. Sort of a svelte Bauhausian ethic.
The GT-R's grille design does multi-duty. Besides channeling air to the intercooler, radiators and climate-control system's heat exchanger coils, the design enhances front downforce. The lower grille opening houses two, jet intake-like, side-mount scoops that cool the massive vented and drilled front brake discs and their full-floating, six-piston Brembo calipers. A polished, black, understated but effective chin spoiler extends beneath the front bumper like a lower lip. High-relief, lift-countering indents wrap around the lower corners of the front fenders. Pentagonal headlight housings fill the tops of the fenders. Two functional NACA vents straddle the hood's power bulge.
The front fenders give the GT-R a broad-shouldered presence leading to a narrower, kind of pinched waist body section. Narrow extractor vents that vacuum lift-inducing airflow from under the front end fit into tall slots between the fenders' trailing edges and the side body panels. An awkward GT-R badge tries to imply motion by swooping back from the top of the vent but only serves to mar the sleek flanks. Fully recessed door handles pivot out for a finger grip when the dimpled rear portion is pressed; immediately aft of that is an angled, rectangular button that unlocks the door, provided the key fob is within range.
Frameless door windows and fixed rear quarter windows taper sharply toward the rear, denying much-needed headroom for entering and exiting the car. One bystander said he was reminded of the Mustang at his first sight of the side windows and top, what Nissan calls an aero blade canopy roofline. The rear quarter panel balloons outward from the narrower mid-section just enough to cover the rear tires. The barest of a concentric blister highlights the perfectly circular front and rear wheelwells. The front end's polished black lower lip picks up after the front wheelwell and runs the length of the side body panels to the rear wheelwells, with the visual effect of masking just how close the GT-R sits to the road. Balancing the view through the seven-spoke wheels of the front Brembo calipers are full-floating, four-piston rear Brembo calipers that clamp down on vented and drilled rear brake discs.
The mildly rounded but mostly vertical rear fascia holds symmetrical pairs of smaller and larger taillights and a sharply recessed license plate surround. The Nissan logo on the liftgate and a GT-R badge fit the car better than the GT-R swoop on the front quarter panel, although all four are unnecessary adornments. A slim rear wing, rounded in a droop at the ends to match the rear quarter panels' tumble, rides the trailing edge of the trunk lid. More of that polished black lower panel loops around the back end, hosting matched sets of dual exhaust tips and a fully integrated, carbon fiber rear diffuser. From this viewpoint, the one most drivers will see of the GT-R, it's difficult to believe the rear track is a mere 0.4 inches wider than the front track.
The interior of the Nissan GT-R echoes the ethic of the exterior, again nicely blending function and form. The only features for which controls seemed at first glance unintuitive were those not widely available in other cars, regardless of price or market niche.
The driver's seat feels form-fitted with its eight-way power adjustments. Bottom and side bolsters grip upper legs and torso with confidence. Thigh support is better than average. The front passenger seat has no height adjustment, as with most cars. This leaves the passenger peering out the front and side windows like some prairie dog popping its head up out of its hole in a field in Kansas. There's more than adequate room in front for people up to several inches taller than six feet.
The rear seats are another story. Usable rear-seat legroom is very minimal, even with the front seats set for a five-foot, four-inch person. The rear seats are best considered as absorbent elements in an acoustic chamber for the Premium sound system's two subwoofers. Given the paucity of rear-seat room, there's little likelihood the GT-R will be asked to provide for more than the driver and a passenger for any length of time, so the 8.8 cubic feet of trunk space should be adequate for a long weekend road trip. At the same time, it's about right for a week's worth of groceries or a couple golf bags.
Trim materials are rich without being plush or luxurious. The padded parts look hand-stitched. Front-seat bolsters are leather, insets a faux suede that's the only part that comes up a bit short on presentation. The cabin is trimmed in low-luster, finely grained plastic and satin-finished aluminum. Lower door kick panels are a low-nap fabric. Seams and trim elements fit snugly, with no misalignments or unexpected gaps.
Buttons, switches and knobs give good and consistent tactile feel. Pleasantly, control functions are all surface mounted and easy to reach, and not buried beneath some over-the-top, fancy-shmancy Super Knob perched on a center console waiting to frustrate all but the most technophile drivers. Getting comfortable with the LCD display and associated controls takes some time and effort, but they're more transparent and intuitive than they look. The stereo control head has a volume knob, a tuning knob and six buttons for station presets. Likewise with the climate control panel, which offers symmetrically placed and sized knobs and push buttons. A horizontal bar beneath the climate and stereo control panel houses levers for toggling between the three settings for suspension, shift points and the Vehicle Dynamic Control (VDC). Sadly, of the two power points, the most accessible for a radar detector is tucked away in the center console back between the front seats.
The instrument cluster holds four gauges and the LED gear indicator. The tachometer occupies the center space, with the speedometer off to the left; interesting, in a tempting sort of way, is the layout of the numbers on the speedometer. They start with 0 mph at about the 4 o'clock position, 120 mph at 9 o'clock and 220 mph between 1 o'clock and 2 o'clock. The other two gauges, to the right of the tachometer with the gear indicator, show coolant temperature and fuel level. Readouts for the remaining engine-related vitals are accessible through the LCD display.
Visibility out the front and to the sides is good. Rear quarter and back window sight lines aren't so good. That rear spoiler doesn't block enough of the rear window to obscure whether that car filling the rearview mirror is a police car or just someone in a Crown Vic. And the ballooning rear fenders encourage setting the outside mirrors at wide enough angles that the ever present blind spot doesn't hide as much as usual.
Drivers can tailor the multi-layered information center to provide display data on the LCD on front/rear torque distribution; lateral, longitudinal and total overall G-forces; inputs from accelerator, brake pedal and steering wheel; lap times; engine coolant temperature, oil pressure, turbo boost, and fuel economy. The driver can record this data; for example, to gather data during a track session.
The Nissan GT-R is meant to be enjoyed from inside, behind the wheel, not by scanning a specification sheet or gazing longingly at it in a parking lot. And from the driver's seat, it's better by quantum leaps than all these impressive data and great styling treatments promise.
The power curve is so nearly linear it's hard to believe the engine is turbocharged. Somewhere around 3500 rpm, there's the slightest bump in the power delivery, but it feels more like an engine coming on cam than two afterburner boosters stepping in. Shifts are quick and smooth, whether left to the transaxle's digital brain or managed by the driver's fingertips. Even with the transaxle in the R setting, which both sharpens the shifts and spreads them to higher performance points on the engine's power curve, gear changes are as certain as and less neck-snapping than those in the Ferrari F430 of a couple years ago, and with which the GT-R compares most favorably in every visceral and statistical measure, not least being price.
Drivers get to choose between three settings: Normal, Comfort, or R (for Race) for the suspension, transmission shift points, and the Vehicle Dynamic Control system's various algorithms, all of which work together in an attempt to keep the car within the confines of the inviolate laws of physics, notwithstanding the self-perceived prowess of the driver.
Launch Control is a particularly enticing feature for drivers insisting on enjoying the GT-R to its absolute max. To engage Launch Control: Toggle up and hold the R levers for the transaxle and for the suspension until the little lights come on, and toggle down and hold the R lever for the VDC until that light comes on; the first two engage the R settings, the last turns off the VDC. Next, nudge the shift lever to the right, into the M mode. With the left foot on the brake pedal and the fingers of the right hand on the shift paddle, mash the throttle. The engine will spin up to and hold at 4500 rpm. Slip the left foot off the brake pedal and be ready to tug that shift paddle, as the engine will hit the rev limiter in first gear almost instantaneously. The rear tires will leave 10 or 12 feet of black dash marks while the traction control fights to hook them up, and then it's nothing but supremely balanced distribution of power to the tires with the best grip. It's useful for drag racing or F1-style standing starts.
The GT-R is as equally competent driving quickly down twisting two-lane roads as it is a pleasure chugging along in the daily commute. Its wide track (distance between the centerlines of the tires side-to-side), large tire contact patches and 53/47 front/rear weight distribution deliver almost perfect response to steering inputs, with no hint of oversteer (where the rear of the car slides out) or understeer (where the car doesn't want to turn). It tracks confidently through corners, making slight adjustments to the line in response to changing pressure on the gas pedal. It straightens esses with ease, giving the driver clear indicators when transit speeds approach inadvisable levels.
The massive brakes never showed a hint of fade after miles of hard running, hauling the GT-R down time and again from high speeds to tight, first gear corners.
Obviously, those lesser-populated two-lanes are the GT R's preferred habitat, but it doesn't complain about sharing a crowded urban freeway or schlepping around town on weekend errands. The all-wheel-drive does, however, scrub the front tires on slow, tight turns, which is particularly noticeable in parking lots.
A cautionary note about ride quality: Toggle down the R lever for the suspension to get the Comfort setting. It's not that the Normal setting will have freeway expansion joints or railroad grade crossings sending drivers to the dentist to have their fillings re-glued, but the difference is substantial, and appreciated. In this measure, as well as in most others, from interior comfort to overall performance, the GT-R is on par with the best of what might be considered the competition, including the top Corvettes and Porsches and the BMW M6.
This is a hot rod, however. There are noticeable mechanical sounds from the clutches in the transaxle. First thought is that something back there needs some tightening. But, after a while, when the link between the clicks and the gear changes becomes obvious, that initial worry fades. Those are the sounds of a high-performance mechanical beast. Road noise and wind noise are about what we expect in a modern supercar: The sounds are noticeable, but not intrusive, and the stereo can mask the most audible.
The GT-R is not the most fuel-efficient car on the road, which is not surprising. EPA estimates are 16/21 mpg City/Highway.
The GT-R's long awaited arrival stateside has stoked a lot of anticipatory fires. Thankfully, for Nissan, the car lives up to the build up. From performance, both on the spec sheet and on the road, to styling and design, both inside and out, it's everything that was expected and more.
NewCarTestDrive.com correspondent Tom Lankard filed this report from Sacramento, in California's northern Central Valley.
Nissan GT-R ($80,790); Premium ($83,040).
Options As Tested
Nissan GT-R Premium ($83,040).
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