Great Changes: We Chart the R35 Nissan GT-R’s Transformations

The year 2012 is almost over, which means one thing for Nissan GT-R enthusiasts: the 2013 supercar model is almost here. In celebration, we’ll take a look back at how much the GT-R has changed over its short tenure here in the United States.


After ditching the “Skyline” moniker, a young R35 Godzilla waded onto our shores in 2008 as a 2009 model, a silent giant carrying the hopes and dreams of performance fanatics everywhere.

In its debut year, the fledgling supercar came powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V-6 producing 480 horsepower and 430 pound-feet of torque, all matched to a six-speed twin-clutch automatic and – Gran Turismo players will immediately recognize this acronym – an ATTESA E-TS all-wheel drive system. Advantageous gearing, computerized assistance, and sure-footedness from four grippy contact patches would make the GT-R a drag racing star, though life as an everyday supercar was more complex than that.

Early on, the GT-R had been pegged to start right around $70,000 but ended up in the high $70,000s.

And who could forget that entire Nissan vs. Porsche at the Nürburgring sequence of events…

2009 power: 480 horsepower, 430 pound-feet of torque

2009 pricing: GT-R: $77,840; GT-R Premium: $80,090


A busy inaugural year led right into the 2010 model year, where the GT-R mustered another five horsepower and four pound-feet of torque, bringing the engine’s total to 485 horsepower and 434 pound-feet of torque.

In addition to more motive force, the GT-R came with modified Bilstein shocks fitted with new valve bodies, presumably for improved fluid flow. Damper and springs rates were revised and stiffer brake lines helped reduce flex for consistent braking under duress.

The Transmission Control Module programming had also been recalibrated after reports of fried transmissions attributed to lead-foot owners toying with the unofficial launch control feature.

Remaining changes were primarily cosmetic, including darker wheels and a new Pearl White paint.

2010 power: 485 horsepower, 434 pound-feet of torque

2010 pricing: GT-R: $81,790; GT-R Premium: $84,040


The big news for the 2011 model year was that there would be only one GT-R up for purchase: the Premium model with the better Bose 11-speaker sound system. The Bose system also added Streaming Audio via Bluetooth for 2011, perfect for Internet radio users.

A new bushing design for the rear suspension looked to improve ride quality without compromising handling. Automatic on/off headlights, speed-sensitive windshield wipers, improved navigation features such as XM NavTraffic and NavWeather, a USB iPod interface, darker wheel center caps, rear cooling ducts for backseat passengers, and double clearcoat on the front and rear fascias round off the list of changes.

2011 power: 485 horsepower, 434 pound-feet of torque

2011 pricing: GT-R Premium: $85,060


For 2012, Nissan paid extra attention to the engine, unlocking another 45 horsepower and 14 pound-feet of torque from the twin-turbocharged six-cylinder and bumping the grand total to 530 horsepower and 448 pound-feet of torque. How did it get there? More boost, less flow loss, and altering the air/fuel mix and valve timing all played a role. Cooling performance for the engine and brakes was also optimized.

The GT-R’s styling was tweaked slightly with a revised front fascia, while the coefficient of drag was brought down from 0.27 to 0.26 for 2012. At the same time, downforce increases by about 10 percent to help push the redesigned and more rigid 20-inch wheels to the ground at high speeds. Fuel economy jumps to 16/23 mpg city/highway, up from the 15/21 mpg city/highway of GT-Rs before.

The Black Edition is endowed with special seat trim, interior colors, and wheels.

Editors’ Notebook: 2012 Nissan GT-R

2012 power: 530 horsepower, 448 pound-feet of torque

2012 pricing: GT-R Premium: $90,950; GT-R Black Edition: $96,100


Finally, we have our latest adventure. Somehow, the 2013 GT-R is even more powerful, pulling another 15 horsepower and 15 pound-feet of torque out of the V-6 courtesy of enhanced airflow and efficiency. The 2013 model stands tall at 545 horsepower and 463 pound-feet of torque.

The transmission gets a stronger shift fork arm and the differential oil has been swapped for the same fluid used in professional racing GT-Rs.

On the non-performance end, the RearView Monitor camera has been made standard equipment. The gauge cluster gets new blue lighting.

Right-hand-drive GT-Rs will be equipped with an asymmetric suspension setup to compensate for disproportionate weight distribution, sort of like how oval race cars are dialed in to turn properly in one direction. We won’t need this suspension in the U.S., but if early reports are to be believed, the GT-R will be a 2.7-second 0-60 mph and 10-second quarter-mile car. It’s getting Biblically quick.

The U.S. receives the 2013 GT-R in January 2012. New Black Edition models will feature darkened wheels, a carbon-fiber rear spoiler, red and black interior trim, dark headliner, and special red and black Recaro seats.

First Drive: 2013 Nissan GT-R European Spec

2013 power: 545 horsepower, 463 pound-feet of torque

2013 pricing: $95,000 (est)

GT-R chief engineer Kazutoshi Mizuno has pledged to continuously update his titan-challenging baby. We say, “yes please.”

Buying Guide
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2012 Nissan GT-R

2012 Nissan GT-R

MSRP $89,950 Premium Coupe

0-60 MPH:

2.9 SECS


16 City / 23 Hwy

Horse Power:

530 @ 6400