Future Cars

2008 Nissan GT-R

After years of teasing us with design studies, concept cars, and announcements, Nissan finally delivered on its promises at the 2007 Tokyo Motor Show: It unveiled the production version of the all-new GT-R supercoupe. All hail what looks to be the most exciting car to come out of Japan this decade.

Let’s get right to the heart of the matter first. Nissan claims that the GT-R will scream to 60 mph in only 3.5 seconds and go on to a top speed of at least 186 mph. The company says that, during development testing at the Nrburgring Nordschleife racetrack in Germany, the GT-R consistently turned in lap times of about eight seconds, with a best time of 7 minutes, 38 seconds, which is nearly as fast as the time posted by the famous Porsche Carrera GT supercar.

To achieve this level of performance, the GT-R is, in the grand tradition of its forebears, stuffed to its gills with the latest in technology. A twin-turbocharged inline six-cylinder engine powered the last-generation Skyline GT-R, the R34-series that debuted in 1999. This time, Nissan opted for an all-new V-6, the VR38. Although this 3.8-liter unit lacks direct fuel injection and variable valve timing, it is quite a power plant. Its two small IHI turbochargers provide 434 lb-ft of torque between 3200 and 5200 rpm, resulting in a lower, narrower torque plateau than Porsche achieves in the 911 Turbo, the car that Nissan identifies as the performance bogey for the GT-R. Horsepower is 473, a huge bump from the R34-series car’s 276 hp. The V-6’s redline is 7000 rpm. All VR38 engines are built by hand by one of twelve dedicated engine assembly specialists in a special area of Nissan’s plant in Yokohama, Japan.

Per GT-R tradition, the new car (which does not use the Skyline name like its predecessors) is equipped with an advanced all-wheel-drive system. To save weight and improve packaging, the twin-clutch transmission, the four-wheel-drive transfer box, and the rear differential have all been integrated at the rear of the vehicle to improve weight distribution. Both the front and the rear differential are fitted with electronically controlled limited-slip devices. The rear axle receives up to 100 percent of the engine’s torque when there is no wheelspin, but up to 50 percent of the torque can be directed frontward. Torque is fed to the front differential by a carbon fiber prop shaft running from the rear transaxle, while the rear transaxle is connected to the front-mounted engine by another carbon fiber prop shaft.

The GR6 six-speed twin-clutch transmission, the only gearbox offered, is operated via steering column-mounted shift paddles and offers three shift modes: A, the fully automatic mode; M, the manual mode; and R, for race mode.

Suspension is by aluminum control arms at all four corners. A switch on the instrument panel allows the driver to choose among three different settings for the Bilstein DampTronic dampers: R, for racing or high performance; Sports, the normal setting; and Comfort. The GT-R’s huge, 15-inch front and 15-inch rear Brembo brakes are ventilated and cross-drilled. The run-flat tires were specially developed by Bridgestone and Dunlop and measure 255/40ZR20 in the front and 285/35ZR20 in the rear. Nissan claims that the GT-R‘s rubber has much more pliant sidewalls than most run-flats, which should improve steering feel and agility. The company also inflates the tires with nitrogen to maintain proper tire pressures under hard use.

The same firm that is responsible for the GranTurismo series of video games for the Sony PlayStation designed the car’s multi-function display. It provides the driver with a wealth of vehicle and driver stats, including engine and oil temperatures, oil pressure, transmission oil temperature and pressure, turbocharger boost, and the front-to-rear torque split. Driver information includes a g-force meter showing accelerator angle, brake pedal pressure, steering angle, and lap times.

As you might expect, the GT-R is strictly a 2+2, with rear seats that are intended mainly for a bag of groceries rather than a human body. The front seats are upholstered with a special type of alcantara fabric with an anti-slip coating, to keep your body in place during hard cornering, and the steering wheel center has a version of the famous GT-R badge, which also appears on the trunk lid.

When the new GT-R goes on sale in America next summer, it will mark the first time Nissan’s famous sports car has ever been offered here (save a few gray market imports). Will it prove to have been worth the wait for all the American enthusiasts who’ve so far experienced the car only in video games? We suspect so, but you’ll have to come back to automobilemag.com on December 1st for our test-drive report of the production car. In the meantime, consider that the car is expected to cost somewhere between $70,000 and $80,000 but promises to offer a level of performance similar to that of the $126,000 Turbo.