LOS ANGELES -- You have to be a little bit defiant to drive a 2015 Nissan GT-R. It’s likely that you’ll be the only GT-R in your neighborhood, and it’s not as if very many drivers will be pulling alongside and giving you the high sign.
Sure, plenty of people will acknowledge that the 2015 Nissan GT-R is quicker, faster, and grippier in the corners than anything this side of an F1 car, and they’ll admit that it’s a general all-around miracle of vehicle dynamics besides. And then in the next breath, they will try to tell you that a Chevrolet Corvette Z06 or a McLaren 650S is actually better than a GT-R, even though these cars are not necessarily quicker, faster, grippier, etc., than the Nissan.
The Nissan GT-R just doesn’t get any respect. So let us engage in a little defiant commentary.
Bruising, not cruisingFrom the moment the Nissan GT-R set a record lap time at the Nurburgring’s Nordschleife in 2008, the whining hasn’t stopped. From every quarter have come complaints that the GT-R doesn’t track effortlessly straight and true on a bumpy freeway surface, plus the rear suspension sure does feel harsh. And what’s that clicking and whirring from the six-speed dual-clutch transmission? Sadly, it appears that these critics don’t actually understand what the GT-R is about. Perhaps what they’re looking for is some kind of Honda Accord, only one that looks like a BMW.
From the first, the Nissan GT-R has never made a secret of being anything other than a street-legal track car. The DOHC, 3.8-liter V-6 features twin IHI turbos to help pump out the power, and the engine is matched to a special quick-shifting dual-clutch transmission designed to withstand the torque loads. Nissan’s ATTESA E-TS all-wheel-drive system helps turn the power into forward motion instead of just tire smoke. The brakes are dead serious, with racing-style floating rotors matched up with six-piston calipers in front and four-piston calipers in the rear. The forged-aluminum RAYS 20-inch wheels carry wide tires, 255/40ZRF-20 front and 285/35ZRF-20 rear. And the all-singing, all-dancing electronics let you tune the transmission, suspension, and general vehicle dynamics to your needs.
Does all this sound like a Honda Accord to you?
Cruising, not bruisingNevertheless, Nissan has done its best since the GT-R’s introduction to the U.S. in 2009 to make the car more street-friendly. And although the 2015 Nissan GT-R Premium remains a track car through and through, it is now quiet and comfortable enough to please even the faint of heart. Part of the reason is that the newly introduced GT-R Nismo can remain a hardcore product, so the Premium can get warm and fuzzy.
We must admit it doesn’t take more than a couple hundred yards on the freeway to figure out that this is a far more comfortable car than before. The car glides over seams in the concrete surface almost as if they weren’t there, which is quite something when you remember that these seams used to feel as tall as speed bumps in the 2009 GT-R. Thanks to softer springs and dramatically different calibration for the Bilstein dampers, the 2015 Nissan GT-R’s suspension feels supple, not stiff, and the car rides rough pavement without any annoying patter from the tires.
Just as different is the general demeanor of calm within the cabin thanks to the Bose audio system’s noise-cancellation technology. The turbos still announce their presence, and the clicks and whirs of the rear-mounted, dual-clutch BorgWarner transmission still remind us of the sounds made by a racing-type dog-ring gearbox, yet the general noise level has noticeably diminished, which is welcome simply because it takes the edge off those trips where you’re on the road for half the day.
Godzilla, not Little Tykes Cozy CoupeFor all this, the 2015 Nissan GT-R Premium is still Godzilla, not a kid’s toy. You must be this big to drive the GT-R quickly. It reacts a fraction less quickly thanks to a softer anti-roll bar and softer bushings in front, plus the softer suspension tune, yet the cornering limits are just as high as before, especially with Dunlop SP SportMaxx GT600 DSSTs on each corner. The car still understeers predictably at the limit, which is something that is reassuring on the Nordschleife, no matter what some drivers might report from low-speed tests on a skidpad where there are no trees to hit.
But for all this, the 2015 Nissan GT-R also hasn't changed with respect to the way it looks. Despite the adaptive LED exterior lights and the carbon-fiber interior flourishes for 2015, this remains a car that is defiantly brutal and ugly. You’ll find only the usual monochromatic Nissan styling treatment within the cabin, and nothing visually reinforces the unique character of the car, whether the master color is black, ivory, or red. As for the exterior of the car, it looks best when it’s painted up in racing colors, like one of the GT-R entries in the Pirelli World Challenge.
No change for 2016 GT-RRight about now the 2016 Nissan GT-R will be arriving in Nissan dealerships, although you won’t notice many differences from the 2015 GT-R. As far as the 2016 GT-R Premium goes, the RAYS wheels look different (20 spokes instead of 10) and you can get a special model, the 45th Anniversary Gold Edition. But really, everything is the same, even the price. And as before, there’s a GT-R Black edition, plus the pumped up 600-hp 2016 GT-R Nismo.
Since its introduction, Nissan has tuned and tweaked the GT-R just as you would expect with any serious high-performance car. The GT-R Nismo is still the fourth-fastest production car to lap the Nordschleife, and you can argue that it is the fastest car in genuine volume production to ever make the circuit. The GT-R also recently prevailed at a round of the Pirelli World Challenge, where the field includes GT3-specification examples of the Audi R8, Bentley Continental, Cadillac ATS-V, Ferrari 458 Italia, Lamborghini Gallardo, McLaren 650S, Mercedes-Benz AMG SLS, Porsche 911, and SRT Viper. And yet the GT-R gets no respect.
No doubt if the Nissan GT-R looked more like a Porsche 911, people would line up to say good things about it. But for now, we usually feel defiantly alone when we’re at the wheel of this car. Of course, once in a long while, someone in a Japanese-label car will swerve closer for a better look and give us the high sign, just so we know that there’s someone else out there who gets what the GT-R is about.
2015 Nissan GT-R Premium Specifications
|Price:||$103,365/$106,650 base/as tested|
|Engine:||3.8L twin-turbo DOHC 24-valve V-6/545 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 463 lb-ft @ 3,200-5,800 rpm|
|Transmission:||6-speed dual-clutch automatic|
|Layout:||2-door, 4-passenger, front-engine, AWD hatchback coupe|
|Fuel Mileage:||16/23 mpg (city/highway)|
|L x W x H:||183.8 x 74.6 x 53.9 in|
|0-60 MPH:||3.0 sec|
|Top Speed:||196 mph|