2012 Nissan GT-R Expert Review:Autoblog
Invincible. According to Webster's, the word means "incapable of being conquered, overcome or subdued." The adjective is often used to describe something so superior that it's nearly impossible to overthrow. Want to know what invincibility feels like? Strap yourself into the driver's seat of the 2012 Nissan GT-R, and then press the start button.
Just three years after successfully launching its flagship performance vehicle on our shores, the engineers at Nissan have introduced a subtly but completely reworked supercar. The engine has more power, the suspension has been revised, the wheels are lighter, the seats have been redesigned, the brakes are bigger, the chassis is stiffer and the aerodynamics have been reconfigured to improve cooling and provide more downforce. This isn't a manufacturer's token "mid-cycle refresh" to boost sales; these are changes that improve the overall drivability and performance of the GT-R so significantly that most will be inclined to consider it nothing short of a second-generation rebirth.
For starters, how does 0-60 in 2.88 seconds sound?
Photos copyright ©2011 Drew Phillips / AOL
This story really started three years ago this April. That was when we first drove the then-all-new 2009 Nissan GT-R, the spiritual descendant of a long lineage of epic Nissan Skyline sports cars.
Its performance was mind-boggling at the time. Under the hood was a twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 developing 480 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque. Mated to a standard six-speed sequential dual-clutch rear transaxle, power was sent to the ground through the automaker's ATTESSA E-TS all-wheel-drive system. Nissan didn't officially quote performance figures at the time, but most publications clocked the GT-R's sprint to 60 mph in a scant 3.5 seconds. Quick on the street, it was even more capable on the track. Succinctly delivering this point, its Nürburgring time of just 7:38 put it ahead of the famed Porsche 911 Turbo and Mercedes-Benz SLR McLaren.
As good as the sports car was, the GT-R's chief vehicle engineer, Kazutoshi Mizuno, never considered the car "done." In fact, Mizuno promised the "real GT-R" would arrive in a few years.
Today, I find myself sitting in a meeting room at the Carlton Hotel in Atascadero, California, smack in the middle of the state's central coast. Mizuno is explaining to a handful of journalists the changes that Nissan made to the GT-R for the 2012 model year. Like a proud father (and with every bit as much boast), he goes over each of the vehicle's upgraded subsystems methodically. The details are impressive.
While the GT-R has aged very well, Nissan refuses to let its flagship supercar fall from the front of the pack. Pursuing that sole objective, the automaker has made minor changes each year. And, with the exception of the launch control debacle and a series of not-so-insignificant price increases, enthusiasts have welcomed these tweaks that have continued to improve the coupe's performance envelope. However, none of the revisions have been as significant as the changes for 2012.
Beginning with the exterior, Nissan has improved the GT-R's aerodynamics by reducing overall drag and increasing downforce. The front fascia has been enlarged and the grille openings altered slightly to reroute air precisely around the vehicle. As Mizuno explains, air forced through the front intake is channeled through the radiators and intercooler before being released into the back of the brakes for cooling. Airflow that normally would have spilled over the hood has been redirected to the sides. Not only does this improve air volume through the radiator and front brakes, but the overall coefficient of drag is down to .268 (last year, it was .272) and downforce on both axles has been increased by 10 percent. From the outside, the new front fascia is visually distinguished by its double rectifier fins and integrated white LED running lights.
In the back, the diffuser has been extended and resculpted to improve airflow over the exhaust components (plus, it also serves to lower air resistance). The new rear fascia outlet and slots on the lower rear fenders are both engineered to help pull air from the rear wheel wells to improve brake cooling. More visible to the naked eye are the new vents behind the rear wheels and the larger diameter exhaust tips, which are purely cosmetic.
The seven-spoke forged alloy wheels found on 2009-2011 Nissan GT-R models have been replaced in 2012 with new ten-spoke forged alloys that are reportedly more rigid and slightly lighter than their predecessors, coming in at 26.4 pounds each. Knurling inside the 20-inch wheels has been modified to help keep the tires from slipping during extreme acceleration or braking, and the finish on the wheels has also been slightly darkened. While predecessors were fitted with rubber from different manufacturers, tires for all 2012 models are specially constructed Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT 600 DSST CTT ultra high-performance run-flats (filled with nitrogen). The fronts are size 255/40ZRF20 while the rear tires are 285/35ZRF20. If Godzilla is forced to endure colder climes, customers may also order all-season run-flat tires as part of the Cold Weather Package.
Stiffening of the chassis has been accomplished by adopting a carbon composite strut support bar in the engine bay (connected just behind the front strut towers). The dampers are now fitted with aluminum free pistons, and the front caster and rear geometry have been altered to slightly lower the roll center height.
In addition to the aforementioned increased airflow to the brakes, the coupe's standard Brembo monobloc six-piston front calipers clamp down on slightly larger 15.4-inch rotors (up from 15-inches), while the rear four-piston calipers and rotors are carried over from last year. The system utilizes a full-floating cross-drilled two-piece rotor with special low-steel high-stiffness brake pads.
Saving the go-fast news for last, Mizuno explains how his team of engineers made several significant changes to the VR38DETT twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter six-cylinder engine. To increase power, boost pressure was increased and modifications were made to both the valve timing and mixture. The intake and exhaust system was also opened up to improve breathing. The result is a big jump in output, now 530 horsepower and 448 pound-feet of torque. The torque curve has also been widened, with peak twist now available from 3,200 rpm all the way up to 6,000 rpm. And it's not a coincidence that the horsepower rating is identical to the Porsche 911 Turbo S. And, if you are one of those debating between a Nissan Leaf and a Nissan GT-R, fuel economy for the 2012 model is up to 16 mpg city / 23 mpg highway (the 2011 was rated 15 mpg city / 21 mpg highway).
The engineering team also tweaked and massaged the GT-R's dual-clutch six-speed transmission. Most of the work focused on eliminating the brutal shock of engagement during periods of maximum stress (leaving more than a few early owners with shattered gearboxes). According to Mizuno, software remapping upgraded the vehicle's so-called "clutch control" to deliver launches that were quicker, yet less traumatic to the mechanicals. That said, owners of the 2012 model are offered "launch control" with a 4,000-rpm launch, with one caveat: The software will allow only four sequential runs back-to-back. After that, the car must be driven one-and-a-half miles to reset the system (the pause is said to allow the system time to cool down). The last minor change: The transmission's lethargic "snow mode" has been replaced with a "fuel economy mode" for wishful eco-boosting hypermilers. Suuuuurrrre.
In a rare move for Nissan, the automaker has released performance figures (well, at least Muzuno has). Thanks to the increased power and torque, and the subtle mapping tweaks to the dual-clutch transmission's software, the 2012 GT-R will crack 60 mph in 3.0 seconds. Its top speed is now 197 miles per hour (up from its predecessor's 193 mph). The evening before we arrived, Nissan engineers were at the track trying to improve the already impressive acceleration number. Their best was a reported 0-60 sprint in just 2.88 seconds. It may be difficult to repeat, but the lesson learned is don't mess with the GT-R.
Nissan dropped trim levels last year, but two will be offered in 2012. All models receive new carbon fiber accents on the center console and re-sculpted sport bucket seats. Standard models are labeled GT-R "Premium" – they come loaded with everything including navigation, heated seats and the Bose audio package. A new-for-this-market GT-R "Black Edition" (the dark blue vehicle in our gallery) features red-trimmed Recaro seats with accenting red and black interior trim and a dark headliner. To further differentiate it from its Premium sibling, the wheels on the Black Edition coupes are unique six-spoke forged-aluminum Rays (wrapped in the same tires as found on the Premium models). In addition to the standard exterior colors (Solid Red, Gun Metallic and Pearl White), Nissan has added Deep Blue Pearl and Jet Black to the color palette for 2012. A sixth color, the four-stage metallic Super Silver, is still offered in limited volumes.
While the 2009 Nissan GT-R arrived with an aggressive base price of just $69,850 three years ago, the 2012 Nissan GT-R commands a significantly thicker wallet. The Premium model is priced at $90,950. The sole option is the Cold Weather Package (with Dunlop SP Sport 7010 all-season run-flat tires and a 30/70 coolant/water mix). The Black Edition models have a base price of $96,100.
After an early breakfast with Mizuno, a convoy of GT-Rs left Atascadero for the three-hour back road drive to Buttonwillow Raceway, just west of Bakersfield. Our scenic route took us to the Pacific coast at Morro Bay, then back over the hills to Buttonwillow via California Highway 58. Settled into the new front seats (noted for their additional bolstering and firmer cushions), the ride was comfortable without being awkwardly harsh. The brakes are strong and squeak-free, and the steering is nicely weighed. The sound level within the cabin is loud, attributed to the noise from the performance tires. Visibility to the rear quarters is challenging and the transmission still makes an unpolished rattling noise at crawling speeds (somehow, it doesn't seem to affect gearbox operation). The reality is that none of those irritants would have deterred us from driving all the way to the Atlantic coast, had that been the assignment.
When driven with temper and patience, the powertrain quickly shifts through its gears to maximize fuel economy. Again, no worries from the driver's seat as instant acceleration is but a quarter-throw of the accelerator pedal away. The GT-R is much, much more enjoyable when driven hard.
A simple three-finger salute is required to activate "Launch Control" mode. The easy one-handed operation refers to the process of lifting the trio of console-mounted switches from their standard neutral resting position into "R-Mode" (simply hold them for two seconds). Press the brake firmly with one foot and floor the accelerator with the other. Once the engine speed levels off at 4,000 rpm, situate your skull against the head restraint and side-step the brake pedal. The tire-shredding act feels a bit childish after a dozen or so times, but it never gets old. Watch a demonstration of it in action in our Short Cut video above.
Spending the afternoon on Buttonwillow's West Loop reinforced favorable memories of the GT-R's competency, and its voracious appetite for devouring a road circuit. It's not easy to hide a curb weight of 3,829 pounds (identical to last year), but Nissan's flagship overcomes the handicap with savage power and all-wheel-drive grip. Speeds are fast, easily passing triple digits on each of the short straights. I personally have been fortunate to run dozens of cars on this exact track over the past decade, but none have propelled me with such velocity.
Nissan thoughtfully provided us with some 2011 models to compare against the 2012 GT-R. It offered excellent back-to-back driving impressions, but it also almost cost me some pride. After grabbing a random key at the start of the session, I drove the new model first. It seemed nearly unflappable at speed on the circuit. Any slight error in trajectory was easily corrected with the steering wheel or accelerator pedal. Lifting mid-corner would bring the tail around, and Nissan's ATTESA E-TS all-wheel drive worked full-throttle miracles on the exits. I tried the identical moves in the 2011 model and ran out of track (dropping the two outside wheels in the mud) with frustrating understeer exiting the Sweeper. It doesn't take an expert to notice the 2012 upgrades to both power and handling.
As it was before, the 2012 GT-R is still faster around the track when driven in manual mode (with the column-mounted paddle shifters). With all settings in "R" mode, the dual-clutch gearbox does a decent job grabbing the next higher gear when coming out of a corner, but it still lacks the anticipation needed to be in the thick of the torque band and get a jump on the exit. Subjectively speaking, Porsche's PDK (a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox) still feels faster and seems to deliver more effective neck-snapping shifts in performance mode.
The brutality of this particular road circuit took its toll. The GT-R's upgraded brakes were overly taxed at the limit. More than once I found myself at the end of a straight coming up on 120 mph, pressing the brakes as hard as I could (according to the multi-function digital display, they were maxed at 100 percent), yet I couldn't activate the ABS. The tire's rubber compound afforded plenty of stick but the street-compound brake pad material just couldn't deliver the friction against the expansive rotor surface at the limit. Pro Tip: Those who track the GT-R will need to invest in some race-compound brake pads.
Nearly three years ago, we reviewed Godzilla and concluded that the fresh young two-door coupe delivered "robot-like mechanized perfection," yet it lacked the subtle qualities that help to create a bond between man and machine. Its individuality has improved with the arrival of the 2012 model. Now in its fourth year, the GT-R has matured and aged well. Emerging after an extensive list of focused upgrades and refinements, the sports car demonstrates poise, confidence, authority and continues to show no signs of fear. We'd go so far as to argue the GT-R finally possesses something that it lacked in the past: character.
Photos copyright ©2011 Drew Phillips / AOL
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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