No car better embodies Nissan's philosophy of building uncompromising performance machines than the GT-R. Easily one of the most capable cars for the money, the Nissan GT-R feels downright invincible on the road. With power output and handling dynamics rivaling the world's best, the GT-R remains a genuine high-performance bargain, even as its starting price has crept up over the years.
Underneath its chiseled features, the GT-R is a technological tour de force, boasting a dual-clutch automated manual transmission, an advanced all-wheel-drive system, an adaptive sport suspension and a heaving turbocharged V6 that supplies its power in a head-spinning jet rush. On the other hand, the GT-R is large and hefty for a supercar, and the transmission bumps and staggers in slow traffic. Plus, a Nissan key fob will never carry the prestige of top European marques. But as a worthy successor to the legendary Skyline GT-R -- a car never officially available in the United States -- the Nissan GT-R is an absolute must-drive for any automotive enthusiast.
Current Nissan GT-R
The Nissan GT-R is a high-performance sport coupe offered in four trim levels: Premium, Black Edition, Track Edition and Nismo.
Standard equipment includes 20-inch wheels, Brembo brakes, an electronically adjustable suspension, leather/faux-suede upholstery, heated power-adjustable front seats, keyless ignition/entry and an 11-speaker Bose audio system with satellite radio, iPod connectivity and Bluetooth phone and streaming audio.
The Black Edition adds lightweight black wheels, a carbon-fiber rear wing, red interior trim and Recaro seats. The Track Edition gets a firmer suspension, special brake-cooling ducts, a carbon-fiber trunk lid and Nissan's own sport front seats. The GT-R Nismo pumps up the volume with higher engine output, an even stiffer suspension, aerodynamic upgrades and exclusive interior flourishes.
Every GT-R is powered by a turbocharged 3.8-liter V6. In the Premium, Black Edition and Track Edition models, it sends 545 horsepower and 463 pound-feet of torque to all four wheels. The GT-R Nismo boasts an even 600 hp and 481 lb-ft. The transmission in all models is a six-speed automated manual gearbox. Fuel economy approaches 20 mpg in mixed driving, which is quite respectable for one of the fastest cars in the world.
In reviews, we've noted that the GT-R's electronically adjustable dampers hardly coddle, though some tweaks for 2015 have noticeably improved the ride. We recommend saving R-Mode for track use, as it'll rattle your brain on surfaces that aren't perfectly smooth. The middle setting, Normal, is ideal for charging along an empty back road, where the GT-R tracks through curves with robotic precision. The steering is as communicative and responsive as we've ever experienced in an all-wheel-drive car. If anything, the GT-R is almost too easy to drive quickly, lacking the sort of drama one expects from a supercar. Still, changes over time have made it a little more involving.
Firm dampers aside, the GT-R is actually quite livable on a daily basis, thanks to a reasonably spacious cabin and a generous features list. There's even an immersive onboard performance app that was co-developed with Polyphony Digital, maker of the Gran Turismo video game series. The Nissan GT-R gives you almost everything at a sub-exotic price, and that's a mighty impressive feat.
Used Nissan GT-R Models
The current, first-generation Nissan GT-R debuted in 2009, and each year has seen noteworthy changes.
The inaugural batch of GT-Rs featured a launch control system that overstressed the transaxle, and Nissan generated some ill will when it threatened to void the warranties of cars that used the system. Halfway through the '09 model year, launch control was reprogrammed to remedy the problem, and acceleration actually improved as a result.
First-year GT-Rs had 473 hp and 434 lb-ft of torque, and they came in two trim levels: base and Premium. Base models lacked a few features such as the Bose audio system, and weren't available with front seat and side curtain airbags. For 2010, Nissan retuned the suspension and increased horsepower slightly to 485, while side curtain airbags were made standard across the board.
For 2011, the suspension was made slightly more compliant, the base trim level was killed off and the Premium gained additional standard features like automatic wipers/headlights, an iPod interface and Bluetooth streaming audio. Bigger changes were in store for the 2012 GT-R, which got a healthy bump up to 530 hp and 448 lb-ft. 2012 also marked the GT-R's first styling refresh, though this was subtle, as well as the Black Edition's debut.
For 2013, the GT-R added 15 more hp and 15 lb-ft of torque. Some suspension revisions were also implemented, and a rearview camera became standard on all models. The Track Edition was introduced in very limited numbers for 2014 with just two seats, but it returned for 2015 as a normal trim level with a backseat. All 2015 GT-Rs benefited from suspension, steering, braking and tire updates, along with standard adaptive LED headlights and extra sound insulation. The Nismo model also debuted for 2015 as the most capable GT-R yet.