First Drive: 2012 Nissan GT-R

2012 Nissan GT-R

IMPROVED SUSPENSION

Additional changes were made to the suspension with the goal of improving both ride and handling. New aluminum-piston Bilstein shocks were chosen for less internal friction, and they’re bolted farther to the rear of the lower control arm for increased caster. More caster often means more steering feel, and that’s definitely the case in the 2012 GT-R. The Nissan still has nothing on a Porsche, a BMW, or even a Mazda where steering feel is concerned (especially on center), but it’s no longer completely numb at the limit and comes alive quite nicely at very high speeds.

Assisting chassis rigidity is a new carbon-composite brace that connects the front shock towers. Not a traditional strut brace, the bar helps reinforce the front firewall to reduce diagonal twisting under heavy cornering loads and bumps—or, in other words, on the ’Ring.

Whereas previous U.S.-market GT-Rs rode on either Bridgestone Potenza RE070A or Dunlop SP Sport 600 tires, all GT-Rs worldwide are now fitted with Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT600 run-flat tires. Like the previous tires, the Dunlops are slick when cold but generate huge amounts of both road noise and grip. New forged-aluminum ten-spoke Rays wheels knock 6.6 pounds off the car’s weight and are stiffer than the outgoing wheels. (Optional six-spoke wheels are another 3.5 pounds lighter still.)

Overall, the GT-R’s ride is marginally improved. Impacts are slightly less harsh, but you’d likely need to drive the cars back-to-back to notice. The 2012, like its predecessor, still rides very hard.

MORE POWER

The revised 2012 GT-R also has some changes under the hood. Engine output has been increased from 485 hp at 6400 rpm to 530 hp at the same engine speed. Peak torque, previously 434 lb-ft from 3200 to 5200 rpm, is now 448 lb-ft, available until 6000 rpm. The higher upper limit doesn’t mean more lag—the peak starts at 3200 just like before. With unchanged IHI turbos, the engine feels the same, just stronger. Higher maximum boost pressure (up from 10.8 psi to 13 psi) and better breathing (thanks to larger turbo inlets and less restrictive exhaust and catalytic converters) team up with revised engine management to boost both the maximum torque and the speed at which it occurs.

BETTER LAUNCH

It’s a sad reality that 0-to-60-mph times sell cars, so it’s important for Nissan to get the best number possible. In reality, when you’re dealing with this much power, the single most important factor in obtaining a stunning number is the launch. 2009 model year GT-Rs launched with a 4000-to-4500-rpm clutch dump (Launch Control version 1, or LC1, as enthusiasts have named it). However, after a series of warranty claims resulting in damage from abuse, the function was removed from 2010 model year cars. Those cars were fitted with LC2, which was effectively not a launch control system at all, allowing only 2000 or so rpm of clutch slippage before making its way off the line. 2011 model year cars had LC3, which brought the launch speed to between 3200 and 3300 rpm.

The 2012 GT-R uses the fourth-generation launch control, or what we’ll call LC4—Nissan calls it R-mode start. Blame the lawyers for that. Anyway, like LC1, it operates with stability control in R-mode, so it won’t void the warranty (any transmission damage that occurs with stability control turned fully off, in any GT-R, is not covered under warranty.) Also like LC1, it allows the engine to rev to between 4000 and 4500 rpm before launch, but instead of a hard clutch dump, it releases the clutch more progressively to avoid wheelspin.

At a press event earlier this year, Nissan achieved one run in which the 2012 GT-R accelerated to 60 mph in 2.886 seconds. On cold pavement with less grip, we watched as a Nissan test driver did repeated launches. He wasn’t able to get under 3 seconds—achieving 3.0 seconds twice, 3.1 twice, and 3.4 several times. These are times without a foot of rollout, as Automobile Magazine publishes, so you’ll likely see even faster times in magazines that use twelve inches of rollout.

Whether the repeatable number is 3.0, 3.1, or even 4.0 seconds, it doesn’t change the fact that the GT-R is a monumentally fast car. And a side-by-side race of the 2012 LC4 car versus the 2011 LC3 car provided dramatic evidence of just how much faster the new car is off the line.

Jim.Kanna
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.
ddreese
This is the true descendant of the Z car.

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