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2011 Nissan GTR

Tim Odell October 21, 2010 Nissan Reviews, Reviews, Road Test Reviews 36 Comments

Having started late that morning, there were already cyclists all over the road, so I’d been keeping it mellow. But as I came around the corner onto the ridge, I saw half a mile of gently winding road ahead. No cars, no bikes, no cops, and I was terrified. Terrified because I knew just how fast I could be going at the other end. Think helicopter crane recovery and dental records identification.

That’s the thing about the GTR. You’re never worried about what it’ll do to you, you’re worried about what you’ll do with it.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last 3 years, you should know the stats on the GTR. It sports a twin-turbo 3.8L V6 making 485hp at 6500rpm and 434lb-ft of torque. Power’s routed through a six speed dual clutch paddle shifted transmission to all four wheels. Leather, satellite radio, navigation and the world’s coolest vehicle status display (more on that later) are standard. The only options are floor mats and your choice of color. The 2011 rolls on dark gray forged 20″ Rays wheels.

The transmission, traction control and suspension are all adjustable. Most relevant is the “R” mode available for all, which does about what you’d expect: firmer shifts, firmer damping and a little more slippage available. The suspension “Comfort” mode is second most relevant, as it makes the car livable in activities of daily life. It’s still stiff by most standards, but not painful or jarring.

Enough foreplay, let’s get to it: it’s mind-blowingly fast. Fast enough to completely obliterate my previous benchmark, a second-gen Viper GTS. In contrast to the Viper, the GTR actually works with you in the effort, rather than trying to kill you the whole time. It challenges you to go faster on the next turn, and the one after that, and the one after that, until you finally overcook it. The GTR takes a lax approach to punishment, gently slapping you with understeer in all but the most deliberately trail-braked, throttle-heavy indiscretions. “But understeer is lame!” the masses cry. Not on a windy mountain road at—well, let’s just say fast enough—it’s not.

In case you care to log your speed or the windiness of said mountain road, the GTR can help with that. The navigation/radio display can also serve up seven different configurations of info screens: 1-4 are customizable and A-F are pre-set. Speed, acceleration in two axes, the vector sum acceleration, economy, range, the temperature of every fluid in the car, turbo boost, front-to-rear torque split and a rally course notes/timer combo. If you’re someone who likes lining up the icons on your desktop just so, this is a really cool feature. If you’re someone who’s proud to brag that he pegged 1.2g in lateral acceleration in each direction in one 20 second stretch, ahem, it’s cool too.

Taking things down a couple dozen notches, as a daily driver the GTR gets a B- or C+. Most obviously, it’s tricky to keep speeds in the legal range. All of a sudden, everyone’s driving way too slowly. At stop-and-go parking lot speeds, the dual clutch transmission takes some getting used to. Parallel parking would be tricky, given its nothingnothingnothingherewego! engagement. Also, at low speeds and first startup the engine and cog-box emit sounds most commonly associated with forgetting to put the oil back in. There’s actually a line in the manual pointing out that these noises are ok. It only exhibits two supercar-typical annoyances: the front air dam scrapes a lot and people freak out in the presence of Godzilla. Shortly after it showed up in my driveway, had hopped the fence and were checking it out. The one day I took it to the office, a number of co-workers visited my desk wondering what I was doing for lunch. People pulled up to take pictures in traffic, loving the car but clearly hating me.

From a utility perspective, it’s no worse than a typical sports coupe. The back seat will fit small kids (though they have to share one cupholder) and the trunk’s decently sized. Just be careful with the groceries, as it can get really hot in there. The seats would be fine for long trips, even if they aren’t cooled. All said, it’s probably best to think of the GTR as a Friday-Saturday-Sunday car, rather than a daily driver. You could drive it every day, but there’d be no joy in it. On the flip side, you could easily start the day with a canyon run, then transition to the kids’ soccer games before blasting to Vegas with The Missus that night.

And now to the elephant in the room: is the GTR a soulless 485hp computer or a bargain of a supercar slayer? The answer hinges on why you’d drop big money on a car. While well beyond my reach, I can understand the value proposition of a 60-something-thousand dollar sports car, the likes of an M3, CTS-V or AMG C63. But when you go beyond a typical super sedan, you’re paying cubic dollars for something special. Maybe it’s the beauty of a Maserati GranTurismo, the comfort of a Continental, or the overwhelming power of the Viper and ZR1.

The GTR delivers speed. For $85,000, you get usable speed wherever and whenever you want it, whether at the track on or the way home from work. The approachable limits mean you can really go for it in scenarios where other machines punish errors with death. Are there more involved, romantic sports cars out there? Certainly, but let’s make another comparison: you bring your P51 Mustang or F4U Corsair to a dogfight, and I’ll bring an F22 Raptor. We’ll see how that works out for you.

Since writing this review, Nissan’s announced the 2011 GTR has 523 horsepower and offers a number of different options packages, along with an updated fascia. The window sticker that came with our car said 2011 and 485hp, so that’s what we published. Our tester’s VIN ended in “00001”, suggesting this was probably a very early example. Make of it what you will. – Ed

  • seaninc

    Having driven one in May, I have to agree that it's a marvel. It's FAST in every situation, if a little sterile. I wouldn't buy one is I had the money, but I can see why many would.

  • Before I even start reading:


    more to come…

    • Number_Six

      No kidding.

  • … Awesome review Tim.

    I believe if I was in the market for a sports coupe, I would likely choose the GTR. When it first came out, I was opposed to the idea of it. Comparison after comparison had it smoking all the competition. Cars that I really admired like the Shelby GT500, Z06 and the like. Godzilla just pissed me off.

    Then, I saw one in traffic. I had seen several before in Austin, but this one just seemed to "click" with me. Then I read about the 2011 model with the bumped horsepower number. Now, I will never, ever be in the market (80k for a weekend ohsofunmobile), this would most likely be my choice.

    Also, I would have been one of those people trying to take pictures in traffic, or someone that works in your office, asking if you wanted to go to lunch. My treat.

    • I guess, in a way, the GTR reminds me of the NSX. Now, I know its nothing like the NSX in any technical aspect. What I mean is, that its a car that the Japanese have perfected. The cost of entry is fair (compared to the LFA), and the performance is astounding.

      Now that is a comparo I would really like to see: Modern Japan supercars vs. bygone Japan supercars.

      • tonyola

        But that's the only thing that the NSX and the GTR have in common. The NSX was lightweight, sleek, and did not try to be the fastest kid on the block. It was a precision tool that was as easy to drive as a Civic.

        • Oh, I completely agree.

          On the highway, the NSX is supposed to be a docile as an Accord.

          On the highway, the GTR is in no way like a Altima.

          With the GTR, its hard to find what it draws from other Nissan models. Maybe bits and pieces of the 370Z?

          • There are actually more Infiniti bits that I recognize on the GTR than other Nissans.

            For the most part, the interior feels kinda dated…like a product from more like 2005 than the last couple of years. It's just that you don't care.

  • The Porschebünker will be ing you shortly.

    Also, I'm immensely jealous. I've heard of how sterile and unexciting the GT-R is compared to other supercars. I would like to find out for myself. In the mean time, I'll just live vicariously through you.

  • dculberson

    It is a brilliant car, but does sound like a bear to actually drive in traffic. That's my problem with most super sports cars; what do you do with them day in and day out that makes them worth $80k?? A Miata would be just as fun in traffic, and more fun when checking your bank balance.

    (Of course I do NOT think that a Miata is a viable replacement for a GT-R, don't be silly. I'm just saying it's difficult to justify having a truly terrifyingly fast street car. At least at this price.)

    • Seth L

      There is that.

      But then again there's a Saleen S-7 in the business park nearby, some people find their justification.

      • dculberson

        Yeah, I guess I'm just not thinking like the fabulously wealthy. If I had a million dollars in the bank, I suppose $80k wouldn't bother me. (Then again, if they've borrowed their $80k and don't have anything in the bank … well, they're fools.)

    • ptschett

      I have this problem with expensive cars too. When I think of what I'd get if I had to spend $80k on cars, it'd be a CTS-V and a Fiesta, or a Challenger SRT-8 and a Grand Cherokee, or 5 cars that always interested me and could be found used under $15k.

  • Wasn't me.

    • SirNotAppearing

      If you say so, Shaggy.

      • zaddikim

        …And the earworm is firmly embedded.

        /no thanks to you

  • tonyola

    Technically brilliant and jaw-droppingly fast it may be, but I still think the GTR is fat and unattractive looking. No sex appeal at all.

    • Seth L

      In pictures, certainly. In traffic, it's huge and imposing for a sports car. It's not pretty, but the Godzilla moniker fits very well for me.

      • tonyola

        I've seen several here in Miami. Still does nothing for me.

    • alewifecove

      Here Here!! Just plain bland.

  • Number_Six

    The people at Evo adore it, which is good enough for me.

  • SSurfer321

    Numbers don't lie. This is a magnificent machine. Do I want one? No. Aside from GingerMan and/or Mid-Ohio, there really isn't anywhere around me to exploit this vehicles capabilities. I don't want to be the guy that cages the lion.
    I did see one running southbound on I-75 the other week somewhere north of Dayton, OH. It did catch my eye, even at 150mph closing speed.

  • The GT-R is slightly enigmatic among supercars.

    For me, part of the magic of every previous GT-R since the R31 was that it was recognisably based on a Skyline. Today the GT-R is a standalone model, totally unrelated to any mere Skyline, yet in the interest of identifiability (my own word, © Roadwork 2010) they opted to make it look like it could be.

    Clever bit of marketing, that. It would have been dead easy to make a new, diabolically capable supercar that looked like, say, an R390. But by making it look a bit like the old Skylines that every pasty-faced teenager thrashed around the 'Ring on their X-Box, it became relevant. It's a Nissan, therefore it's tangentially related to Dads Maxima. Hey presto, Nissan now have a proper, certified halo model in their range.

    It saddens me that so many of these will be bought by people because of what they're percieved as, rather than what they are. While Redusernab readers recognise it as being the paragon of Japanese automotive achievement, and we respect it as such, it will end up being bought by stockbrokers as a new toy to add to the collection instead of a 911. "…I mean, my neighbour has a 911, and his only has 420hp. If I get one of those neat-o Nissans, what is it, GR? GT, GT-R? Yeah, one of those. A yellow one with all those screens, yeah, they're hella cool."

    I guess I'd love GT-R to mean something more. Nissan need to sprinkle some of that good stuff over the rest of their range. Let's have a Primera GT-R, something that mere mortals can think about owning. Nissan, you've got the image sorted just fine. Now make something with a bit of that appeal that we can actually buy.

    Excellent review Tim, as always.

  • I bet that color, which I shall call Awesome Red, helps distract from the sheer size of it.
    But in gray it is an elephant.

    Edit: But it's disappointing to hear about the rear seat, given the footprint. And a cupholder? Aren't all cars with more than 90hp suitable for reclosable drinks only?

  • The first time I saw one, I did the same thing. My wife and I had taken another couple down town, and my friends wife asks, 'whats that?" Both of us look up, and do not see anything. Then, like a 5-D puzzle, we see the taillights and start shouting. We got a good look the second time the dude came around, cruising for chicks.

  • scroggzilla

    The first time I watched FIA GT1 on Bloomberg, all I could think was "what a fitting team name!"
    <img src=";
    Also…nice piece of writing, Tim.

  • Texan_Idiot25

    Next time send it my way, I'll do a review on how good of a pizza delivery car it is. There's a handful of spagetti roads around here that I take.

    How fast can I go with out smashing the pizza up against the trunk's walls from lateral G-Force?

    • Charles_Barrett

      Ya know, Philip may be onto a great new Redusernab feature: "How Good a Pizza Delivery Car Would This Be…?" He could rate based on speed, fuel economy, pizza box capacity, etc.

      • Pizza box capacity is much less offensive than dead hooker capacity.

        • tonyola

          Unless the pizzas have anchovies.

  • Texan_Idiot25

    Ginormous? You're telling that to a guy who can block 3 parking spaces with his Lincoln.

  • vwminispeedster

    I was looking for a pink box in the background and some crumbs in the interior shot. Oh, you meant donuts of the tire variety.

  • There's a guy I autocross with (he has way too much money, if you ask me) who replaced his NSX with one of these. It is, without a doubt, a monstrous car, and in autocross that's typically the marker of an albatross no matter how fast you are in a straight line. Godzilla surprised me though between nigh-on 500 horsepower, all wheel drive, and electronically-mediated everything, it actually managed to turn a startlingly fast time — very close to some of the fastest cars out there, and without the benefit of sticky cheater slicks.

    This can only mean one thing, of course: The Singularity Is Nigh!

  • Hooniscribbler!?!?

    That's @#$% awesome!!1

  • Stelios

    I have seen these monsters at a few trackdays. Seeing this hulk chase prepped Miatas on momentum tracks using the same lines is really disconcerting considering its weight and size (makes an NA look tiny). But it has some serious presence and I do think it is attractive in its own way – not Italian sultry like an 8C Competizione or a 250GT but as a sleek modern piece of purposeful rolling sculpture.
    The turbine-like growling woosh these things make when charging down a straight is actually rather nice, too.

    • KieselguhrKid

      Agreed. It doesn't have the graceful lines of an Aston Martin or the manga-derived good looks of the 350/370Z but it has _presence_. As a previous commenter noted, Godzilla is a fitting moniker.
      It's styling makes me think MechWarrior, not fighter jet, but that's fine, it sounds like it's got the metaphorical arm-mounted rail-guns and shoulder mounted rocket launchers to back the look up and Tokyo-crushing name up.

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