First Look: Nissan GT-R

First Look

It's difficult to say what constitutes a new GT-R model. Sure, it's easy to say that since the 2012 is still designated R35 that it is not new, and since Nissan makes some tweaks every year the 2012 tweaks don't warrant a fresh look. The tweaks for 2012 have been extensive though, and Nissan has made considerably more changes than any previous year. So if it will help justify a whole new review, think of this as the GT-R they should have built in 2008.

This new GT-R looks pretty much the same as it did before, there are a few more LEDs, but you wouldn't know how much is new just from looking at it. On that subject, while the looks might be striking, it takes a pretty serious fanboy to go so far as to call it pretty. The body has been redesigned, even if it isn't immediately apparent, and drag has been decreased while a 10 percent increase in downforce has been achieved. The redesign also channels more air to the brakes for the purpose of cooling them.

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The brakes have been enlarged from 15 inches to 15.4 as well, but the GT-R is still not a lightweight car and despite these improvements, stopping distance is very nearly, but not quite as good as the competition. The GT-R also falls just short of the 200mph mark, which the competition is able to (just barely) hit. Of course, if you ever find yourself in a situation where the GT-R's brakes are actually inadequate then you are most likely doing something wrong; and you have to look pretty hard to find a place where you can bounce off the limiter in top gear, even on a race track.

Quite a bit of fine tuning was done to the GT-R's suspension and steering for 2012. As a result of this, there is now only one production car in the world that can run through a slalom faster than the GT-R, that's the Porsche 911 GT3 RS, a car that's hopeless as a daily driver. Kazutoshi Mizuno, the chief engineer for the GT-R, says that they concentrated most of their efforts on handling, but it's hardly the only area where the GT-R has been improved. The valve timing has been fiddled with and boost was cranked up, pushing the horsepower up from 485 to 530. The GT-R now also has its launch control back, since Nissan found a way to keep transmissions from exploding.

This all translates into a 2.9-second 0-60 time. That time is faster than the 911 Turbo or the Corvette ZR1, and the GT-R will also outrun the ZR1 in the quarter mile and will tie with the Turbo; and the GT-R still costs noticeably less than either. There are those who will tell you the GT-R is just a bunch of technological gimmicks, and it is the feel of the 911 or the Corvette which makes them more enjoyable and therefore a better purchase. This isn't completely without merit, and both of these cars are better looking than the GT-R, but in many cases these statements are simply excuses for having paid more money for a slower car.

The feel that most gets the adrenaline pumping and puts the biggest smile on your face is the feel of speed, and the GT-R quite simply has more of that any other car even remotely in its price range. Period.