2009 Nissan GT-R Review

Stephan Wilkinson
by Stephan Wilkinson
2009 nissan gt r review

The GT-R is the blind date everybody’s been telling you about for months: incredible body, second in her class at Harvard, fabulous conversationalist, star athlete. Then you meet her. Yes, she has obvious “assets,” but nobody mentioned the halitosis. She graduated with a B.A. in accounting. She’s a great conversationalist, but her voice sounds like run-flat tires with three-inch sidewalls running over a concrete-aggregate rumble and tar-strip slap. She's an athlete, but a grunting shot-putter, not a Sharapova. In short, the GT-R is SO not a supermodel.

I spent 1,450 miles inside a Nissan GT-R in early April, flying through the deserts of Nevada and central California. I didn't notch 193mph, the GT-R's top speed. But I (or you) could have done so with ease. I decided not to approach this limit to preserve my license. In fact, the Nissan coupe plants itself on the road better than any car I've ever driven.

Stretching the GT-R’s legs on an open Nevada two-lane road was so simple that my 28-year-old daughter could repeat the process a few minutes later while I lazed in the right seat. When we passed opposite-direction tandem tractor-trailers on these empty highways, it was as though the GT-R slipped by a Smart. With a Cd of .27 and just enough downforce in all the right places, aerodynamics are apparently a lot of what allows this car to go so fast so easily.

If there's anything to criticize about the GT-R's handling— I also spent an afternoon with the car lapping the mickey mouse Reno-Fernley Raceway— it's the steering. While the helm’s quick and precise, it’s strangely numb and electric-feeling. The Japanese still have a lot to learn from Porsche here, but the GT-R is ridiculously nimble for a two-tonner (with driver and gas).

Two of the car's most highly touted features baffle me, though. One is the endlessly configurable instrument display, called-up via the nav screen. Nissan readily admits that it “was inspired by videogames.” It’s not what you’d call useful– unless you're intent on studying steering-wheel deflection, slip angle, transmission-oil pressure and brake-pedal position while late-apexing an off-ramp. It's the geek equivalent of the complex chronographs of the 19th century: pocket watches that read out everything from the tides to your mistress's menstrual cycle.

The GT-R’s fiddly “launch mode” for maximum acceleration (meaning turbo spool-up) is also a curiosity. It will amuse those who haven't an ounce of mechanical sensibility who don't mind abusing machinery. Actual GT-R owners will use it a few times to amuse the neighbors, and then will realize that they're still making payments on the $70,000+ appliance they're brutalizing. Even Nissan told me to only use it "once or twice."

For me, the car's tires are the biggest turnoff. Quick! Name a single benefit to run-flats. They're noisy, expensive, difficult to repair and can only dismount with special machinery. I don't have a spare in my 911 either, since a fuel cell fills the trunk, but I use Ride-On to seal its tires permanently. (No, Ride-On has nothing in common with Slime or Fix-a-Flat.) The Bridgestones on the GT-R are so loud they negate the Bose sound system; a Costco Kenwood would have sufficed amid the din.

Obviously, this car's numbers– whether we're talking racetrack lap times, zero to sixty or MSRP– are stunning. We all know that GT-Rs are lapping the Nordschleife faster and faster, that they out-accelerate Porsche Turbos and ZO6s and cost $69,850 (plus “market adjustment fees…”). There's a lot to like about this car, but is it the ultimate, the Godzilla, the Nurburgring killa?

Who cares? Acquiring a supercar, rather than fantasizing about one, faces the buyer with a decision with vastly more to do with real-world attributes than with video games, bad movies and teen fetishes. (Admittedly, the last video game I played was Space Invaders.) It fascinated me that nobody in Nevada or California noticed the GT-R, other than carwash attendants, 14-year-olds with mullets and every parking valet in Vegas. The rest of the world walked on by, assuming they’d encountered a new Toyota Supra.

Seventeen years ago, the first Japanese supercar arrived in the States: the Acura NSX. Fabulous numbers, a half-price Ferrari, buff-book craziness, slavering car writers, rumored to be the benchmark for the McLaren F1, development work by Ayrton Senna… So where did the NSX go? Ultimately, it became the orthodontist's car, when the world went back to buying Porsches and real Ferraris. Care to take bets on what will happen to the GT-R?

Bottom line: the car world may have gone cuckoo for Coco Puffs over the GT-R but it’s ultimately a pointless, nerdy, twin-turbo, electronics-laden technological curiosity.

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  • Dustman Dustman on Sep 20, 2008

    As an owner of high end sports cars, I opted to purchase the GTR based on the stellar global reviews of the vehicle. I was not a fan of the styling at all, nor the whimpy exhaust, racer-boy spoilers, or Nissan badge. With 600 miles under my belt, I am appreciating the car more with each drive. They styling will never match the 360, 430, Astin's, etc unfortunately. But, the confidence I have driving this car hard/fast vastly exceeds that of the other cars I have owned, and that is enough to warrant high praise from me. Plenty of flaws in and outside the GTR, but a piece of automotive history that is forcing more notable manufacturers to upgrade their vehicles. I still think the F360 Spider is the car (not too fast/quick, but draws all the attention you'd want). Love the web site; it's what I'd design given time/talent.

  • Gtr-carefree Gtr-carefree on Jan 20, 2009

    I have owned 2004 Gallardo 6 speed, 2006 Gallardo 6 speed, 2005 f-430 6 speed, 2006 f-430 F1, Gallardo Superleggera e-gear, 997 Turbo 6 speed and may others...just picked up my GT-R yesterday...NO REGRETS - what those cars depreciate in 3 months is what this car is worth. AND it is worth every penny...a v10 and v8 sound great but this car for 80k is WOW and i can take my daughter to school in it (car seat in the rear small seats) + a trunk. WHAT else can I say? If you want to get laid get a Gallardo, if you want to be able to get out of your SUPERCAR without twisting your back and without all the attention but with the the thrills get a GT-R

  • SCE to AUX I charge at home 99% of the time, on a Level 2 charger I installed myself in 2012 for my Leaf. My house is 1967, 150-Amp service, gas dryer and furnace; everything else is electric with no problems. I switched from gas HW to electric HW last year, when my 18-year-old tank finally failed.I charge at a for-pay station maybe a couple times a year.I don't travel more than an hour each way in my Ioniq 1 EV, so I don't deal much with public chargers. Despite a big electric rate increase this year, my car remains ridiculously cheap to operate.
  • ToolGuy 38:25 to 45:40 -- Let's all wait around for the stupid ugly helicopter. 😉The wheels and tires are cool, as in a) carbon fiber is a structural element not decoration and b) they have some sidewall.Also like the automatic fuel adjustment (gasoline vs. ethanol).(Anyone know why it's more powerful on E85? Huh? Huh?)
  • Ja-GTI So, seems like you have to own a house before you can own a BEV.
  • Kwik_Shift Good thing for fossil fuels to keep the EVs going.
  • Carlson Fan Meh, never cared for this car because I was never a big fan of the Gen 1 Camaro. The Gen 1 Firebird looked better inside and out and you could get it with the 400.The Gen 2 for my eyes was peak Camaro as far as styling w/those sexy split bumpers! They should have modeled the 6th Gen after that.