The Nissan GT-R is one of the fastest production cars in the world, while still being easy to drive around town. This makes it phenomenal, and unusual. It performs like a brute but isn’t one. It used to be, but over the years Nissan engineers have refined its manners and sharpened its performance by improving steering, handling and ride. The acceleration is blistering and cornering brilliant.
The GT-R might be seen as a composite, combining ideas and directions in form, function and spirit to become part supercar, part daily driver coupe, and part tuner car. For example it has a back seat that can fit two kids. Only the Porsche 911 Turbo also has a back seat, but it’s smaller. The GT-R has roomy front seats and useful trunk space as well. And it gets almost 20 mpg.
Under the long hood there is a twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 making 545 horsepower and 463 pound-feet of torque, mated to a dual-clutch transmission and amazing all-wheel-drive system. It’s the key to the cornering, through grip and wide sticky tires.
In the GT-R, you can sling yourself to 60 miles per hour in a mere 2.7 seconds, and find yourself at 100 mph in another blink. It competes with upmarket cars like the Porsche 911 Turbo, Corvette Z06, Jaguar F-Type, Viper, and a number of Mercedes-Benz AMG and BMW M models. You could add supercars like the Ferrari 458 and new Acura NSX. But in terms of performance-per dollar, at a cost of just over $100k, the GT-R is a good value. Although nothing like the Corvette, still the hands-down winner in that category.
For 2016 there is a new model, the 45th Anniversary Gold Edition, painted in a retro color called Silica Brass. Less than 30 of these models will be sold in the United States. Taken away in 2016 is the Track Edition, a stripped model with no rear seat and 20-inch black alloy wheels. Hard-core drivers and track-day enthusiasts will miss it.
The GT-R is probably the least distinctive of cars in its category. The Corvette, Porsche, Viper, Jaguar, NSX, even the Nissan 370Z all have an iconic shape. The GT-R looks like a generic powerful Japanese sports car, or even a kit car. Its jagged profile, especially where the roofline chops into the rear end, is intriguing but not iconic.
That’s not to say there’s no drama in the details. It flaunts fat fender flares, deep air scoops, and a humongous rear wing. But the unimaginative round taillights blow it.
Nissan has cut interior corners to keep the price down. Without the optional Premium interior package, the cabin looks inexpensive. With it, the level of luxury is about like an Infiniti.
The driver’s position and point of view is cockpit-like. The instrument panel is angled toward his or her seat, which is heavily bolstered and rather upright.
We wouldn’t call the GT-R loud inside, we would say it has a lot of aural mechanical charm, which might become less charming on a long road trip. When you change gears you can hear the clutch and transaxle, although it’s sometimes muffled by wind noise.
The GT-R has a top speed of 196 mph and can outperform supercars costing twice as much. Or it can cruise around town to do errands.
It has three modes, to suit your moods and/or the road: Normal, Comfort and Race. They are pretty much true to their names. Comfort makes the car totally tractable with a nice ride around town. Race does its rigid quick job on the track, the only place you need it. Normal is a bit sporty, less relaxed than Comfort. These modes change the algorithms for throttle response, suspension firmness, transmission shift points and speed, along with the dynamic control traction and stability system.
Cruising along in docile Comfort and sixth gear, you can hear the whistle of the turbos and soft whine of the four exhausts. The GT-R doesn’t scream like a Ferrari or roar like a V8 Shelby GT500; the Nissan V6 note is distinctive, like a deep whine through a long tube.
The all-wheel-drive system delivers fantastic grip and cornering. It goes from rear-wheel drive to 50/50 front/rear, depending on speed, lateral acceleration, steering angles, tire slip, road surface and yaw rate. The suspension uses Bilstein dampers built for the GT-R to go with its springs and rigid chassis.
The massive Brembo brakes, six-piston in front and four- in rear, are firm, fadeless and fearless. The paddle-shifting transmission changes gears smartly even in Comfort mode, although because the paddles are mounted on the steering column and not the wheel itself, it’s not easy to shift in a corner when the wheel is turned.
Driving the GT-R on the track can be video game-like, with that eye-popping acceleration and grip that won’t quit. Until it does quit, when the rear slides out from you with too much power all at once. But the stability control saves you, and the balance is excellent. The weight distribution is good because the transaxle is mounted at the rear.
It’s an awesome thing to wind the GT-R into a long sweeper at 100 mph or more and be almost relaxed as it just hangs in there, no worries, it can do more. Now imagine the Nismo GT-R with another 55 horsepower.
The Nissan GT-R is almost a supercar, with nondescript styling, not counting its wings, flares and fat tires. It has neck-snapping acceleration, neck-stretching cornering, and neck-flopping braking. Its simple interior helps keep the cost down. It’s mechanically distinctive, if not visually so. It’s not like the Corvette, Viper, or others. Its twin-turbo V6 engine is race bred, with a rich history of wins.