The Nissan GT-R is a giant killer, a supercar that offers the kind of extreme performance that can normally only be achieved by ultra-pricey exotics. Packed with electronic handling and launch control aids, the GT-R - affectionately nicknamed "Godzilla" by enthusiasts - uses advanced technology to overcome its substantial curb weight and offer agile responses along with truly breathtaking acceleration.
Originally introduced in the United States back in 2008, the GT-R has been continually updated over the years with more power and improved handling.
The latest model year brings suspension, steering and brake revisions that make daily driving a bit more comfortable without adversely affecting performance. Several styling tweaks inside and out have been added, and a new Bose Active Noise Cancellation system has been fitted to quell cabin noise.
Additionally, there's now an even more potent Nismo variant with 600 horsepower and a stiffened suspension.
Heart of the Beast
The centerpiece of the GT-R is its powerplant, a hand-assembled twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 that pumps out 545 horsepower and 463 lb-ft of torque. With the help of launch control, that output is sufficient to propel the coupe from zero-to-60 mph in an eye-popping 2.9 seconds on the way to a quarter mile run of just over eleven ticks - results that shame many cars costing twice as much as the GT-R.
The GT-R Nismo brings yet more power - 600 horsepower and 481 lb-ft of torque to be exact. Those figures are achieved by way of larger turbochargers borrowed from the GT-R GT3 race car, revised ignition timing, and retuned intake and exhaust systems.
All-wheel-drive and a six-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission play a big role in making the GT-R's accelerative heroics possible, with the later capable of ripping off shifts in the blink of an eye. Like other dual-clutch transmissions, it can be slightly unrefined in low-speed driving, but most buyers will find that a small price to pay for the incredible performance it facilitates.
Given its performance potential, the GT-R's mileage ratings of 16/23 city/highway mpg are actually fairly reasonable.
Despite a curb weight in the neighborhood of 3,800, the GT-R is sharp handler thanks in part to a well-tuned chassis with three-mode adjustable dampers that can be adjusted to prioritize agility or comfort. To improve the latter even further, Nissan has significantly retuned the GT-R's suspension for the latest model year for a more forgiving ride. Other changes aimed at enhancing daily driving include a steering system that now requires less effort during in-town maneuvers - while also providing greater high-speed stability - and recalibrated brakes that provide a firmer, more linear response at everyday speeds.
On the other hand, the hard-core NISMO boasts suspension stiffer springs and dampers - complete with new Comfort, Normal and R damper modes - and reworked anti-roll bars with a 17.3mm hollow unit at the rear. NISMO even went so far as to use additional adhesive bonding and structural seam welding to increase rigidity.
Outside, the latest GT-R can be recognized by new full-LED headlights with an adaptive function that automatically changes the angle of the light beam to match the supercar's speed. Nissan has also fitted new four-ring taillights that now form complete circles.
The NISMO variant is distinguished by a new bodykit with model-specific front and rear bumpers, unique side skirts and a sizable rear spoiler that provide an additional 220 lbs. of downforce at 186 mph compared to the standard car. Specially-developed Dunlop tires wrapped around six-spoke Nismo wheels maximize traction.
The Inside Story
With straightforward gauges, a meaty steering wheel and well-bolstered seats, the cabin is a highly-focused driving environment. A center-mounted LCD screen designed in collaboration with Polyphony Digitial - makers of the popular Gran Turismo video game offers eleven separate pages of boost, g-force, acceleration, braking and steering info and even offers a recording function with playback.
High-quality leather and carbon fiber tri give the interior a premium feel, and a specially-designed 11-speaker Bose stereo - including two forward-facing woofers in the rear center armrest area - is a treat for audiophiles. A new Bose Active Noise Cancellation system filters out road noise to provide a quieter cabin environment.
Though it's advertised as a 2+2, the GT-R is in truth suitable for two occupants only - the rear seats are best left to mortal enemies and luggage.
Trim Level Breakdown
The Nissan GT-R is available in Premium Edition, Black Edition, Track Edition and NISMO.
The Premium model comes packed with standard features including leather seating with synthetic suede inserts, an 11-speaker Bose Audio system, a navigation system with XM NavTraffic, NavWeather and Zagat survey functionality, an iPod input jack, a multi-function display and Bluetooth phone connectivity that supports audio streaming.
The GT-R Black Edition features a number of aesthetic upgrades, including custom red and black Recaro heated and leather-appointed seats, red and black interior trim and a dark headliner. There is a handmade, dry-carbon fiber rear wing on this model as well, which is sure to please JDM and tuner car fans. Special metallic black six-spoke RAYS lightweight wheels round out the upgrades.
The Track Edition includes special carbon fiber air ducts in the front spoiler, along with new front and rear brake cooling air guides, to help keep brake temperatures down and ensure maximum stopping power for hot laps. A revised suspension is also part of the package, including specialized Bilstein DampTronic gas pressure shock absorbers and higher spring rates.
The NISMO brings heightened output, a special suspension and an aggressive exterior treatment.
Buyers can now select a new pale ivory two-tone interior option with part-aniline leather seats with stitched accents along with a leather-trimmed steering wheel.
There's also an available Premium Interior Package that includes Red Amber semi-aniline leather upholstery along with red Amber accents on the instrument panel, steering wheel, door trim, armrests and shift knob.
All Nissan GT-R models come standard with dual front, front side and front side-curtain airbags in addition to traction and stability control systems and a tire pressure monitoring system.
In terms of price, form and function, the Porsche 911 Carrera Coupe in one variation or another, along with the Audi R8, are probably the most similar competitors to the GT-R, but in terms of all-out performance or image, the list of competitors becomes all kinds of crazy, extending to the Ferrari 458 Italia, McLaren MP4-12C and Lamborghini Huracan.