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.
Switches let you adjust the GT-R's suspension, traction control, and all-wheel-drive system.
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.
Column-mounted paddle shifters let you change gears sequentially with the dual-clutch transmission.
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.
Most cars that come in at over 80 grand, even ones intended for fast driving, incorporate a luxury element. The car companies figure that if you can afford such an expensive ride, you are used to the nicer things in life and expect them from your car. But the GT-R dumps any luxury expectations, even down to its cabin materials, which mostly consist of leather and plastic.
The GT-R may not be a luxury car, but it offers a decent navigation system, complete with traffic avoidance.
However, Nissan serves up a solid cabin tech suite with the GT-R; GPS navigation and Bluetooth phone support are in keeping with the car's overall high-tech nature. The navigation system--a hard-drive-based unit--doesn't have the prettiest maps around, but it is very functional, offering live traffic and dynamic routing around problems.
As usual when there is a hard drive present for the navigation system, space is reserved for an onboard music library. The stereo rips CDs with its single-disc player, tagging the resulting tracks appropriately from a Gracenote database. Strangely, the system didn't recognize our test CD, Gorillaz's Demon Days, suggesting the database was out of date.
Nissan also includes a compact flash reader, a legacy music source that we imagine will eventually be dropped. What hasn't appeared in the GT-R since its launch is iPod integration, something Nissan will add for the 2011 model year, along with Bluetooth streaming audio.
The 11-speaker Bose audio system is almost up to the task of drowning out road and engine noise. This system produces good response across frequencies, with bass helped by two subwoofers set between the rear seats. We found highs a little shrill, even though the A-pillar tweeters look tiny. A centerfill speaker helps round out the sound and contributes to good staging in the cabin.
Custom gauge screens push the GT-R far into the video game realm.
A real treat with the cabin electronics are the plethora of digital gauges available on the center screen, showing everything from turbo pressure to accelerator pedal angle to fuel economy. The driver can save four customized screens, showing whichever collection of gauges she deems most useful, although we found little opportunity to look at this screen while driving hard.
And speaking of fuel economy, it is not a strong point for the GT-R. Unlike the Audi S4 we tested recently, which balanced performance with decent mileage, the GT-R burns gas in bucket loads. EPA ratings are 16 mpg city and 21 mpg highway. In our testing, which favored fast cornering, we came in at 16.2 mpg. Expect to spend a lot of time at the gas station with the GT-R.
At least gas stops will be a chance to gather admirers. Those in the know will recognize the GT-R's beefy front end and cap-like roof instantly. Others will at least know there's something special about the GT-R, its mix of muscle car and coupe styling unlike anything else on the road.
Although we found some serious problems for the everyday driver with the 2010 Nissan GT-R, it is one of the best track cars for the money. Nissan has already announced an update for the 2011 model year, addressing ride comfort and cabin tech, and notably adding iPod support. Because of these upcoming changes, most potential buyers should wait.
As for this model year, the GT-R earns a top score for performance, as all of its high-tech gear leads to amazing capability in the corners and rocket ship acceleration. We dock it only a point for its miserable fuel economy. As for cabin tech, Nissan covers the basics, and gets a boost from the traffic integration with navigation, the Bose audio system, and the unique and customizable performance computer. We also give it an excellent score for design, as the body is unmistakable while retaining some subtlety, and the cabin electronics interface is intuitive.
|Model||2010 Nissan GT-R|
|Power train||Twin turbocharged 3.8-liter V-6|
|EPA fuel economy||16 mpg city/21 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||16.2 mpg|
|Navigation||Standard hard drive-based with traffic|
|Bluetooth phone support||Standard|
|Disc player||MP3 compatible single disc|
|MP3 player support||none|
|Other digital audio||Compact flash, satellite radio|
|Audio system||Bose 11 speaker system|
|Driver aids||Racing diagnostics computer|
|Price as tested||$88,340|