Months in fleet: 11
Miles to date: 21,745
West coast editor Jason Cammisa has been a vocal critic of the GT-R, but a recent snow day allowed him to see a different side of the car:
“I’m about to write a whole lot of great things about the GT-R, but let the record stand that I still don’t like it. My problem with the GT-R stems from the fact that it’s only fun at 10/10ths. A sports car, in my mind, should be fun all the time, and the GT-R isn’t.
“I had an opportunity to partake in some snow-covered debauchery in the GT-R while in town for the Detroit auto show. Given the car’s absurd power and generally high grip levels, I was a little reluctant to go crazy, so I self-imposed a 3000-rpm limit and a 30-mph ceiling when playing. That should keep the carnage to a minimum, and sound levels below where someone would call the police on me.
“First of all, with snow tires on it, the GT-R is, like most all-wheel drive vehicles, practically unstoppable on the white stuff. The roads were covered with enough snow that I didn’t bother trying to drive with the stability control on, and what surprised me most about the GT-R is that I never felt the need to reach for the switch. With some all-wheel drive systems, like the one in our Subaru Outback, it isn’t always easy to predict where they’ll send the power. At low speeds, you get a four-wheel drift, then suddenly, power shifts rearward and you get oversteer. Other times, enough power heads to the front wheels to get you terminal understeer.
“The GT-R suffers from no such affliction. It drifts like a rear-wheel-drive car that’s impossible to spin: sudden applications of throttle send the power directly to the rear, helping rotate the car. Stay constant on the throttle through a drift, and power is gradually sent forward, but only enough to bring the back in slowly. It’s truly a drifter’s dream come true.
“The ABS is calibrated well, but doesn’t allow our snow tires enough slippage for the best possible braking distances – so I did sometimes have to yank the emergency brake to lock all four wheels and stop more quickly. This type of ABS programming is typical of most cars on winter tires when traveling in deep snow – it’s not a fault. And the e-brake is strong enough to accomplish this – which is always a welcome feature.
“Although the GT-R’s dual-clutch gearbox is my least favorite of its kind on dry pavement, it’s perfectly suited to this type of driving. Given my 3000-rpm rule, there were many times where I shifted from first gear through fourth in the middle of a slide. Since the gear changes don’t cause an interruption in power, they don’t affect the handling – the whole experience is very WRC-like.
“The GT-R’s biggest handling fault – namely, understeer – remains even in the snow. Luckily, it can be nixed by trail-braking at corner entry (and, actually, most of the way through the corner) very lightly with your left foot. The engine computer is programmed to ignore this (some cars cut throttle if you press both pedals for more than a short period of time), and the result is fairly neutral balance – until, of course, you flex your right ankle and send a big wallop of sideways to the rear tires.
“When it came time to drive home like a normal person, all of the GT-R’s faults came back. And as much as I’m not personally a fan of this Nissan, it’s still the car I’d choose if you asked me to set a record around a track in the dry, on a curvy road in the rain, or on a snow-covered rally stage. It’s unbelievably capable – and as long as you’re at the limit, it’s also a hell of a lot of fun.”
2009 Nissan GT-R Premium
Base price (with dest.): $84,040
Price as tested: $87,320
Body Style: 2-door coupe
Construction: Steel unibody
Engine: DOHC 24-valve twin-turbo V-6
Displacement: 3.8 liters
Power: 485 hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 434 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed dual-clutch transmission
Fuel economy: 16/21/18 mpg (city/hwy/combined)
Steering: Speed-sensitive power-assisted rack-and-pinion
Turns lock-to-lock: 2.4
Suspension, Front: Control arms, coil spring; adaptive dampening
Suspension, Rear: Control arms, coil spring; adaptive dampening
Brakes F/R: Vented discs, ABS
Wheels: 20 x 9.5 / 20 x 10.5 in (f/r)
Tires: Bridgestone Potenza
Tire Size: 255/40ZRF20 / 285/35ZRF20 (f/r)
Headroom F/R: 38.1 / 33.5 in
Legroom F/R: 44.6 / 26.4 in
Shoulder Room F/R: 54.3 / 50.0 in
Wheelbase: 109.4 in
Track F/R: 62.6 / 63.0 in
L x W x H: 183.1 x 74.9 x 54.0 in
Cargo Capacity: 17.7 cu ft
Weight: 3829 lb
Weight Dist. F/R: 53 / 47 %
Fuel Capacity: 19.5 gal
Est. Range: 350 miles
Fuel Grade: 91 octane
Front, side, curtain airbags
Push-button ignition with intelligent key
GPS/hard drive system
-Super Silver Metallic Paint $3000
-iPod interface $400
-Carpeted GT-R logo floor mats $280