First Drive: 2012 Nissan GT-R

Whether you like the Nissan GT-R’s particular brand of computer-controlled, emotionless speed, you simply cannot fault its performance, where it racks up head-scratching numbers more quickly than Oprah’s accountants on April 14th.

When the GT-R finally came to America for the 2009 model year, we promptly named it our Automobile of the Year. But it wasn’t perfect, which we admitted when we handed it our biggest award and which we reiterated when we said good-bye to the GT-R after it spent a year in our Four Seasons fleet. Still, we remain in awe of its performance capabilities.


For the 2012 model year, the GT-R gets a light visual makeover. None of the metal body bits have been changed, just the front and rear fascias, so chances are that only serious GT-R fans will notice the subtle differences. The easiest way to spot the 2012 GT-R is by the horizontal row of LED daytime running lights. However, closer inspection reveals that the front fascia has been completely reworked, with a larger air opening that now has a frowning (instead of smiling) upper grille. There are now two side strakes on the bumper cover (up from one), and the lower splitter protrudes farther forward. The rear fascia gains two small air exhausts behind the wheels, and the headlights feature darker-tinted elements behind the clear skin.


Aside from the angrier-looking upper grille, which was marketing-driven, all the changes were made to improve aerodynamics. The 2012 GT-R slips through the air with a coefficient of drag of just 0.26, down from 0.27, with a claimed improvement in downforce of ten percent. The larger opening and better airflow results in additional cooling airflow, too, which, combined with a larger thermostat housing, drops coolant temperatures by 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) at a constant 300 km/h (186 mph) according to Nissan.


The GT-R’s ultra-stiff ride is well-documented, but at U.S. highway speeds, we were spared the worst of it. At very high speeds (i.e., on the German autobahn), the GT-R can be particularly nervous and unwieldy. The GT-R’s engineering team spent the last few years camped out near the Nürburgring Nordschleife, and as a result, some changes have been made to the programming in the suspension’s Comfort Mode. Like before, there’s little difference to be felt between normal and comfort modes at U.S. highway speeds, but the new programming has relaxed high-speed damping for increased comfort at autobahn speeds, according to Nissan.

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It's gotta be fantasic to drive, it looks better in person than in the pictures - but I still think the previous model GT R was a much better looking car. This thing just ain't looking all that good.
This is the true descendant of the Z car.

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