The 2010 Nissan GT-R thrives on speed; at anything less than 60 mph, it feels like a Soviet-era Russian tractor. Reviewers, including Car and Driver and Edmunds.com, tested the 2009 version of the GT-R at 3.3 seconds to 60 mph. For 2010, Nissan squeezed an extra 5 horsepower out of the engine.
Exemplifying the use of tech to enhance road performance, the GT-R tops its 3.8-liter engine with twin turbochargers. A dynamic suspension actively counteracts body roll, and power is selectively fed forward and rear by an all-wheel-drive system. A six-speed dual-clutch transmission makes lightning-fast gear changes at the flick of a paddle.
Bombing the GT-R over miles and miles of deserted, winding roads, we were thrilled by the cornering abilities and sheer power of this unique car. The dual-clutch transmission has two modes, automatic and manual. There is no sport automatic setting, so manual is the way to go when faced with an open road.
In broad, sweeping turns on good asphalt, the GT-R held 90 mph without even squealing the tires, its entire bulk seeming to lean into the turns. The car hums along in third gear at these speeds, the tachometer hanging around 6,000rpm.
Approaching tighter turns, the GT-R's big, standard brakes proved excellent for burning off some speed. They offer the driver plenty of modulation for either a smooth flow into a corner or a hard deceleration to maximize straightaway time. A flick of the left paddle (column-mounted, in true racing style) drops the gearbox down to third, or second for the really tight turns. We didn't have to struggle with the steering wheel, even in hairpins. The road feel is very good, but the wheel feels just a little overpowered.
We occasionally felt good rotation from the car in the corners, but, frankly, the speeds required to get that rotation were often beyond our comfort level. The handling technology is so good that, at speeds that turned our knuckles white, the car shrugged off the corners, using far less than its potential. The GT-R would be happiest on a race track.
Whoosh, no burble
Muscle car fans will note something lacking in the GT-R: the engine doesn't make a deep, bass burbling sound. With its four big exhaust tips, the engine note is more turbo whoosh and light clatter, yet this twin-turbo 3.8-liter V-6 still produces 485 horsepower and 434 pound-feet of torque. That power comes on fast and hard, justifying the GT-R's excellent performance stats.
Don't be fooled by the lack of a clutch pedal; this transmission is racing technology. Its two computer-controlled clutches stand ready to shift up or down at the driver's whim, controlled by the aforementioned paddles. We never once noticed a missed shift. With no torque converters, each shift is manual gearbox-hard.
For non-sport driving, you can leave the transmission in fully automatic mode, where it will shift up or down depending on engine speed. The automatic mode short-shifts, programmed for optimal fuel economy. It will shift up to sixth gear by 40 mph.
Creeping along in city traffic, we noted the very mechanical sounds of this rear-mounted transmission, as clunking noise emanated from somewhere behind us. Situations like this--as in, driving for transportation--are the GT-R's Achilles' heel. Every automaker has engineers that try to reduce noise, vibration, and harshness (NVH) in its cars. When Nissan developed the GT-R, the NVH engineers must have been on vacation, as there seems no attempt to make the ride nice.
Not quite comfort
Actually, there is one comfort feature: a setting for the suspension. But what the GT-R considers comfort, most people would merely consider bone-jarring. Coupled with the amount of noise that comes through when driving over anything but the smoothest asphalt, the GT-R will have you reaching for the aspirin. Even as we were racing through our winding road course, we were treated to the constant pinging of gravel being flung up into the wheel wells.