Sport Coupe Comparison: War of the Sports Car Worlds

Scott Dukes

Our day starts off at what we'd consider neutral and friendly territory - a racetrack. Gathered at Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, California, are four cars that have in common a base price close to $85,000 but nothing else. We have four completely different engine configurations (flat six, V-6, twin-turbo V-6, pushrod V-8) in three different locations (front-engine, mid-engine, rear-engine), powering the rear wheels or all four wheels via manual transmissions and dual-clutch automatics. There isn't even an international agreement when it comes to turning on the ignition, with keys going to the right and left of the steering column, or nowhere at all.

Never mind the details, though; let's wring out these contenders on the tight Streets of Willow course. West Coast editor and alpha-dog driver Jason Cammisa wastes little time charging out in the red GT-R. Our 2009 Automobile of the Year is not only the quickest production car we've ever tested from the land of the rising sun, it also may be the most stridently Japanese.

Sequestered to the Japanese domestic market for its first five generations, the GT-R evolved from something of a three-quarter-scale muscle car to a singular technological tour de force. At 3939 pounds, it's far and away the largest and heaviest car here, and it lumbers to the starting line like a sumo wrestler entering the ring, groaning and creaking as if in warning of the violence that lay ahead. Throttle pinned on the opening straightaway, the twin-turbo V-6 responds with a ferocity that never ceases to be startling. Physics says the nose-heavy GT-R should understeer hilariously, and the Dunlop tires howl to that effect as it enters the first turn, but Nissan's sophisticated all-wheel-drive system shuffles power adroitly to keep the suspension balanced under throttle. The GT-R, you see, is all about putting its computerized minds over matter.

It works, as the car pulls off what would be the fastest lap of the day, at 56.5 seconds, and the highest average speed - 61.8 mph. But relying on so much technology requires a unique approach. "Getting the most out of the GT-R means trusting the electronics to sort everything out," Cammisa says, adding, "and that's a tall order given its capabilities." His wariness proves warranted, as the brake boost on our test car seems to disappear intermittently, and the GT-R has a meet-and-greet with the rocky runoff on three separate occasions. We also manage to overheat the driveline, briefly sending the 485-hp Nissan into holy-crap rear-wheel-drive mode. On the bright side, this introduces us to the wonders of lurid, Godzilla-size power slides.

I also enjoyed the article. The only piece that irked me a bit was the GT-R Techtonics by Eric Tingwall.The "Execution" piece should be accurate, but it's not.There are thing that can slide as they are somewhat accurate: 100% of the torque to the rear wheels (in fact it's 98%, but that's nitpicking).The main egregious statements are:"Hydraulically controlled multiplate clutch". It's actually an Electro-Magnetic controlled center diff (GKN's EMCD).Also, "An electronically controlled LSD sits between the rear wheels". Also inaccurate, while there is a VCD traction system in ATTESA, the rear diff is a mechanically passive 1.5way LSD, a GKN Driveline SuperLSD if I'm not mistaken.. what's certain is it's not electronically controlled like the R34 V Spec was.
QUOTE:"Shifting is another issue, as the gas and brake pedals are poorly spaced for quick blips down into second gear and the beefy shifter makes it easy to miss the change back into third. For this reason, it's best to stay in third the entire run. And that's just fine by the brawny V-8. Even with the granny shifting, the Vette manages the second fastest lap of the group. "Given enough time, I could probably get the Z06 to lap fastest, but the GT-R's computers make it easy to get great times right out of the box," Cammisa notes."Wow, maybe you should find some full-grown men to test the cars for you....
I enjoyed the article, although the Evora would not have been my choice for the British entrant. Maybe the Jag or Aston would have exceeded the price limit. If I were in the market, my first choice is the Z06 Carbon with the Porsche a close second (I'd take the Porsche over a regular Z06),the GTR third and the Evora fourth. Honestly, I'd be happy with any of them.

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