Although the GT-R is built on a new platform that Nissan calls PM, for "Premium Midship," this is a front-engine car. However, the front wheels shoulder only 52 percent of the car's weight, partly because the engine is mounted far enough back that four of the V-6's cylinders are located behind the front axle. And with the transaxle located aft, it's fairly easy to rotate the car. Enter a corner from the wrong angle, as I did, neglect to turn the stability control back on, as I did, and try to correct midway through the corner by adding lots of throttle, as I did, though, and you'll be greeted with nasty driveline jolts as the rear tires scramble for traction. Um, can I try that again, please?
A better demonstration of the car's capabilities in extremis was provided by Japanese racing driver Toshio Suzuki, who slid the GT-R around the track in a beautiful symphony of power oversteer, turbo boost, and tire smoke. True, he was slightly overzealous as he entered a left-hander, nearly spinning the car, but he expertly gathered it up, exiting the corner with tires squealing and the transmission ripping through the gears.
This new Nissan supercar is clearly capable of carrying the GT-R torch. Previous Skyline GT-Rs (Nissan is dropping the Skyline name for the new car), although not widely known here in the United States, were performance icons in Japan and elsewhere. Their turbocharged straight-six engines were ripe for aftermarket tweaking that routinely and reliably took power to stratospheric levels--up to 800 hp. The ability of the GT-R to accommodate such modifications made it a legend in Japan but also drew the attention of authorities. "It is quite a sensitive area," says chief engineer Mizuno, smiling. "The GT-R name is on the Japanese government's blacklist."
That's because, in Japan, GT-R fanatics are notorious for racing on the freeways in pumped-up GT-Rs. Such people are known as bosozoku, or, roughly translated, "driving hooligans." In a nod to the Japanese authorities, Nissan claims that it has taken steps to prevent such naughtiness from occurring with the new GT-R. "There is a black box," Mizuno says, "so the car's electronics will be very difficult to mess with." If persistent speed freaks do succeed in breaking the GT-R's electronic codes, they'll void the warranty. Actually, you can probably replace that "if" with a "when."
But now that Nissan's long striptease is nearly over, most people will likely be quite satisfied with the new GT-R's 473 hp and its ability to reach 62 mph in a claimed 3.5 seconds and to top out at 193 mph. Those are impressive figures, indeed, especially when you consider that the GT-R likely will cost the same as a base Porsche 911 Carrera--about $75,000--yet provide performance similar to that of the $126,000 911 Turbo. So stick your tongue back in your mouth and quit salivating: the new GT-R, the most exciting car to come out of Japan in this decade, goes on sale here in summer 2008.