NISSAN GT-R  - Page - 1
Few cars in recent history have caused such a stir like the Nissan GT-R. The vehicle now finds itself backed by a reputation that's taken its name all over the world, even though it has only been showing proper supercar numbers since 2007, when the current R35 generation was launched in Japan.

Nissan vowed to give us a supercar that would be able to take on the best, vehicles with decades of road dominance in their resumes, but would be offered for an unbelievable price of under $100,000.

The car was launched, it kept its promises and was technically upgraded for most of the model years that followed, while the appearance remained largely unchanged.

In order to make the most out of the project, Nissan conceived the R35 as the first GT-R that would use a dedicated platform instead of being based on a Skyline sedan, like its predecessors were.

The Nissan GT-R has become some sort of a cult object in the car world, with the vehicle being nicknamed Godzilla - this is related to the fact that it came from Japan and managed to crush its opponents on the track, but was in fact inherited from the previous generation.

The Japanese carmaker was well aware of the tuning madness involving the previous incarnation of the GT-R and tried to prevent the R35 from having a similar fate. Nissan promoted an aggressive warranty voiding politics related to this. Nevertheless, the floodgates eventually burst and now tuners take the GT-R to about 900 or 1,000 hp for streetable kits and can go close to 2,000 hp in the most extreme applications.

We mention the GT-R fighting its competition above and we have to explain that Nissan set its crosshair on the Porsche 911 and did everything it could to allow the GT-R to post a superior Nurburgring lap time, which it did. Upon achieving this goal, the GT-R became the ultimate expression of “power to the people!”

Nissan hadn’t quite been able to raise up to the standard required to fight European supercars like the 911 Turbo in the past. That’s because, like we said, the previous GT-R models were supped up versions of the Skyline sedan. The R34, R33 and R32 were also limited to 280 hp due to the Japanese law at the time. Their actual output was slightly bigger, but this still meant they had to rely mainly on handling to impress.

The R32 GT-R had appeared as a homologated street car in 1989 that allowed Nissan to use its competition version in the fight for motorsport glory. The vehicles used a extremely capable four-wheel drive systems, previous incarnations of the one in the R35 and twin-turbo straight six engines. These may have been limited to 280 hp, but their racing incarnations more than doubled the power. This inspired tuners to do the same, which led to a series of vehicles that offered phenomenal power and sporty handling.

The GT-R earned points on the racetrack, as well as on the street and in the computer games world, with the vehicle gathering an ever-growing fan base. However, the aforementioned limitations meant that the car was always regarded as an underdog, an aspect that changes with the arrival of the R35.

The GT-R designation, which stands for Gran Turismo Racer, reveals the racing origin of the model and actually dates back to 1969. The First Skyline GT-R started life as a sedan and subsequently became a coupe. The production model followed the successful racing incarnation that started it all. Back then, the vehicle used a six-cylinder engine, but sent its power to the rear wheels.

The layout was kept for the second generation of the Skyline GT-R, which was launched in 1973. The timing couldn’t be worse, as the gas crisis was ravishing performance car sales, so only 197 units of the vehicle were ever made. The vehicle was discontinued until the arrival of the aforementioned R32 generation.

History repeated itself eventually - the Skyline GT-R R34 was put out of production in 2002 and the model was kept off the market for five years as Nissan was facing financial difficulties and a supercar must’ve been the last thing on the list of company priorities.

However, the appearance of the Nissan-Renault alliance sparked the need for a flagship model and this is how we’re returning to the R35 GT-R’s story. This is also the first GT-R to truly go global, as Nissan had previously only exported limited quantities of the car on select markets.

Now that the GT-R is free to travel across the world and it’s also received multiple model year upgrades designed to make it even faster, we set about inviting Godzilla over for tea - we recently got behind the wheel of a 2013 Nissan GT-R (2012 in Europe).

The appearance of the Nissan GT-R is perhaps the most surprising parts of the car. One would expect the designers to have made efforts to work with the angular styling cues borrowed from the 1969 GT-R in order to persuade them to offer decent aerodynamic benefits. They have obviously done this, but the result is far more than just "good".

Despite its boxy styling, this Nissan has a drag coefficient of 0.26, one of the bests in the supercar segment. And this is just half the story - the drag coefficient tells us how a car can deal with air resistance, but downforce is just as important and the GT-R's also got this covered for both its front and rear.

The coupe starts generating relevant downforce from 60 mph (97 km/h) thanks to its underbody and carbon fiber rear spoiler.

To achieve the aforementioned assets, Nissan joined forces with a company that knows a thing or two about racing - Lotus. The Brits are used to lending their expertise to other carmakers and, with the GT-R, they've proved that engineers can be excellent magicians.

The R35 is the first GT-R to use a dedicated platform instead of using a Skyline as a starting point. Apart from the aforementioned benefits, this has also brought a more distinct design.

Shiro Nakamura, the man who leads Nissan's design team, explains that the GT-R 's form is inspired by Gundam robots from the Japanese culture. The car does have a shape that's instantly recognizable. However, just as we were about to say it's unique, we noticed a few similarities with the design of the Ford Mustang, especially in the upper side of the body.

Getting into the details of the Nissan GT-R's styling, we have to mention that the front is dominated by the massive grille, which connects the vehicle to its predecessor, the R34 Skyline GT-R.

The aerodynamic elements, such as the lower grille and fascia corners are extremely visible and define the car's looks. The LED daytime running lights are not integrated into the headlights - The GT-R received the feature after a few years on the market and Nissan chose to place these separately. As for the hood, this holds two creases that include air vents, which serve both a functional and an aesthetic role.

The profile of the Nissan G-R is extremely muscular, with upright pillars and sculpted front wings. The fenders accommodate air scoops that improve airflow around the tires and provide extra cooling for the engine. The side view also shows flat areas, which incorporate special door handles, as well as a strong kink for the rear pillar.

The back end of this Nissan is dominated by its rear spoiler, which is color-coded for the entry-level version of the car and comes in dry carbon for the 2014 Black and Track editions.

The R35 comes with four round taillights, which are are also part of the GT-R history. The lower area of the rear fascia holds four generously-sized exhaust tips and a complex diffuser that doesn't reveal too much of its structure to the naked eye.

The Nissan GT-R's cabin has come a long way in terms of quality and feel compared to that of its predecessor, but it still doesn't live up to the supercar standard from this point of view.

It is very common to hear that the Nissan GT-R is only dynamically aimed at the Porsche 911 Turbo and that the huge price gap between the two justifies the difference in interior quality.

However, expressing things in this manner doesn't reflect the true feel of the GT-R's cabin - the materials are acceptable in the end, but they're worse than they look in most photos. This becomes even more pronounced in the back, where you are embedded in a sea of plastic.

And since we're comparing the Nissan GT-R's interior with those of other cars, we have to tell you that we felt a slight resemblance to the Ford Mustang, just like we did in the "Exterior" chapter.

Fortunately for the GT-R, there are other aspects of its cabin that come to save the day. This salvation army is led by the practicality, which is good by mainstream vehicle standards, let alone supercar ones.

You realize this from the first moment you open the door. You don't have to go through the "drop and give me fifty!" supercar routine of lowering yourself into the cabin. Going past the doors and the upright pillars that make access easy, we notice the flat seat bottoms, which also bring a contribution to this.

The interior offers plenty of room in all areas, but this only includes the front occupants. The limited headroom in the back prevent adults taller than 1.6m (5'3") to use the rear seats, which would otherwise provide decent accommodation. The area between the back seats was chosen by the designers to accommodate the double-speaker Bose subwoofer, probably due to packaging and low gravity center-related reasons.

The Nissan GT-R also scores points for ergonomics. This car has one of the most complex power delivery systems in the world, but you can control all the functions using three simple 3-position switches on the dash, which are placed in the proximity of the gear shifter. The car also uses a sophisticated system for displaying performance and engine management parameters, but this is easy to read and operate.

The aforementioned conclusion also applies to the overall button layout. Despite the fact that this may seem complicated at first, you get used to it quickly and you notice that everything is well-placed and intuitive.

You can clearly feel the well-sorted ergonomics when it comes the paddles, an area where many cars, such as the Lamborghini Gallardo, Bentley Continental GT and Ferrari 458, leave certain things to be desired. In this Nissan, the paddles are fitted to the steering wheel column, so they don't rotate with the wheel. However, they are placed and sized in a way that allows the driver to operate them without risking to come across the wiper or turn signal controls.

As for the luggage compartment, this is generous, offering 315 liters (11.1 cubic feet), with the value also being achieved thanks to the lack of a spare wheel - this has been made redundant by the use of run-flat tires. Things are not perfect though, as the boot opening is relatively small.

Nissan's GT-R offers a cabin that takes good care of both the driver and the passenger. The first is treated with a mix of racing and computer game ambiance that serves as a perfect environment, while the latter receive easy access and plenty of space. The interior would've received a higher score if it hadn't been for the materials that disappoint and make it feel a bit outdated.

The Nissan GT-R was conceived as a usable supercar from the very beginning and this helps the car face the challenges of urban driving.

The civilized nature shown by the the GT-R's engine in the first part of its rev range makes morning rush hour traffic seem as normal as it would in a Juke, and we're not referring to the Juke-R.

The double-clutch gearbox is just as willing to shift smoothly and keep the car at a few hundred rpm above 2,000. However, the transmission's operating noises sit well above the segment average and urban traffic will give you very many occasions to hear it generating clunking noises.

The suspension shows a pleasant level of refinement in the Comfort mode, forgiving many of the urban roads' caprices. As for the steering, this is well-balanced and for the city this translates into weighting that doesn’t become a burden.

All the aforementioned hardware is wrapped in a package that also works well inside the city. The Nissan GT-R offers easy access, so you can make as many stops along the way as you wish. And once you're inside, you'll enjoy the space and the visibility. Not just the cabin is generous, but also the luggage compartment, which offers plenty of space for shopping necessities.

Alas, the GT-R doesn't seem to have been built with the city in mind, as the vehicle also comes with a few aspects that have a negative effect on the supercar's rating for this chapter.

We shall start with the parking difficulties encountered in the Nissan GT-R. The vehicle does come with a rear-view camera, but that's all you receive. Despite being produced by a mainstream manufacturer, the GT-R is a complete stranger to parking sensors.

Then there's the ground clearance, which sits at of 109 mm (4.3 inches). This is a value that requires a nose lift system, especially inside the city. Unfortunately, the GT-R joins the Mercedes SLS AMG and the Audi R8 on the list of supercars that can not be bothered by this.

While the absence of the aforementioned features brings functional drawbacks, there’s also one negative side of the GT-R that generates emotional problems during city driving.

Excepting the moments when it's driven hard, the GT-R doesn't deliver a special feel and since it's neither safe, nor sane to abuse a car on urban roads, you'll end up with the word "boredom" on your lips. We can't help remembering that this problem is shared with the Ferrari 458, but it feels slightly more pronounced in the GT-R.

Ironically, those around you will have no idea about your problem. The GT-R comes with a very strong wow factor and this reputation has been built on its performance. Thus, not too many people expect the car to behave this way.

If we put on the standard glasses through which one judges a modern supercar, we'll say that the Nissan GT-R is too fat at 1,737 kg (3829 lbs). We'll also note that, in this segment, the 550 hp of its V6 are a decent figure, rather than an impressive one.

In response, the GT-R will electronically roll its sleeve and punch us right in the face in order to knock the aforementioned glasses off.

First of all, we'll be hit by the 2014 model's 0 to 62 mph sprint of 2.7 seconds. The GT-R knocks out most of the supercars in this match - it simply has no consideration for their price whatsoever.

There have been a few transmission reliability and warranty-related issues with the launch control feature of the GT-R in the past, but now the problems have been left behind and the feature works brilliantly.

The 2014 model isn't available yet, so we had to stick to being impressed by our test car's 2.86s time. It all happens so quickly that you just can't keep up with the car. Some launches will see the rear stepping out a little and as you start enjoying the sensation, you're already doing 62 mph.

It was a beautiful day in May last year, when Nissan threw the latest incarnation of the Godzilla at the Nurburgring, with the result being a time of 7 minutes and 19.1 seconds.

However, the test couldn't lack the controversy that has been accompanying GT-R 'Ring lap times ever since its initial attempt - this saw Porsche accusing Nissan of cheating after the GT-R beat the 911 Turbo. For the 2014 model year (2013 in Europe) the aforementioned controversy comes from Nissan itself. Kazutoshi Mizuno, the man who leads the car's development, claims that the hot lap was registered with a 0.5 s traffic delay. This would mean that the actual Nurburgring lap time of the current GT-R actually sits at 7 minutes and 18.6 seconds.

To our knowledge, this places the Nissan GT-R in the top 10 fastest production cars to ever lap the Nordschleife. It also puts the Japanese supercar ahead of the Porsche 911 Turbo S and just behind the 911 GT2 RS.

The bewildering level of performance exhibited by the Nissan GT-R is mainly owned to the perfect couple that its AWD system and active suspension make, as we wrote in the "Tech facts" chapter.

The Nissan GT-R has an amazing way of dealing with corners. This car simply finds grip much past the point where you thing this is possible. Even when it's ESP (VDC-R) is fully on, the vehicle negotiates turns slightly diagonally, allowing the rear to step out just a little bit. It manages to accelerate while in this state of cornering and the dashboard light for the aforementioned signal is almost constantly flashing.

The vehicle can be driven fast safely, it won't let go while cornering in this mode, but the electronics allow slight amounts of slippage in order for the car to corner faster. This works in the same way in which slight traces of wheelspin bring benefits during a standing start.

In the "half on" R mode of the ESP, you can get the tail out and generate some smoke, but you'll need the heaviest foot in the world and you'll have to keep the throttle welded to the floor for quite a while before this happens. However, the line can be easily and quickly adjusted using throttle inputs, but the car usually brings itself back on track in an instant.

When you fully deactivate the electronic nannies, the GT-R is pretty easy to convince to dance and the vehicle instantly responds to your requests and supports your initiatives.

However, in order to drive the Nissan GT-R fast and enjoy it, you'll have to keep two things in mind. First of all, you'll have to take this car by the scruff of its... ECU if you want to make the most out of it.

Just as important is the fact that its electronically-controlled all-wheel drive system needs a bit of adapting to. The system sometimes makes a few decisions of its own based on what the sensors detect you intend to do and it's best to work with it rather than fight it.

The aforementioned decisions do serve your initial purpose, but not always in the way you expected. For example there are many occasions when there's no use in applying too much braking force to correct the trajectory of the GT-R, as the systems sort this out by themselves and you only end up overcorrecting them.

Keep these two aspects in mind and you'll tear the tarmac apart in the GT-R. Despite the staggering performance, there have been many who said that the ever-present assistance makes it boring, but this is not true.

The engineers must've spent an endless number of hours on calibration, as, apart from the aforementioned aspects, the car doesn't feel artificial at all.

The effectiveness of the systems simply make it more efficient when you're acting like a hooligan. The car is easier to control and to bring back, but it's also faster during sideways maneuvers. Yes, it may be a bit dangerous, as the GT-R turns a 40 mph drift into an 80 mph one before you know it, but it sure is a lot of fun.

When you push this car to the limit on the track, it's so violent in delivering g-forces, especially lateral ones, that you'll be the one who needs cooling, not the diff.

The GT-R's full attack mode is not perfect though. The supercar does show some understeer in tight corners. As we could also tell by the huge amount of work we had to do with the wheel during the aforementioned bends, this is clearly not its favorite playground.

The steering and the brakes don't quite offer the same sharpness as the AWD system, but they still are pleasant. The first provides plenty of feedback and it's quick enough, but lacks a perfect consistency and doesn't feel perfectly focused on the turn in.

As for the stopping power, the GT-R can turn 60 mph (97 km/h) into 0 mph in 99 feet (30.5 meters), an excellent value. Unfortunately, the car doesn't give you rock solid confidence on the road. However, our test vehicle didn't have the optional carbon ceramic brakes, so we can’t talk about the difference between the two.

Alas, the moment you take your foot of the gas, you realize that the Nissan GT-R comes too close to being a robot and, in the process, loses any form of soul. While its electronic nature is extremely helpful and entertaining during spirited driving, this turns against it in the rest of the time.

Apart from the moments when you're bullying it, this car seems much more of a Nissan than a GT-R. When you use the car in a civilized manner, as you should do on public roads, the driving experience lacks the sense of occasion, it's not "super" by any standards.

In fact, driving the car below nine tenths also exposes certain powertrain weaknesses.

For example, when you're on an open road and want to use the kickdown function, the gearbox just can't decide which gear would be best. Instead of selecting a certain one and then letting the engine pull, it shuffles through two or three inferior gears before it does this. The engine gets to accelerate a bit in each of the gears before being handed a specific one and allow to deliver its full thrust and this feels like a delay.

As for the 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6, this has a bit of lag in the lower area of the rev counter. And while its exhaust deserves 8.5 out of 10 points when you're mashing the throttle, the sound is rather uninspiring during lighter loads. On the other hand, when you're cruising on the highway, the exhaust makes a bit too much noise, despite sticking to the speed limits, albeit to their upper area.

These aural issues would all be solved by the adoption of exhaust valves and it's strange that a car that's so technologically advanced doesn't use such a feature.

There's also a third face of the GT-R, its comfortable one and this works well, with the exception of the aforementioned disturbing exhaust noise at high speeds.

The suspension and the gearbox also offer three settings each: R, Sports and Comfort. These make quite a lot of a difference and the suspension offers a decent ride in the Comfort mode. Nevertheless, we couldn’t use Comfort for the open road as this occasionally made the ride become unsettled. As for the transmission, this is smooth and perfectly usable even in the the R mode, the fastest one available.

The Nissan GT-R works brilliantly when you’re keeping the throttle close to the floor, and it is also usable, but it totally fails to impress when you're not abusing it.
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autoevolution Feb 2013
In the city
Open road
Tech facts
86user rating 77 votes
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