2009 Nissan GT-R review: 2009 Nissan GT-R

For a detailed look at the navigation and traffic system, take a look at our M45x review. Here we will just point out that, as the system stores its maps on a hard drive, route calculation is fast and the maps refresh quickly. You can look at 3D or plan view maps, or put them both in a split screen. When you have a route programmed, the system will automatically detour around bad traffic. Route guidance is aided by text-to-speech, which reads out the names of streets.

When you rip a CD to the car's hard drive, it automatically tags the songs from its internal Gracenote database.

The audio system is similar, but a little short of, that in the M45x. You can rip music to the GT-R's hard drive, which offers 9.3GB of space for music, or play MP3s from a CompactFlash card inserted in a slot in front of the shifter. There is an auxiliary input, suitable for an MP3 player, but no iPod port. The single CD slot plays MP3 CDs, and there is XM satellite radio.

Sound quality is very good from the 11 Bose speakers around the cabin, although they have a lot of road noise to conquer. The system has a centerfill in the dashboard, two subwoofers, tweeters in the A-pillars, mids in the doors, and most obviously, two woofers between the back seats. This system didn't flinch at heavy bass and reproduced highs nicely, although the sound was slightly compressed, unlike the better separation from the audio system in the M45x.

The hands-free cell phone system is useful, in the sense that you just don't want to take your hands from the wheel. Of course, you might not want to answer the phone at all as you go speeding down country roads. The system can store phone book entries, which is nice, although we had to push them from our phone into the car one at a time.

One feature that would have been nice, especially with the sharply angled rear window, is a rear view camera. This is one car you definitely don't want to back into a pole.

This screen was our favorite on the performance computer, as we like seeing the torque split change in different driving situations.

As a feature unique to the GT-R, the car includes a fascinating and customizable performance computer. We covered this feature and some other aspects on the cabin in our Nissan GT-R cabin tech gallery at the last Los Angeles auto show. Polyphony Digital, the same company that developed Gran Turismo 5 Prologue, helped Nissan with the performance computer design.

You can access the performance computer by pushing the Function button to the left of the LCD. A knob lets you scroll through the four customizable screens, marked 1 through 4, or the set screens, marked A through G. These screens use a variety of graphs and virtual gauges for wheel turn, torque split, gas and brake pedal percentage, turbo boost, and many other performance parameters. There is also a stopwatch for timed runs.

Under the hood
For such a muscular looking car, it's surprising to only find six cylinders under the hood. But Nissan wrings 480 horsepower at 6,400rpm out of this 3.8-liter V-6 with dual turbochargers. It produces 430 foot-pounds of torque between 3,200rpm and 5,200rpm. Our experience being pressed into the back seat with even 50 percent gas pedal bears these figures out in a qualitative sense.

The architecture of the car is unique, with the engine and transmission at opposite ends to balance the car out. The six-speed dual-clutch manual transmission has a shifter that merely puts it in park, reverse, neutral, manual, and automatic. In manual mode, you can shift up or down with the shifter, but you have to resort to the paddle shifters. In this car, we have no problem with this arrangement.

The downshift paddle is on the left side. You can get the car into manual mode by tapping a paddle or pushing the shifter to the right.

The automatic mode shifts early, getting up to sixth gear at only 25 mph. But with this much horsepower, the engine isn't bothered as it idles along at 1,500rpm, keeping the car moving easily. During one stretch of road, we had the transmission in fifth when we decided to pass a car in front of us. We went from 45 mph to 85 mph without changing gear, although a drop down to fourth gear or third gear would have blasted us by even faster.

We found city driving frustrating, as we could feel how much power we had on tap that couldn't be used. In these low-speed traffic situations, the automatic shifting felt rough, adding to the uncomfortable feeling of the suspension. There is a comfort mode for the suspension, but it doesn't smooth things over that much. We felt the driving experience in traffic was better than in the Audi R8, which suffered a lot from its R-Tronic transmission, but it didn't come close to the BMW M3, which drives easily in stop-and-go traffic or on the track.

The car's very stiff suspension absorbs road imperfections nicely, keeping the car stuck to the pavement, but it doesn't coddle the driver at all. In corners, there is no lean and the steering is very responsive. All-wheel drive, which defaults 100 percent torque to the rear wheels but can shift a full 50 percent to the front, helps keep the car gripping in the corners and under acceleration. This all-wheel-drive system, along with traction control and suspension, uses computer-aided adjustment to keep it at optimum settings no matter the driving conditions.

These switches control torque, suspension, and traction. The red lights indicate R, or track, mode.

Nissan advertises the GT-R as the supercar that anyone can drive, as it is hard to get it out of control. But in hard cornering we felt a small but satisfying amount of slip that got taken up by the car's systems. There are three switches on the instrument panel that let you adjust various settings for torque, suspension, and traction control. Each can be pushed up to R mode, with accompanying red lights. We drove some stretches of highway with the settings in R mode, but didn't notice a huge difference. The track is where these will matter. The torque switch can also be set for snow, the suspension for comfort, and the traction control to off.

As of this review, fuel economy numbers for the 2009 Nissan GT-R haven't been published. But don't expect them to be good, considering the amount of horsepower the engine produces. During our time with the car, we got about 14 mpg. On the plus side, and something we find impressive given the GT-R's supercar status, is that it is expected to meet California's Ultra Low Emissions Vehicle standard, one better than the minimal LEV requirement.

In sum
The 2009 Nissan GT-R goes for a base price of $69,850 or $71,900 for the premium model, which we had. We don't expect there to be options with this car, although there will be the usual destination charge. Few cars will get you to 60 mph in less than 4 seconds for this kind of money, and none offer the innovative driving tech of the GT-R at this price.

For our Car Tech rating, we give the GT-R near top marks all-around. It's a beautiful exterior design, although there are some odd creases when you get close, such as the joint between the B-pillar and the roof. The cabin tech benefits greatly from Nissan's already excellent hard-drive-based navigation system, stereo and Bluetooth. We can ignore the lack of an iPod adapter, in favor of the brilliant and unique in-dash performance computer. As for the under-the-hood mechanics, it is all very brilliant, only falling down in fuel economy.

What you'll pay

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