Nissan’s Greatest Sports Car, 13 Years Later

When the current-generation Nissan GT-R debuted over a decade ago, it put the leading top-tier sports cars on notice. Nissan’s latest and greatest halo-model stole hearts and headlines and became the new standard for acceleration and mid-corner grip. It topped timesheets and made much more expensive sports cars look silly in the process. Then the world moved on and, ten years later, not much has changed with the GT-R. 

Other than negligible visual updates, new colors and a minor power bump, Nissan’s flagship sports car is a time capsule from the early-2010s. However, depending on where you look, that’s either the car’s greatest weakness or its saving grace. 

There’s no ignoring just how much the GT-R shows its age. When the R35 graced public roads for the first time, the Fast and the Furious movie count was still under five and the iPhone 3G was cutting edge technology. Slide into the driver’s seat of the and the analog gauges staring back at you can be described as “period-correct” for that era.

And it’s the same story with the rest of the interior. The off-white leather has a hint of glossiness to it and all the switch gear is immediately familiar to anyone who ever fired up a PS5 and logged a few hours in Gran Turismo 5. You start to wonder what the $115,000 price tag gets you. 

Undeniable performance aside, the $115,000 price tag of the GT-R is a tough pill to swallow.  The extra $8,500 for the 50th Anniversary Edition, like the one I drove doesn’t make it easier. The updates Nissan could have easily made to keep the GT-R relevant go way beyond simple front end visual updates but wouldn’t force a complete redesign either.

The Motorolla RZR-grade back-up camera and the infotainment system would’ve been easy swaps and noticeable improvements. But they remain as awkward reminders of how clumsy technology was just a few years ago.

How can Nissan still charge this much money for a sports car which is essentially 13 years old? 

To answer that question, just press the starter button. The engine fires up with what sounds like a mechanical strain, a couple clicks, then a clunk. On any other car, it’s a disconcerting sequence of sounds, but in the GT’R it feels more akin to an IMSA GT car being coerced to life. 

At idle, the car hums with energy and there’s a constant yet slight vibration the resonates throughout the car. There’s a real sense the onboard computers and the handbuilt engine are working together in unison. 

On track at Monticello Motor Club, barreling down the back straight away, slamming on the brakes and then sacheing through the right-left-right chicane, the GT-R’s weight is ever present. You can feel the heft, straining the tires and brakes, yet somehow the car maintains mind-bending grip. Powering out of turns and staying on the throttle through Monticello’s high-speed kink, you can’t help but be amazed by the seamless symbiotic relationship between all the computers and the GT-R’s brute mechanical power. 

Think comparing the 2020 Lamborghini Huracan Evo Spyder and the (let’s face it, 13-year-old) GT-R is unfair? At 467 lbs-ft, the GT-R has more torque than the Lamborghini and, while it weighs more at 3,840 lbs, the GT-R will still go from 0-60 mph in 2.9 seconds besting the Italian by 0.2 seconds. And in the twists and turns, the GT-R and Lamborghini achieve the same max lateral acceleration of 1.03g. Suddenly the $360,000 Lamborghini sounds like a rip-off next to the 13-year-old Nissan. 

In 2009, the GT-R was seen as almost too digital and computerized. In many ways it was the perfect poster child for the Play Station, Gran Turismo generation. However, where Gran Turismo and the GT-R differ is the video game needs constant updates and overhauls to stay competitive with rivals like Forza and Project Cars. The GT-R has barely changed mechanically because it hasn’t needed to. It was a decade ahead of its time, ten years ago.

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