2008 Nissan GT-R

Brian Konoske

Toggle the transmission switch to its fastest shift-speed setting, flip to manual mode, and turn off the traction and stability control. Left foot on the brake, right foot pinning the throttle, and the engine revs rise to around 4500 rpm. Release the brake and the GT-R rockets off with a transmission shudder and a lovely four-wheel burnout. Grab the right paddle for a quick upshift at 7000 RPM and you've passed sixty mph in around 3.5 seconds according to Nissan. OK, we're not bored anymore. It was so much fun that we tried two more launches, maybe that was a bad idea. Just after the third try, a warning light labeled AWD lit up telling us, "Houston, we have problem". This light show reminded us of Tokyo at night and also brought along a load of heat radiating through the rear center console. Maybe this is why Nissan equipped the GT-R with an array of logging equipment and anti-modification software. The GT-R is the most powerful car with a dual-clutch gearbox other than the million-dollar Bugatti Veyron. We wonder if this quick-shifting transmission will prove to be the weak link when the tuner crowd cracks the code and turns the boost up to eleven on the dial. A Bill Gates style shutdown and restart brought the GT-R back to normal but we decided to be nice to the two-door rocket ship for the remainder of the flight.

With the road drive done, it was time to exercise another GT-R on the track. We were limited to two sessions behind the wheel, with only seven laps total on the 2.5-mile, 17-turn circuit. As with the road drive, the car is very quick and very easy to drive at the limit. Overall, the car feels very secure and fast with a well-balanced chassis. The GT-R is able to put down its power early and feels excellent in medium and high-speed corners. That said, we wish the engine was a bit more vocal in operation and the weight of the car, a hefty 3858 pounds, really starts to rear its head in tight, second gear corners. You have to remember that this car weighs 696 pounds more than a Corvette Z06 - that's 22% more! It just doesn't have the precise, tactile feel through low speed corners that it carries at higher speeds and on the road. The final session of the day was in the passenger seat for a ride along with a Nissan factory driver. It was impressive to see what the car could do with a driver who carries a bit more experience on this track than our seven laps could provide. Funny, it was still apparent from the passenger seat that the GT-R was a little piggish through low-speed corners, but it was amazing the speed he could carry into and out of the faster sections of the track.

In the end, the GT-R is an amazing car and a welcome return of a Japanese company back into the ultra-performance sports car world. It has been too long coming, so congratulations to Nissan for investing the time and money into a car of this type despite the present overly ecologically concerned world. When the fast Nissan arrives in the USA in June, it will cost $69,850 plus a yet to be determined destination charge (most likely about $800). There are very little changes from our Japanese test cars other than which side of the car the steering wheel sits. As with the first Mitsubishi EVO that come to the USA, the seats are slightly wider for larger Americans. We also get the cool-looking anthracite-painted wheels as standard. On these dubs, buyers will be able to choose between two run-flat tires, the Bridgestone RE070R summer performance tire or the Dunlop SP Sport 7010 all-season tire. All GT-Rs, whether bound for Japan or the U.S., have the same suspension tuning - which includes a comfort mode that was developed specifically for the U.S.-market. Despite this, we still reserve our final judgment on ride quality until we drive the cars on our soil next year. That initial impression still holds - the GT-R may prove to be a little too stiff in everyday driving for some buyers.

The GT-R no doubt has amazing performance for the money. While it doesn't have the prestige of a 911 or the established following of a Corvette Z06, it is an amazing competitor to the German and the American while carrying full-on Japanese feel in the most wonderful way possible. Sure, we would love for the GT-R to shed a few pounds, OK a bunch, but we still hop on the Boeing 747 for the long flight back to the States knowing that we have just driven one of the best cars to come out in a long time.

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