Review: 2010 Nissan GT-R Take Two

Casey W. Raskob
by Casey W. Raskob

A call on Sunday to a lawyer’s office (mine) normally carries with it a tale of woe and unwanted police involvement. This time was different. A journalist neighbor called and asked if I wanted to drive the Nissan GT-R that had just been dropped in his driveway. The Skyline has been an unobtanium special for the last 15 or so years. I recall seeing one at International Rally New York, and even that battered right hand drive special attracted a crowd. So, with full knowledge of what was on offer, I ventured forth.

I was surprised to find the GTR’s headlights were only xenon on the low beam. Otherwise the exterior and styling was spot-on: butch without being too boy-racer, save for the hideous spoiler. The car conveyed a sense of authority, regardless of the mechanicals or the silly wing on the back.

The GT-R’s interior is not very impressive. The inside is midline Japanese sedan, with full electronics and decent bucket seats. The ergonomics are spot on; the knob for seat adjustment is intuitive and the padded steering wheel is perfectly positioned for max track attack. There are back seats, but only in the sense of “back.” Still, obviously, the GT-R is all about the driving…

Some cars are rapiers, others a broadsword. The GT-R is a battleax. The GT-R rides hard, like a track ready Viper. There’s a switchable suspension, with “normal” and “comfort.” Translation: “track” and “smooth streets only.” The Nissan’s four wheel-drive system works to put all the power to the ground… sort like a lightning bolt. The turboed engine has minimal lag, so unlike a big eight, there isn’t huge torque upon tip-in. But as soon as the manumatic hooks up and boost appears, nearasdammit five hundred horsepower makes itself known.

This thing is fast. Not fast like your “chipped” turbo car. Not fast like a jet taking off. Fast like a liter-class superbike. Highway on ramps are slingshots. The go-deal is like Star Trek’s transporter, only a lot faster. You imagine your spot on the road, and ZAP! You’re there. A ride like this can seriously scare civilians, if only as you recede away from them.

Unlike many cars, the four wheel-drive system in the GT-R does not dampen the fun. With the huge resources on tap, it makes the car civilized. Often “fun to drive” is really just fighting the chassis, but not here. This is so well sorted that “tuner car” cannot be spoken anywhere near the driveline without insulting a legion of Nissan engineers.

To wit: my trip was slightly dinged by the fact the car was on summer tires, the temperature was near freezing, and the roads were wet in places. The GT-R’s four wheel drive system was given more of a workout than a probable garage queen has any right to surmount. Even in this worst case scenario, the GT-R’s engineering integrity reigned supreme. Within the limits imposed by the outside world, this car’s capability was far beyond anything even a skilled driver could/should fully exploit on a public road.

Changing roads to a little traveled twisty near a reservoir, I put the man-u-matic into manual, making sure I had plenty of boost on tap. The car tracked predictably, up until the low (frozen tire) limits of adhesion. The traction control system stepped in a femtosecond after the car reached its limits of adhesion. Between 25 and 60 mph, the GT-R was heavy, with a more Germanic feel than a Japanese one. Still, it managed to be ‘tossable’ despite the weight, with excellent feedback through the wheel, something missing from many all wheel-drive cars.

The GT-R’s transmission and driveline had a steady whine, and the front airdam was adventurous (read low) for a production car. The GT-R’s rumbling exhaust note projects the same uber-tuner car feel. Of course, the Nissan’s sonic signature is entirely in keeping with the car’s character. As the Brits would say, the GT-R is a hard man: a take-no-prisoners extreme machine that’s fully capable of leaving high-priced exotica for dead. As advertised.

As a daily driver or a long-distance cruiser, no. you’d be much happier in one of Nissan’s less expensive alternatives. You have to wonder if sporting drivers would be better off with a no-compromise track car AND a more luxurious whip, or a Porsche, rather than the GT-R.

I know: great landing, wrong carport. The market for the Nissan GT-R knows what they are getting. The noise, the hard ride, the lack of interior space. All part of the experience. Think of the GT-R as a Japanese Viper without the death. Or a Z06 Corvette without the price tag or (dare I say it) pedigree.

Nissan’s decision to make this a limited production halo car is completely correct. The cognescenti will swoon, the dealers will tack on “additional profit” sticker and everyone will be happy. It’s Unobtanium, unlike a Porsche GT3 or AMG Black Series. Any flaws simply don’t matter.

Casey W. Raskob
Casey W. Raskob

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  • Akatsuki Akatsuki on Mar 06, 2009

    So, for example, how does it compare to an R8, a car that costs more but apparently is also high on the supposed livability scale?

  • Rcolayco Rcolayco on Mar 07, 2009

    akatsuki: I've driven both cars. The GT-R's the more liveable one. It's bulkier than the Audi, therefore won't fit into spaces where the R8 might squeeze in. But it's harder to see close quarters out of the R8, so you might not even want to attempt getting into places where it might otherwise fit. Clearing high driveways or speed humps will be a problem with the very low R8, with its long nose. I might add (not related to your query onliveability) that in a friendly V-Max run vs. a friend's Merc C63, there wasn't much in it, with maybe the Nissan being slightly faster. It didn't quite have the supreme feeling of stability at very high speeds (120+ mph) that Mercs have, but it felt secure enough. I'd have to agree with many others' comment that it's easier to drive quickly specially on a twisty road than just about any other car so far. I admire Nissan for the GT-R's styling because unlike other Japanese makers (such as Lexus), Nissan built their halo car with unabashedly AUTHENTIC JAPANESE styling. The thing's not trying to look German or Italian. View it in that light, and it's a good-looking beast. Tremendous presence. Would I buy one? I guess not. I've been driving a 996 Turbo nearly daily for five years now, during which time I've driven a number of other fast cars. I've had so much satisfaction from it, it's become a bit like a comfortable old shoe. I feel it's more fun (OK, someone said "fun to drive" might mean you're having to fight the car: there's just a bit of that) than the GT-R on a daily drive basis. Given, on a weekend on a nice twisty road, the GT-R would help me make believe I'm Kimi Raikonen, but I'm talking about driving the car regularly.

  • AZFelix This article does not appear to address non-functional exhaust tip segments attached to the muffler body. When stopped behind certain cars (especially at night), I have noticed that in some cars with dual tips projecting from a single muffler unit, one is fake. The functioning one is dark and sooty while the other has a clean and shiny inside with the solid back panel of the muffler being visible. I have seen this on a Camry and possibly an Accord and BMW if I recall correctly, and am certain these were all OEM exhausts. Feel free to chime in with other confirmed sightings. I also recall reading somewhere that Ford designed an exhaust system where the gasses were vented downwards through a hole proximal to the end of the tail pipe. This prevents discoloration of the metal and soot from building up on the exhaust tips. It was done to address complaints from owners.
  • Ajla Fair enough. He could have used more precision in his words.
  • ToolGuy I AM PLACING [sic] NICELY. There is NO NEED TO BAN ME. Personally I do lots of things which DON'T MAKE SENSE, sometimes to myself, often to others. WHO ELON MUSK ENDORSES is really kind of NONE OF MY BUSINESS. It is a FREE COUNTRY, in some ways, still. I wish I knew how to FORMAT MY COMMENT better. I USED TO KNOW HOW, maybe I am losing it slowly (lot of that going around, JUST SAYING).
  • Aja8888 I can't read those whole thread without throwing up....
  • ToolGuy Maybe I will GIVE IT A LISTEN. Probably when I'm MOWING THE LAWN. Probably with a BATTERY OPERATED MOWER. (There are also batteries IN MY HEADPHONES. And IN MY PHONE.) Does anyone remember how to make a NEW PARAGRAPH?