New Car Reviews

2009 Nissan GTR

I drove the production GT-R almost exactly one year to the day after driving the pre-production car in Germany last year on the roads and autobahns near the Nurburgring and also briefly on the ‘Ring’s Grand Prix circuit (not, sadly, on the Nordschleife). I don’t think the car changed much, which was as expected, since chief engineer Mizuno-san told us a year ago that the cars we were driving were very close to production specification.

The level of performance is astounding for the price. All of the fuss you’ve seen from the automotive media is justified; the GT-R is one of the great performance stories of our time. Although it lacks the ultimate finesse of its bogey, the Turbo, it hits all the high notes: engine, transmission, handling, and grip are all absolutely world-class. The dynamics are perhaps a tad on the crude side, but that is part of this car’s raw appeal. You want to hear the transaxle banging loudly through the gears. You want to feel the explosive acceleration forces kick you in the rear. There is nothing subtle about this car, and nor should there be.

Well, let me revise that: I had one onlooker, a 20-something inline hockey player, ask me if this was a new Mitsubishi Eclipse.

As I noted after my drive a year ago, this car wears its transmission on its sleeve. It is the obvious dynamic attribute of the car. Whether you have it in automatic or manual mode (it’s easy to switch between the two by bumping the gearshift lever left or right), you know exactly what the gearbox is up to. In automatic mode, the gearbox runs through the six forward gears very quickly and relatively smoothly, reaching top gear by 32 mph and at only 1100 rpm, which is presumably a ploy to maximize fuel economy. But you still feel—and hear—those upshifts. If you are in automatic mode and hit one of the shift paddles, the transmission immediately reverts to manual mode. The downshifts are almost violently fast and extremely satisfying. It’s the same if you leave it in automatic mode but then hit the accelerator pedal; the gearbox downshifts now, and there is absolutely no hunting or messing around. The transmission is reason enough to buy this car.

As for the interior of the car, I know our video shows how the Gran Turismo-inspired driver display works, but I just have to say that it is one of the coolest driver interfaces of any production car.