By on July 11, 2012

Circa 1998, I was mentally ready to move from the (lower-middle class) suburbs of Houston to the College for Creative Studies’ (CCS) dorm in the heart of Metro Detroit. Oddly my big surprise came not from Detroit itself, but from the dorm’s many Sony PlayStations…and something called “Gran Turismo”.  I knew about the Nissan GT-R, but I was like every other kid playing this amazing game: absolutely blown away by the GT-R’s prowess.

That said, I raced all CCS’ contenders in “arcade mode,” in the big block ’67 Corvette.  With the most power and the easiest to rotate chassis, I wasted most of my Japanese car loving dorm mates. The GT-R was/is rarely my weapon of choice in Gran Turismo. Which kinda explains my general apathy to the GT-R in the flesh.


Swing open that barn door of a grille so we can start dancing! Yee-haw!

The Nissan GT-R has always been a charmingly dumpy 2-door sedan with very little sexiness seen from a proper 2-door coupe. Which makes sense for your average 5.0 Foxbody Notchback or even a Buick Grand National fanatic, but the GT-R turns just as good as it goes: think 911 and Corvette, instead.  But what’s presented is an overwraught sedan, wearing many of the same design cues of the “bad years” of the Mitsubishi Eclipse.

Don’t buy what I’m selling?  I can dig it.  But peep those fluted things around the fog (running?) lights and that gaping maw, both elements in the past decade of Eclipse design language.  And while GT-R looks far, FAR better on proportion and dimensions…I can’t say this design is especially pleasing to the eye. The grille is harsh, the hood (scoops) looks aftermarket, and the headlights are oversized but very static and linear.

It’s brutal and inexcusable…in a good way. I mean, this isn’t an Altima coupe.


Close up to prove my point: is this a NACA duct readily available at Summit Racing?  This certainly is not, but I find the design uninspiring for such an expensive car.


Next close up: this barn shaped cooling-grille-bumper thing is pretty imposing and impressive, but the treatment is just too close for comfort next to the Mitsubishi Eclipse SE. At least the GT-R’s design language hasn’t trickled down to lower Nissans, ruining the mystique. So wait…am I mad at Nissan or Mitsubishi?


Final close up: this tall bumper is ribbed for nobody’s pleasure.  An overabundance of real estate is a big problem for the GT-R. Could be worse, it could be a black plastic insert like the Cadillac CTS-V coupe, I guess.


Iconic emblem FTW.  Not sure if I can say the same about the textured black plastic below. I wish this car looked more expensive!


Okay, I take back my comment about the headlight.  I like the blocky wedge feel, I just wish it was attached to a more organic and less jarring front fascia.


Normally a fender this voluptuous and a hood so bulge-y should tug at the heartstrings, but this design is more like an unfinished lump of clay in the design studio!  Even worse, the GT-R has a wonderful fender that meets up to the A-pillar so elegantly, but I can’t enjoy such economy of cut lines because of the body underneath!


More photo support of the elegant fender-to-A-pillar meeting.  This odd lump on the black plastic triangle probably exists for some aerodynamic purpose, but I can’t shake the feeling it is unnecessary in a better designed vehicle. Does a 911 have this? Or a (gasp!) Corvette?


Fake fender vents are silly on most cars, but this one piece casting is just shameful on a car of this (Dodge?) caliber. I will dance in the streets when designers give up on this idiotic styling trend. I promise.


This greenhouse is rather stunning.  I love the “floating” A-pillar treatment, and how the glass elegantly slopes down as it flows to the trunk. This is one element of the GT-R that I hope will live for years to come, it’s both unique and beautiful.


I couldn’t get a complete side shot in the dealership, so here’s a stock photo.  You can see the unique greenhouse gives the GT-R a commanding presence, but it also accentuates how tall, blocky and cubby this body truly is. If I could take 2″ out of the middle via some sort of automotive Bariatric procedure, I’d be a happy man. This lighter, leaner GT-R would look better from every angle.


And here’s my shot instead.  Natural light helps break up the otherwise slab sided look, especially where the fake vent flows into the front fender’s wheel flare. Also note the helpful hard bend at both wheel wells, and the soft and gentle shadow under the C-pillar, implying a gentle curve to soften the package. Helpful!


Cool door handles almost seem mandatory for a vehicle that became a stateside sensation via PlayStation. This does not disappoint.


Remember those shadows and soft curves previously mentioned?  Yes, they do work. This looks muscular and taut, especially since you can’t judge the GT-R’s height from this angle. There’s nice tumblehome to the cabin, big and broad shoulders, and glass that looks like a racing helmet. Cool!


Note the hard bend (finger pointing) in the C-pillar’s sheet metal. WTF SON: shall we also paint eyebrows on the Mona Lisa?  This bend absolutely ruins a pretty little pillar.


Corvette much? The GT-R’s butt-cap is somewhat appealing, with the strong “square” tone of the marker light mimicking the rear bumper’s harsh cut.  And the round lights don’t look boring (à la Corvette) because of such squareness below, with a hint of round up top.  But that wing looks like a rooftop mounted luggage carrier: adding even more bulk to a tall and fat design.


This Nissan coupe’s back-end would look infinitely better (get it?) if the package sat 1-2″ lower with smaller tail lights. This bumper is just massive, the license plate is absolutely lost in the design!

And I thought the C5 and C6 vettes were worthy of a Sir Mix-A-Lot song. Adding insult to injury is the gentle bend created by drawing a line at the base of the tail lights: making the GT-R’s middle sag like the gut of a stereotypical Gran Turismo couch potato. Bariatric doctors need apply right here!


Zooming in and standing up definitely helps.  The GT-R could be a lean and mean design from here. I am still not in love with the off-center GT-R emblem: this makes the GT-R look like a trim level for some other 2-door vehicle.

Sort of a Super Bee to Dodge Coronet…if such a “Nissan” Coronet existed.


The trunk’s cut line intersects with the tail light in a very unpleasant way. Either the deck lid or the light is trespassing on the GT-R’s massive hindquarters.  Which one needs to retreat?


Much like the ribbed things in the front, this negative area reduces visual bulk and adds some excitement to a big-ass butt.  It is a necessary evil that does help this design.


These tailpipes are huge!  But you really can’t tell until they are isolated from the rear bumper.  The bit of carbon fiber diffusing to the right of the pipes is pretty tasty, too.  If only the entire body was as trim and toned as the lines and curves presented here…then we’d have a proper sports/super car.

Then again, Godzilla himself needed to lose a ton of weight from his midsection too.  So maybe this is no big deal at all. Thanks for reading, have a wonderful week.

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24 Comments on “Vellum Venom: 2012 Nissan GT-R...”

  • avatar

    Great analysis. Why is that makers almost always don’t have that attention to detail you always talk about? Is it to save a few nickles?

    You’re absolutely right about the wing. Just very bad execution.

    Nonetheless…Would love to have one of these. As my 5th or 6th car. Someday…

    • 0 avatar
      word is bond

      Yeah – that wing is visual misstep. I actually searched for a few shots without the wing, and stumbled on some forum controversy. Aparrently having a GT-R sans wing is for “gheys.” Sigh.

      • 0 avatar

        > Yeah – that wing is visual misstep

        This wing has to work.

        I once heard, maybe even here, that some car (Ford?) with factory aero kit has been proven to perform worse in terms of grip than the one witout it. Reason? Aero kits either look or work and customers prefer the former. GT-R engineers opted for the latter, apparently.

        Suggestions that GT-R borrows the rear end design from Corvettes are unfounded. They have had this cue since 70ties:

        Complaints about this car beeing “too fat” and “too much car” are even more unfounded. GT-R is:
        – a supercar (= wide)
        – a four passanger car with a large boot
        It is not possible to meet these requirements and make the car lean at the same time.

        Last but not least, complaints about its pricing are off completely. Anyone ever heard about inflation? Corvette Z06 with its stone age technology starts at 75k, ZR1 being 110k. BMW 3er AWD with half the power starts at 40k. It’s 2012, not 1998.

        I agree about the simplistic grille finish and “worse than aftermarket” front LEDs, though.

  • avatar

    But it’s stupid fast, relatively cheap, and somewhat rare. That’s its appeal (for those who lust after it).

    • 0 avatar

      Right now, the dealer that moves the most of these in Denver has a list of $102k. Yes, I know that’s significantly cheaper than a new Ferrari or Lambo or even a 911 Turbo. But “relative” is a relative term, and they aren’t even that rare anymore. The first one was nifty, and I still enjoy seeing one pass me on the highway, but they are way more common now. Not camcord common, but nowhere near justifying the exclusive pricing.

    • 0 avatar

      It didnt have to be so damn ugly though. Previous GTRs were a little overwrought and cheesy, but this thing is about as graceful as a female linebacker. And its def got some funky unnecessary details. It suffers from the “10-20% too much car” syndrome plaguing a lot of designs today.

  • avatar

    I’m a big fan of the style. I wouldn’t call it beautiful (like a Ferrari is) but its distinctive, bold, intimidating, sinister looking (especially in a darker color), head turning, and immediately recognizable and not to be confused with anything else. The “Godzilla” moniker seems to fit the car perfectly. I caught a glimpse of an LF-A on the street and it didn’t catch my attention nearly like an GT-R does. I still miss the Skyline name though.

    • 0 avatar

      I respectfully disagree. I love the GTR, but it looks like a customized 350Z or G35 coupe. I get that Nissan wanted to do this shape, the whole mechanical look, etc, but it really isn’t “distinctive”. I notice them whenever I see them, but my wife and my non-car-guy friends don’t take a second glance at it.

      Now an LFA? Cmon, it is a shocking sight, everyone takes notice when they see one, asking what it is, etc.

      But you are right about the Skyline name, they should have kept that!

  • avatar

    Your top hood/fender shot is worthy of a “mystery car” segment on Hooniverse. I may have guessed Juke-R before GT-R.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    The drivetrain is what everyone buys this car for. I don’t know how they manage to look at the body every day and keep their breakfast intact. The body is just an incoherent mess. Would have been better off with a G37 shell.

    Somewhere on the internets, there is a picture showing an R32 GT-R parked next to one of these. The comparison is pretty much ’50s Elvis to ’70s Elvis.

  • avatar

    One, this car looks much, much better in darker colours, and altogether much better in black. It’d also suit the matte/primer-gray that you can get the Scion tC in (which also sports this look, albeit I think a little bit better)

    Two, I do wish Nissan had just not bothered with styling gimmicks, or at least kept them to a minimum, save for a few gonzo touches (a la the ~2000 WRX) This isn’t supposed to be a Ferrari, or even a workingman’s supercar like the Corvette: it’s supposed to be a ann-business streetfighter. If the trust-fund kids that buy them want to dress them up, let them foot the bill, thanks.

    It would be a nicer car if it were, well, more obliquely ugly.

  • avatar

    The Skyline has been a sort of boring car to look at for a long time. Whenever I’d see an R32 Skyline at a car meet, at first I’d think it was a 240, or a Maxima. Something bland and Nissan. The R33 and R34 repeated this. Same with this current GTR. I assume it’s a loaded Maxima from a distance. It’s not until I see the Impala taillights that I go “Oh, GTR.”

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure how you can confuse it with a Maxima from the distance. They look nothing a like. If you’re going to go with the Nissan/Infiniti family, it’d be easier to confuse with an altima coupe or G35/37.

  • avatar

    Strange, I actually like the styling of the 370 zapper (or the Japanese Cayman as we call it) a bit better. Neither will be confused for a “supercar” however.

  • avatar

    That line in the C-pillar is supposedly there for aero reason…from Nissan’s own press release:

    “Four-passenger cabin with sloping “aero blade canopy” roofline and curved C-pillar “sword edge,” which facilitate air flow around the rear of the vehicle”

    As with any thing aero, sharp edges usually is more powerful to direct flow…

    GTRs has never been pretty cars anyway…they are a really fast version of a much more mundane car they are usually based on…the R35 just pushed that “really fast” part really far….

  • avatar

    Anyone have an idea how many of these sell annually in the U.S.? I’ve seen one in the last three years and it was on the Baltimore beltway on a slushy, winter day.

  • avatar
    word is bond

    I actually kind of appreciate, how chunky this vehicle is. It reflects how it beats the laws of physics into the ground.
    The A-pillar C-pillar, DLO treatment is glorious.

  • avatar

    I think the car is a styling master-peice.

    I understand the criticism, I just dont agree.

    It is meant to come across as robotic (man made) versus organic (of natural origins). This is the design ethos I see when I look at this car.

    I think there isnt a misplaced line on the car. It carries out its mission design wise to perfection.

    When I see one of these lowered slightly, with the stock wheels gently pushed out to the corners, I cant stop staring. It looks so chunky, so stout, so maniacal.

  • avatar

    This review is very entertaining BUT, the design opinions expressed are purely subjective. I agree 110% with suspekt that this car is a masterpiece. It is executed perfectly to fulfill its mission as being the biggest bad ass Japanese monster on the road. Its unique, bold, and looks like it will kill you if you look at it the wrong way. Its cools and defies physics with its unique performance. The C-pillar break line add special character and interest…aren`t we all tired to see so many car look the same these days? This car is not supposed to look pretty, its supposed to look mean. Buy a Porsche if you want pretty. I am sure the Nissan design team spent years to fine tune this design…i see no mistakes. Even the A-pillar aero piece doesn`t bother me because I feel that Nissan design the body to look the way they wanted it to be and then add `functional` aero parts to enhance its performance. All designs are differently shaped and may need different solutions to enhance aerodynamics.

    This car will be not a beauty, but a memorable classic…in a dinosaur kind of way (Godzilla).

  • avatar
    John R

    “That said, I raced all CCS’ contenders in “arcade mode,” in the big block ’67 Corvette. With the most power and the easiest to rotate chassis, I wasted most of my Japanese car loving dorm mates.”

    What? They were playing with their feet?

    Anyway, I have to make you aware of at least one thing. The most recently refreshed Eclipse you’ve linked to actually made its appearance after the R35 GT-R debuted.

    This is the Eclipse as it was when the GT-R first appeared –

  • avatar

    Not to pick on your analysis of the design, but….

    I’ve never driven the virtual version, only the metallic one…..

    After about five minutes of seat time, you don’t care how it looks.
    After a half hour, you realize that the car has more power/brakes/handling than the road can provide.
    After an hour, you realize that you DON’T want to use this as a daily driver-it rides like a fully kitted Rally Car.

    After two hours, your face hurts from smiling, and the adrenal buzz is massive. Godzilla is an apt nickname.

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