Road Test: 2009 Nissan GT-R
Big, heavy, and incredible: Nissan's big gun punches high-caliber holes in our expectations.
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. 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, 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.
Heavy Yet Nimble
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.