In 2008 Nissan changed the world of supercars with its newest entry into the GT-R lineup, the R35. Gone was the Skyline name, replaced with a power and fury that could far surpass most anything on sale. What made the GT-R more impressive than its performance was its price. With an MSRP of $69,850 Nissan had slapped every exotic automaker in the face with an iron glove. Over the last 5 years, the GT-R has been improved to keep up with new competition from the likes of Ferrari and Porsche, but with each year of improvements came an increased price tag. Has the GT-R’s ballooning price finally overtaken its performance advantage, or is Godzilla still the performance bargain king? We spent some time with the new and improved 2013 Nissan GT-R Black Edition to see just how far Nissan’s flagship has come.
Let us start with what has changed over the years. When introduced the car was powered by a 3.8-liter twin turbo V6 with 485 horsepower and 434 lb/ft of torque. 0-60 times were in the mid 3 second range and the top speed was quoted to be 193 mph. Now, five years later, power has been bumped by over 100 horses to a healthy 545 while twist has been bumped to 463 lb/ft. Thanks to the power bump and a revised launch control system the newest GT-R will hit 60 mph in a mind-numbing 2.7 seconds. Top speed has been bumped as well; up to an estimated 200+mph. Specifically for 2013 the GT-R receives further suspension tuning, a standard RearView Monitor and a Black Edition exclusive hand-laid dry carbon fiber spoiler. Along with all the power upgrades, the price has skyrocketed. The cheapest GT-R on sale this year is $96,820, an increase just shy of $27,000 dollars. Our Black Edition car starts at an even loftier $106,320. Add the $285 GT-R logo floor mats (our only option) and the $1,000 dollar destination fee, our Pearl White tester rings in with a final as-tested price of $107,605. That’s anything but cheap, but when you start to consider that its insane 0-60 time puts in the top ten for production cars, that puts it in very lofty company. The R35 is beyond the realm of most exotics from Italy like Ferrari and Lamborghini, and propels it to the levels of supercar royalty.
If there is one area in which Godzilla trails its more expensive brethren it is beauty. We wouldn’t call the GT-R ugly, but it is a brutish looking machine that carries a large visual weight. That size isn’t all visual trickery as the GT-R is nearly 6-inches longer and 6-inches taller than a Ferrari 458 Italia. With a curb weight of 3,821 lbs. it also has a 550+ weight penalty over the svelte Italian. Much of the Nissan’s competition is clad in sleek lines and low profiles, which we tend to prefer. The Black Edition package of our test car does help improve the visual characteristics. With the large black grille, black 20-inch Rays wheels, raw carbon spoiler and diffuser as well as the dark front lip and side skirts, adds a nice level of contrast to the Pearl White color of our car and gives the whole a car a nice visual aggression missing on the earlier models.
More than performance and looks, the GT-R also promises a high level of comfort, practicality and reliability. While it may only possess two doors, the seating position is high (relative to a traditional supercar), the trunk is large, ingress and egress is easy and with an observed not estimated 22 mpg highway fuel economy, it’s fairly frugal as well. There are a few kinks in the practicality armor, though. Take the rear seats for example, while the buckets are ample size, and there is plenty of headroom, if the front seat is slid all the way back it touches the rear seat. When a car doesn’t provide enough legroom for an amputee child, there are some issues.
If you can ignore the irrelevance of the back seat and focus on the main cockpit, the GT-R isn’t a bad place to be. The Black Edition gets many special treatments like carbon fiber dash work, a black headliner and black leather Recaro buckets with red accents. The button covered steering wheel is flanked by two large magnesium paddle-shifters that feel cold and solid. They provide a very satisfying action, but lack a distinctive aural cue. The edges of the Paddle shifters are covered in a leather-look rubber and provide a nice sticky surface to keep fingers from slipping during aggressive driving, but we would prefer to get rid of it and have a pattern etched into the magnesium so that our fingers can maintain contact with the metal. They feel that good.
One of the most impressive parts of the cockpit is the dashboard screen. Aside from the stereo and navigation functions, it operates the multi-function performance monitor. This is a system of screens designed to help you keep track of information about the car, there are displays for temperatures of the gearbox, g-forces, braking levels, and much more. A new buyer could easily spend hours playing with this thing. The graphics are all well done and nicely arranged, but they were designed by the same team who created the Gran Turismo series from the Playstation family of gaming consoles, so we expected no less.
The staring procedure for the GT-R is much the same for most Nissan and Infiniti owners. Keep the small fob in your pocket, foot on the brake and press the start button. The GT-R does dress it up slightly with a red button mounted in the center console. The engine burps to life and the car settles into a rather quiet hum that belies the fact there are nearly 550 horsepower at the call of your right foot. It feels very…docile, and it could be the GT-R’s trump card. To take the GT-R through bumper to bumper traffic during rush-hour is not a chore. The dual-clutch automatic transmission doesn’t have the same clunky and jerky nature that many units tend to in slow moving traffic. Just flip the switches on the center console to Comfort and Save and you have a comfortable commute. Even fuel economy is respectable; we managed to squeeze 22mpg on a 45 minute highway jaunt.
As far as using the GT-R as a grand tourer, it does many things right. The Comfort setting softens the suspension and the Save mode keeps the car in higher gears cutting noise and granting better fuel economy. Seating is also fairly upright with good visibility. The car does exhibit higher levels of road and tire noise, but considering the price/performance ratio that was to be expected. Set the cruise and relax, and the GT-R will swallow miles effortlessly. With our observed 22mpg the GT-R should manage about 400 miles per tank, but aggressive passing maneuvers could quickly drop that number.
Those three little dash mounted switches are the key to unlocking a unique GT-R experience. If you want the full bore Godzilla flip them all to R mode and the soft red glow lets you know that this machine means business. The moment you hit the accelerator the fury and fire that you expect from a Ferrari—beater emerges. Shift speed is decreased to milliseconds and acceleration is more ferocious. The suspension firms up a significant amount dramatically altering handling. Those three switches have changed this Nissan from a comfortable grand tourer to a track destroying monster. When under aggressive driving, it is impossible to convey the ability of the GT-R. Any normal human being can drive twice as far as their talent, and they still wouldn’t be approaching the true power and ability of the GT-R and its physics defying AWD system.
Not all is roses and fire-breathing speed in the GT-R world though. The biggest disadvantage of the AWD monster is this dichotomy of comfort and ultimate performance. The GT-R seems to have no comfortable middle ground. It only has two settings, boring and outrageous. When driven at 4/10s the GT-R feels heavy and lumbering and even in the normal setting the suspension is bit rough. For a car that can beat the Rosso paint off machinery from Maranello, it doesn’t feel exciting all the time. It is only exciting when you are driving it like your hair is on fire.
In creating such a technological and precise machine the GT-R has lost some of the magic that supercars bring to the world. It doesn’t feel organic but rather cold and clinical. This is the price Nissan paid to create such a marvel at such a price with this level of technology, but to declare the GT-R anything less than a triumph would be criminal. Instead we are left in turmoil. We are madly in love with the practical nature and ferocious performance the GT-R packs into one two-door shell, but we dislike it for the same reasons.
Even with a near $30,000 price increase over the years, the 2013 Nissan GT-R Black Edition is easily the best bargain supercar. It may even be just one of the best cars, ever. We just want a little more excitement baked in.