Although the GT-R might appear to be unchanged since its launch in 2009, a lot has been going on behind the scenes. In 2010, it gained five horsepower, a revised launch control system, and an updated navigation system. For 2011, Nissan tweaked the suspension tuning, and added conveniences like automatic wipers and a USB audio input. Bigger changes came in 2012, when the GT-R gained a new front fascia (dig those de rigeur LED running lamps!), another 45 horsepower, new dampers and revised suspension geometry, and a new top-spec Black Edition model. Alas, Nissan still wasn't done. The 2013 GT-R is almost identical to last year's model, save for the fact the twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V-6's output has been cranked up another 15 hp to 545 hp.
It's encouraging to see Nissan continually improving its hallowed halo car, but frankly, unless you're racing a 2013 car against a 2012 model, I'm not necessarily sure you'll notice much of a difference. Although it has been nearly two years since we said sayonara to our Four Seasons GT-R, this latest model doesn't feel substantially different from our 2009 version. The Black Series' carbon trim and rib-tickling Recaro seats are nice touches we lived without, and the extra power is neat, but are you really going to notice your 0-60 times dropping from 3 seconds to 2.8? Not likely.
I get that the GT-R's aim is to defy physics -- but at the end of the day, this is still a road car, even in Black Edition form. It may post 0-60 times and Nurburging lap times equal to cars costing nearly twice as much, but many of those models -- including the Audi R8 and Porsche 911 Turbo -- come off as far more sophisticated during daily use. In comfort mode, the GT-R's ride is still punishing; its engine noise uninspiring; its transmission and driveline noise alarming. It's not impossible to improve on these points while continuing to deliver incredible performance, as the 911 Turbo S I drove the following night illustrated. It just takes work. Perhaps it's something Nissan can put on the docket for the GT-R's next update.
Evan McCausland, Associate Web Editor
The GT-R is clearly not made for American roads. American tracks, maybe, but not American roads. Luckily, "Godzilla" has also been designed so that it can be driven as a normal car, since no law-abiding citizen will ever come near to opening up the potential of Nissan's supercar. (No wonder the navigation system has been designed to know when you're on a track.) That said, there are few other vehicles less powerful than a space shuttle that throw you back into your seat with such acceleration force as the GT-R.
Donny Nordlicht, Associate Web Editor
It should go without saying that press cars are not always the best-kept vehicles on the planet. Even with the heroic work of fleet service companies that polish and primp cars between loans, it's not uncommon for cars to have minor issues, either because they're pre-production prototypes, or because fellow scribes have beaten them within inches of their vehicular lives and then tossed the keys to the next guy on the list.
I figured our Nissan GT-R was a good example of this shortly after I pushed the start/stop button and heard what sounded like an injured transmission shuddering to life. I looked down at the GT-R's odometer and it read nearly 4000 miles; surely those 4000 miles of launch-control starts and full-throttle on-ramp runs with writers behind the wheel were the cause of the transmission's woes. But that's not necessarily the case -- my colleagues reassured me later that all GT-Rs sound like that.
It was one moment of disappointment in an emotional roller coaster of a weekend. On one hand, I respect the GT-R's physics-be-damned performance, its Recaro seats (which are nothing short of stellar), and the fact that you become a motoring hero to any twentysomething car guy you pass. But the GT-R is a heavy, brutish, brittle car with a punishing ride and a transmission that sounds like it's going to break free of its moorings when you're just pulling out of your driveway. The GT-R might thrash a 911 Carrera S on the track, but at least the 911's PDK gearbox doesn't actively injure itself in the name of speed.
Ben Timmins, Associate Web Editor
I have been fortunate enough to experience some very powerful cars in the last few years, but few have blown me away like the Nissan GT-R. The level of acceleration is downright incredible. Accelerating hard onto the highway makes all the other traffic look like it's going backwards. Plant your right foot, and the GT-R pulls with zero hesitation toward ridiculous speeds. The GT-R is so powerful that it's almost hard to believe you're allowed to drive it on public roads. I can only imagine what swift progress you could make on an unrestricted portion of the autobahn, or on a race track.
Of course, the amount of performance isn't surprising to anyone who reads the GT-R's spec sheet. What is surprising is just how easy the car is to use. It takes very little effort to drive very, very quickly -- just stomp the right pedal and steer in the direction you'd like to go. Even so, the GT-R never lets you forget that it's a high-strung supercar. The brakes are grabby and squeal at low speeds, the transmission makes audible clunks and crunches, and the ride is punishing even with the adaptive suspension set to comfort.
As Evan rightly notes, there are plenty of more refined, more attractive, and more exhilarating sports cars on the market. Yet if you just want to drive very fast, the Nissan GT-R should be at the top of your shopping list.
Jake Holmes, Associate Web Editor
I can't think of any car I respect more but actually enjoy driving less than the Nissan GT-R. It's an amazing feat of engineering -- the performance of a supercar for the price of a well equipped Porsche 911 or Chevrolet Corvette. It's also heavy, has a grating exhaust note, a rough transmission, and rock-hard suspension. As Jake notes, the performance of its 585-hp V-6 is easy to access. Unfortunately, roads where the GT-R's insane acceleration is useable in more than two second spurts are not easily accessible. That's true for any sports car, but the best ones are fun regardless of how fast you are or aren't going. The Corvette and 911 sound great and feel great. The GT-R achieves quantitative greatness -- and it truly is greatness -- but it completely lacks those qualities that make us fall in love with cars.
David Zenlea, Assistant Editor
The Nissan GT-R story used to be one of huge performance for a relatively small amount of money. Not so much anymore. In the three years since its debut, the GT-R's base price has ballooned from $70,850 to $97,820, an increase of more than 38 percent. The Black Edition car pushes the price even higher, to $107,320, for Rays wheels that save 11 pounds, red-and-black Recaro seats, a carbon-fiber spoiler, and anodized-look red interior accents. The seats alone are worth the extra outlay, but when the price hits six figures, my thoughts can't help but drift toward the svelte Porsche 911 Carrera S and the 200-mph Chevrolet Corvette ZR1. The GT-R holds its own in that crowd, yet it offers none of the involvement those cars do.
Nissan's pursuit of continuous improvement has brought significant improvements to the GT-R in a short time, and I respect the company for resisting the temptation to rest on its laurels. Although still a stiff, surly monster, the 2013 model rides, corners, and shifts much better than earlier cars. I cannot, however, understand why Nissan thinks this car is in need of more horsepower. Rather than continuing to push engine output upward, I'd like to see Nissan engineers put drivability in their sights. The GT-R doesn't hit its torque peak until 3200 rpm, and in real-world conditions, those big turbochargers take their sweet time spooling up. Quickening Godzilla's responses would go a long way in making this beast much more palatable on the street.
Eric Tingwall, Associate Editor