From the May 2008 issue of Car and Driver.
At first glance, the Nissan GT-R seems a totem for everything wrong with modern sports cars. It’s much too big, way too heavy, far too complex, and damnably too expensive for mere wage earners, especially after inevitable gouging precipitated by a global struggle for the annual production run of just 12,000 units. Were Colin Chapman alive, he’d be on YouTube maniacally machine-gunning a GT-R to “add lightness.”
Now that we’re on our third or fourth glance, and we’ve been able to slap on testing gear and hit the track in the hefty Nissan, the GT-R is earning our awe. In seeking to uphold all that is Godzilla, chief engineer Kazutoshi Mizuno and his crew have built a simply astonishing vehicle. It’s still big, heavy, complex, and expensive, but it’s also a holy spitfire at the drag strip and a joy to drive in every way that a big, heavy, and complex car has no right to be unless it’s way more expensive than the GT-R’s advertised base price of $70,475.
This GT-R story is about performance numbers, so we won’t dillydally: 60 mph is barbecued in 3.3 seconds, the quarter-mile in 11.5 seconds at 124 mph. Braking from 70 mph takes 145 feet, and skidpad runs are 0.99 g. Those are Olympic-qualifying stats. Indeed, with those results, the GT-R would have nuked our last $123,760 Porsche 911 Turbo and felled our last $404,410 Lamborghini LP640 roadster. Still think the GT-R is too expensive? We don’t.
If all production cars run like our 3529-mile engineering-mule tester, with its husky midrange torque and smooth ramp-ups to on-boost thrust, buyers will be getting way more than 480 horsepower for their dollars. The GT-R must have more to be haul-assing its 3908 pounds to 60 mph in 3.3 seconds. That’s what the $321,956 611-hp Ferrari 599GTB Fiorano runs on game day. Unconfirmed reports out of Japan say production GT-Rs are cremating dynos with 480 horsepower at the wheels, which means the twin-turbo, twin-intercooler, twin-intake 3.8-liter V-6 is churning out well over 500 fillies.
And it all goes to ground so effortlessly. The GT-R’s launch control requires the dual-clutch auto-manual transmission and the shock absorbers be set to the max-performance “R” setting, the stability control to be off, and feet on both the brake and gas. Do that, and the V-6 leaps to 4500 rpm and dumps the clutch when you lift the brake. There’s a brief chirp from the rear rolling pins as they deposit barely an inch of rubber, and the GT-R is gone.
Upshifts with the leather-fringed paddles are rifle-round quick but free of shock. Nissan has sweated its first dual-clutch six-speed, and it shows in the seamless ratio changes and lurch-free clutching. We conducted 15 brutal launches, and the GT-R endured them with grace, sometimes posting 60-mph sprints just 0.01 second apart.
HIGHS: More powerful than advertised, big front seats, Mercury’s own quarter-miler.
Having established that the GT-R is preposterously and reliably fast, we shall now recite what else we noticed in this brief visit with the car. Even at full war cry the engine is muted, just a mellow warble even under full throttle. The car is also comfortable, at least for those in front. As mentioned, the GT-R has expansive dimensions. Our tape measure revealed front-seat space that totals 54 cubic feet within the lavish 109.5-inch wheelbase. Rear seaters get woeful head- and legroom but at least enjoy more torso space than in a 911.
Nissan fits U.S.-market GT-Rs with extra-wide front buckets of perforated leather and anti-slip fabric that support and comfort. Elsewhere in the cockpit, Italian-looking finery is present in taut, top-stitched dash upholstery and a leather-swathed hand brake fit for a Ferrari. The dash design actually seems to be one of no design, characterized by basic rectangles, circles, and squares. The dials, the air vents, the buttons (11 on the steering wheel alone), and the multicolor nav-and-info screen stack haphazardly up a hillside like shanties in a Brazilian favela. But they prove easy to use and will appeal to those who prefer a simple functionality over art-house flourish.
Many of the “gauges” on the 11 driver-selectable info screens are inane if not suicidal to watch while in motion, such as a lateral-g meter and a front-to-rear torque-split enumerator. However, esoteric displays such as graphs showing brake-and-accelerator-pedal movements would be useful to those who in-car-video their lapping sessions.
LOWS: Large, heavy, a strait-laced interior, microscopic back seats.
Lapping? The GT-R’s specs describe a luxury grand tourer, and it is one, especially with its shock selector set on comfort and the pavement cracks rolling sedately underneath the huge tires. But turned loose on a track or mountain macaroni, the GT-R flouts its size and mass handicaps.
It cements itself to corner apexes and scribes perfect lines on exit with none of the steering numbness or front-end washout we’re trained to expect from all-wheel-drive supercars. The obvious rear torque bias pays its dividends, as does a lightning-quick 15.1:1 rack ratio when it comes time to reel in the fat rear end from the inevitable, entertaining, easily controlled power slides.
Larger, heavier, and less costly than its competition, the GT-R also charges harder and dances with lighter soles. At least so says our experience so far. Comparison tests and dyno pulls to follow. Meanwhile, if you’re beginning to think the GT-R defies easy classification—a new-age Mitsubishi 3000GT was our first dismissive thought—we’re beginning to agree with you.
THE VERDICT: Prejudged on its specs, the GT-R is winning on appeal.
Tricks of the Driveline
Four-wheel drive adds weight and requires precious vehicle-packaging space, presenting several design challenges, such as how does one position the weight and fit in all the pieces? Here’s how Nissan tackles the problems:
Getting the Shaft
The “chopstick design” comprises two nearly parallel driveshafts. The one-piece primary prop shaft joins the engine to the transaxle and is made of carbon fiber to save weight and quell engine vibrations. The longer secondary shaft routes torque to the front wheels and is a more conventional two-piece steel design.
Smaller is Better
The front differential is open and will never handle more than 50 percent of driveline torque, so heat isn’t a problem. The gears and the oil sump were kept small so they could be neatly packaged in the tight engine compartment.
The Business End
The transmission, the rear differential, and the center coupling are housed in one unit that’s mounted in the rear for better weight balance. Under normal conditions, about 90 percent of engine torque flows to the rear wheels, but an onboard computer—working off wheel-speed, steering-position, throttle, and yaw-rate sensors—can direct up to 50 percent to the front axle via an electronically controlled clutch pack. GKN supplies the coupling as well as the rear limited-slip differential, which is a passive mechanical design that transfers torque side to side.
This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io