2009 Nissan GT-R Preview

Its tenure as one of the rides of choice in the Gran Turismo franchise made it a legend. Through five generations, the GT-R has been Nissan’s flagship for outright performance and advanced technologies. The sixth generation more than continues the tradition – the GT-R enjoys super car status right down to its use of lightweight materials and the all-but-hand-built nature of each car.

Nissan GT-R in Japan

From just about any angle, the GT-R has a presence so many sports car fail to achieve. The lone quibble is the rather bland palette of colours – red is the only colour that zings. It also brings a low 0.27 drag co-efficient and the needed downforce at high speeds (credit the aerodynamics and a serious ground-effects package), so all the exotic hardware does not have to battle Mother Nature to deliver world-class performance.

It starts with the quad-cam, twin-turbo 3.8L V6 engine (each is hand-built by one technician). Using the latest technologies and 11-psi of turbo-boost, it churns out 480 stallions and 430 pound-feet of torque anywhere between 3,200 and 5,200 rpm – it is about a subtle as brass knuckles because of the torque plateau.

The engine’s rampaging fury is channelled to the road through a twin-clutch (six hefty plates in each clutch pack) six-speed manual gearbox and a very good all-wheel drive system. The gearbox is one of the fastest around – it snicks off a gear in just 0.2 seconds with each flick of the steering wheel-mounted paddle shifter. The all-wheel drive system then directs the power to the wheels best suited. Under normal circumstances, 90% of the power is fired rearward; the remainder is sent to the front wheels. If wheel-spin is inevitable the system locks the transfer case and splits the power evenly (50/50) in a proactive manner.

Nissan GT-R low angle picture

Where the design differs from others is that the gearbox, transfer case and rear axle (with a limited slip diff) are combined into a single unit that sits at the rear of the car. This splits to two largest masses (engine and the rest of the powertrain) almost evenly front to rear, which brings balance.

Adjustable double wishbone front and sophisticated multi-link rear suspensions and oversized tires (P255/40ZR20front/P285/35ZR20 rear) complete the picture. Along with comfort and normal the suspension comes the R mode. It sharpens things up to race track levels. There are also R modes for the electronic stability/traction control, which moves the intervention point (it can also be turned off, so be warned) and transmission. The latter speeds up the shifts. Put everything in R mode and the GT-R laps the famed Nurbugring in 7 minutes 38 seconds, which is faster than the Porsche 911 GT3 (by 10 seconds).

Inside, the GT-R comes one way – loaded. Along with very nice Alcantara seating (sadly, black only in Canada) and a hard drive-based navigation system comes an eleven speaker, AM/FM/CD/XM Bose audio package that includes 9.3-gigabytes of on-board memory for music. There’s also a trick readout that gives everything from a fuel economy readout (please!) to lap times and lateral g-forces in an easy-to-read format. In all there are eleven screens, each having various sub-menus.

The GT-R’s downside is the rear seat. Nissan advertises the GT-R as a 2+2 – it is as long as the rear riders are a year old. It does, however, provide some welcome interior storage space.

So there’s the technical low-down. Unfortunately, because of an ill-timed embargo I cannot write a “driving impression”. The embargo basically means I am not permitted to write about the laser-like precision of the steering, nor am I allowed to mention the stop-on-a-dime six-piston Brembo braking (try a claimed 30-metres from 100 km/h!).

I can, however, speak to the unmitigated fury 480 horsepower exerts on the passenger, especially when the dreaded “red mist” shrouds an otherwise sane driver – you know the signs: clenched teeth and a maniacal glassy-eyed look that tells the passenger to hang on. The acceleration is mind-numbing (try a 0-100 km/h time of 3.8 seconds!) and the manner in which the GT-R hunkers down through a fast corner causes a normally unflappable passenger to reach for the “Oh Henry” handle (I did). While the passenger’s seat is well bolstered, one does not have the advantage of a well-placed dead pedal or the leverage provided by the steering wheel. Gravol is the order of the day if the driver is having anywhere near as much fun I had behind the wheel – sadly, I’m forbidden to say more.

If you have the discretionary coin, the GT-R is most certainly one to add to the collection. It is the perfect panacea for a day in need of some serious brightening. When it lands in June 2008, it will do so with only one option – the Ultimate Metal Silver paint job (it’s a seven-coat, 13-hour, hand-polished finish so deep it looks as though you can dip your fingers into the lustre).

The price? With a suggested sticker of $81,900 the GT-R is one of the world’s most affordable super cars.