Vellum Venom: 2012 Nissan GT-R

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
vellum venom 2012 nissan gt r

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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2 of 24 comments
  • John R John R on Jul 12, 2012

    "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 -

  • Speedlaw Speedlaw on Jul 13, 2012

    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.

  • Kcflyer It will be good to see sleepy and Trump back together again. Not since one won the election and the other was made president has such a woeful collection of humanity gotten so much attention,
  • Bullnuke With his choosing sides in the current labor negotiations, the President should cut through all the red tape of the process and, using his executive powers, cause his Secretary of the Department of Labor to order the Big 2.5 to accept whatever is asked by his choice - the UAW. This would save the strike fund money and allow the automakers to restart the assembly lines quickly.
  • THX1136 Maybe Mark Worman/Graveyard Carz will see this, buy the thing and restore it to it's original condition.
  • THX1136 Fain's comments are ridiculous to these ears. "Struggling to get by. . ." - really? The only reason any would be struggling is due to living beyond said individuals means (spending money like the gubment does). Both political entities 'visiting' the situation is one more reason for this baby to vote for neither.
  • Sgeffe 400 horsepower? In a German 2-point-zero-tee?My God, that'll blow sky-high the day after the warranty expires!