2008 Nissan GT-R

Brian Konoske

The attention to detail won't stop once the Nissan is delivered to customers. While the particulars need to be ironed out with dealers in America, each GT-R comes with free maintenance and inspections for three years. The first visit will be around 600 miles and then at 12, 24, and 36 months after delivery. At each appointment, engine and transmission adjustments are made along with an ultra-accurate chassis alignment. Nissan wants to make sure owners are able to exploit maximum performance out of their GT-R at all times and in all conditions. But enough about the details on this Japanese sports car, let's talk about how the GT-R is from behind the wheel.

As you slide into the driver's seat, you're met by a well-proportioned steering wheel, column-mounted paddle-shifters, and a stubby selector for the dual-clutch six-speed transmission. At the top of the center console is a color screen that displays just about everything you would ever want to know about the car. While lots of cars tell you the level of turbo boost and the engine oil pressure and temperature, the GT-R goes about twenty steps further, supplying occupants with transmission oil temperature and pressure; front/rear torque split for the all-wheel-drive system; front-to-back, side-to-side, and combined G force data, steering angle position, and a lap timing system. The complete unit was developed in conjunction with Polyphony Digital Inc, the company behind the Sony PlayStation video game series, Gran Turismo.

As we slowly drove down the bumpy access road leaving Sendai Hi-Land Raceway, we immediately noticed the GT-R's stiff structure and suspension setup. We felt every crack and surface change along the road and we began to wonder if Nissan might have been a bit too aggressive with the setup. But a quick blast through the gears once we reached the main road told us our early concenrs were unfounded. While stiff, the GT-R reveals a level of dampening and overall suspension feel that few other cars carry. From the ultra precise and intuitive steering to the powerful brakes, the GT-R is able to maintain over-the-road speed that will, hold on for this, likely embarrass nearly every other production car in the world. Even with the adjustable Bilstein dampers in their stiffest setting, the GT-R is never harsh and it soaks up potholes and frost heaves like a rally car. Body control, front-end grip, overall balance, engine response, and transmission shift speed all come together to yield a mega car with a mega pace. You see, manufacturers don't spend loads of time and bags of money at the old Nurburgring just for bragging rights. Sure, the Nissan GT-R is faster than a 911 Turbo around the intimidating circuit, but a regimented testing procedure on the lumpy and bumpy track also yields huge benefits to real world driving dynamics. The time Nissan spent in Germany developing the GT-R proves this point. But all this work results in a car that is very easy to drive quickly, does this result in a less rewarding car? While the GT-R dances on that fine line between outright speed and videogame-like ease of operation, the grins on our faces stuck around long enough after the GT-R was driven like a hooligan machine to tell us that it is the real deal.

We would have loved to thrash the GT-R on the twisting roads of Japan all day long but time was getting tight and we were due back at the circuit for the track portion of the test. Unfortunately (or fortunately), we hit a load of traffic on the return leg. This allowed us to test the Nissan in everyday driving. The first thing we noticed was how the steering began to feel a bit dead on center and rubbery on initial turn-in when the car is driven at more sane speeds. The wide, 255-section front tires tended to grab ruts a bit more than we would've liked. In automatic mode, the transmission was slow to downshift and we felt a few shudders through the drivetrain during shifts. And that early concern from this morning about stiff ride quality started to rear its ugly head. To be honest, the car started to feel a bit boring. So, we took a turn off the main route onto a deserted road to try out the launch control system.

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