by Jared Rosenholtz
Japan's premier supercar since late in 2008, the Nissan GT-R has been one of the best luxury sports coupes in the world for over a decade now. With a 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V6 putting out 565 horsepower and 467 lb-ft of torque, the newer revisions have done a good job of holding on to the 'supercar-killer' title. Its age has become a point of contention for many though, as fans believe it is still the ultimate all-round sports car, while detractors point out that it was technically never a 'real' supercar to begin with, and has always driven too much like a video-game. Launched way before turbocharging relatively small engines became the norm in the supercar fraternity, it lacked flair but was ultimately a ridiculously capable machine, becoming the benchmark for drag racing comparisons and lap times alike in most car tests. The 2019 model has now arrived, but is it still a canyon-carving and drag-racing monster that few can get close to?
Because Nissan's engineers made the R35 GT-R so good from launch, very minor tweaks have been required for the GT-R to stay competitive over the years - a stunning feat when you consider that the normal life-cycle of most Ferraris these days rarely exceeds three or four years. With LED lighting upgrades already introduced for the last facelift, this year's version is supposedly just right, and the only change is a $50 increase in price for the mid- and top-level trims.
Keeping industry local, the GT-R is once again equipped with 20-inch lightweight Rays forged alloy wheels. A genuine full dry carbon boot spoiler is one of its distinct attributes, and LED headlights with signature LED daytime running lights let keen observers know that this is a newer model, without altering the GT-R's unmistakable shape. Quad tailpipes, Nissan's V-Motion grille, and a subtle trunk spoiler all add to the sense of occasion, while the four-ring taillights are a hallmark of the GT-R brand.
Packed with technology and a trick drivetrain and transmission, the GT-R has often been accused of being too lardy. Weighing in with a curb weight just 89 lbs shy of 4,000, that's a fair point. It's also not the smallest car in terms of physical dimensions. It's 184.6 inches long, 53.9 inches tall, and 74.6 inches wide, with the wheelbase measuring 109.4 inches. Imposing? Yes. Stealthy? Not in the slightest. Its size does play a part though, giving it a distinct presence on the road that you're unlikely to mistake for anything else in Nissan's lineup.
The GT-R's color choices are narrowed down slightly for this year. Blaze Metallic, a copperish color, has been kicked to the curb along with Super Silver Metallic. On the base model - a strange term to use for a bona fide supercar-slayer - three colors are made available. This Pure model comes in Jet Black, Gun Metallic, and the $1,000 Pearl White Tricoat. Moving up a level to the Premium gives you access to the same colors as well as Solid Red and Deep Blue Pearl, the latter adding a touch of class to the GT-R's brutish looks. Super Silver Quadcoat is also available here, at a whopping $3,000. Finally, the Track Edition is very much a NISMO-influenced model. As such, this variant can be had in trademark Solid Red, Jet Black, or the aforementioned Pearl White only.
Even this far down the line, the GT-R is a blisteringly fast, mind-blowingly capable, acceleration monster. All three trim levels are equally capable speed-demons, which shows that the GT-R's main focus is still providing unreal performance in every situation. It can manage the 0-60 mph sprint in around three seconds flat, quicker than its German rivals, before boosting itself on to a top speed of 195 mph. These figures are thanks to its 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6, which sends 565 hp and 467 lb-ft of torque to its incredible four-wheel-drive system through a snappingly quick dual-clutch automatic transmission. Compared to its rivals from Ingolstadt and Stuttgart, the GTR is bested by the Audi R8's top speed of over 200 mph, cementing the R8's supercar status, while the Porsche 911 Turbo is a little slower than either at 192 mph. All three are equipped with their own version of four-wheel-drive, but the GT-R's is the one that will warp your face and shock your system in the most aggressive way.
As a starting point in the GT-R family, 565 hp and 467 lb-ft are astonishing figures. In fact, they are so impressive that the Track Edition, featuring NISMO goodies, doesn't need any power or torque to be added. The VR38DETT in the GT-R is a twin-turbocharged aluminum V6 engine with a capacity of 3.8 liters. Each and every engine is assembled from start to finish by hand, a hand belonging to only one person at all stages of the assembly process. This kind of attention to detail ensures unreal performance and quality control.
The engineers and designers came up with more than just a special engine when they first imagined the new GT-R; the transmission, a lightning-quick six-speed dual-clutch auto, is housed at the rear of the car. This allows space for thicker, stronger side-shafts. As a result, the calibration of the transmission and engine control units can be more aggressively tuned without fears of reliability issues. Yes, there have been tweaks along the way, but for what is essentially a 12-year-old machine, the speed of the shifts and the ferocity of the launch control system are still right up there with the best. That said, at lower RPM, particularly in traffic, shifts can feel a little clunky.
As alluded to when discussing the transmission, this is a car that prefers hard driving. It used to be seen as a solely digital experience, but with other manufacturers being forced down similar roads since the GT-R's original release, the Nissan now feels a little more like a raw experience than it first did. That's not to say that its stability and traction control systems are not as brilliant as ever - they are, as is its supple suspension - but the spot-welded chassis and overall rigidity of the Track version trade a hint of comfort for better performance. This is somewhat remedied by its various driving modes, which make the GT-R an all-weather weapon and a comfortable cruiser too. The Track Edition, being more focused, has a number of handling upgrades, making this version most happy when being thrashed around a track or up a mountain pass. However, on-the-limit driving, particularly when all-out attack "R" mode is activated, can catch less experienced among us out - although that limit will usually be a lot higher than most drivers' capabilities.
As a daily driver, the benefits of a rear-mounted trans-axle and 100 percent rear-wheel engagement do not detract from the GT-R's user-friendliness. That power split will automatically adjust to as much as a 50/50 split on surfaces with the least traction, while Save mode will smoothen torque delivery for better long-distance cruising or improved traction in the snow. The three driving modes also adjust the suspension dynamics, allowing for a comfy ride when you want it, while quick steering and weight distribution centered on neutrality in corners inspire confidence when you need it.
Although not likely to be the first topic of GT-R conversation, unless your exchange occurs with a highly jealous individual, gas mileage is an important factor; nobody wants to leave for the track with a full tank of gas and arrive there on fumes. Equipped with a 19.5-gallon fuel tank, the 2019 GT-R will average a range of 351 miles per tank of premium unleaded gasoline. This is due to its official figures of 16/22/18 mpg on the city/highway/combined cycles. Although higher economy scores than the naturally-aspirated 5.2-liter Audi R8 manages, it's rival at Porsche does considerably better with 19/24/21 mpg.
Despite being updated numerous times over its extraordinary life-cycle, the GT-R's interior is starting to feel a bit dated. The biggest issue, however, is that with the escalation of the price that comes each year, the interior is far better-looking than the first R35 GT-R - but not quite supercar good. There is still space for four, though, a feature many competitors do not share. Said occupants are surrounded by leather trimmings and the cabin overall is well put together with decent placement of most controls. Heated power seats are available, and the infotainment system features most of the modern add-ons you'd expect. It's all just feeling a little bit old, though, and it lacks the technological flair of Audi's virtual cockpit.
Seating accommodates four, with the two rear seats being very cramped unless occupied by very small children, but the two front occupants have plenty of free space to breathe. Building on this, the visibility all-round is excellent for this segment, and the driving position is good, although adjustability is not perfect. The seats are supportive and firm, but on long trips, they may exact a small toll. The doors open wide, making this easily one of the simplest super sports cars in the world to get in and out of. For such a brilliant driving machine, particularly one originating from the land of the rising sun, there is still an impressive luxury feel, albeit a bit less obvious than in German rivals.
The Pure model comes with black leather and faux-suede trimmed seats and interior accents, while the Premium naturally is more special. Nappa leather is liberally applied in every direction, with the seats, doors, and dash trims swathed in the finest black, tan, or red amber (copper brown) cow-hide. A Premium interior package replaces some of the plastic trims in the Pure model with more leather, fastened by hand-stitching. Continuing with its NISMO theme, the Track Edition is only available with red-accented black leather. All models feature exposed carbon fiber on the center console between the two front seats.
The rear seats in the GT-R don't fold, and due to their size are best utilized as additional storage space. Yet this is viewed as one of the most practical supercars around, due to its reasonable 8.8 cubic feet of trunk storage. Now the Audi R8 has just 0.8 cubic feet less trunk volume, but as with the Porsche, the trunk is in the nose of the car and the front wheels intrude, making the trunk shape awkward and less than user-friendly for anything more than a solitary shopping bag. In the GT-R you can fit a pair of medium-sized suitcases at a stretch, but the liftover height is high, so pack light if your back is not that of a dead-lifter.
Inside the cabin, there are two cupholders in front, one in the back, almost-useless door nets, and a pair of shallow bins - one under the center armrest and one in the glovebox. Sunglasses can be stored overhead.
The GT-R is equipped with the usual array of convenience items, like keyless entry and keyless start. Dual-zone automatic climate control is also fitted, as is a rearview camera. Power-adjustable heated seats featuring a switch on the passenger side for easy access to the rear are available, along with front and rear park distance sensors, which you can monitor via an eight-inch touch display. A stopwatch timer for measuring how quickly you can get around the track is a purposeful nod to the car's capabilities. This is controlled by a switch on the steering wheel to focus your attention when attacking that lap record. Another racecar-inspired feature is a digital display in the dash indicating your current gear and when to change up or down. There's an auto-dimming rearview mirror and cruise control - but in the way of driver assists, there's almost nothing available.
The GT-R's NissanConnect eight-inch infotainment system is unique these days, in that it can be operated by either touch input or switches. Oddly, unless your phone's design was masterminded by Steve Jobs, you may be disappointed. Apple CarPlay features here, but Android Auto does not. Fortunately, there is Bluetooth. SiriusXM, HD Radio and auxiliary input also accompany the voice-activated navigation system. A Bose sound system with two sub-woofers can be had with Premium or Track models, but Nissan also included active noise cancellation and sound enhancement - just in case 11 speakers can't drown out the sound of fanboys asking how fast your car is around the local circuit. The volume is also speed-sensitive.
The 2019 Nissan GT-R, in all three guises, is free of recalls and complaints, as is its almost identical 2018 brother. Should anything go wrong, Nissan's three-year/36,000 mile new vehicle warranty has you covered. The same period and mileage limits apply to their roadside assistance coverage. It is worth noting, however, that there is no coverage in the event of an issue arising from racing, whether on track or not, despite this being a car designed with the racing environment in mind. Unfortunately, the vast majority of manufacturers have a similar disclaimer.
The Nissan GT-R has not been tested by the NHTSA, nor the IIHS. As such, there is no safety/crash rating available.
The GT-R has front and rear park sensors to supplement the integrated rearview camera. It also features six airbags, comprising dual front, dual side, and side curtain systems. No further advanced driver aids or safety features are equipped, which makes traffic incident prevention the sole responsibility of the driver. If you are looking at purchasing this or something similar, you should know that most supercars are devoid of such features, so the R35 is not an exception.
The GT-R remains a worthy opponent for almost anything out there, thanks to its incredibly smart traction and stability control systems with almost unmatched standing acceleration. It is also the most usable supercar out there, thanks to easy cabin access, good visibility, a pair of rear seats and a decent trunk. It's all-wheel-drive system, and electronic wizardry also makes it highly capable in any weather, while flattering the average driver when the time for maximum attack comes.
However, its price climbs each year, contradicting the original ethos of an affordable supercar killer. Although there have been numerous tweaks over the years, improving on a shockingly brilliant base point, other manufacturers have caught up with many of the GT-R's key performance attributes. More importantly at this price point, the GT-R does not look special enough to truly be a supercar, and its age detracts further from the wow factor. If you want a genuinely usable, astonishingly quick supercar, this is still worth a look; but its German rivals are just as good these days, and they'll do a better job of bumping up your Instagram likes.
The Pure is the cheapest model in the lineup, starting at an MSRP of $99,990, the same as last year's model. The Premium starts at $110,540, while the fully-loaded option is the Track Edition, which comes fully equipped from the factory at a sticker price of $128,540. All prices here exclude taxes and the destination charge of $1,695.
The 2019 GT-R's lineup is comprised of three models: Pure, Premium, and Track Edition, all three being powered by the same 565hp 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6 with a dual-clutch automatic gearbox transferring power to the standard all-wheel-drive system. No variations on this format are available - propulsion hardware is identical across the board, and all interiors feature aluminum trims with exposed carbon fiber items scattered about.
The Pure is well-equipped at the base of the family tree, with 20-inch Rays wheels, a rearview camera, dual-zone climate control, an eight-inch infotainment system, heated leather and faux-suede seats, and front and rear park sensors.
The Premium features the same equipment, with hand-stitched semi-aniline leather adorning more of the interior. This is complemented by an 11-speaker Bose sound system, active noise cancellation, and a beautiful titanium active exhaust system.
The Track Edition takes the Premium's features and adds unique NISMO super-lightweight wheels that are half an inch wider, along with increased chassis rigidity, Recaro seats, and numerous NISMO handling upgrades including a stiffer suspension setup. A carbon fiber trunk lid also features with a dry carbon spoiler. This is a baby NISMO - the most serious "normal" GT-R for your money.
The Premium trim offers a $4,280 Premium interior package, equipping higher quality semi-aniline leather front seats and premium leather interior treatments throughout the cabin. The only other package offering listed is available on either the Pure or Premium and is called the All-Weather Package, designed for those who reside in colder climates. It adds a special 50:50 coolant mix and all-season run-flat tires. With the change in tires, you can't spec it on the more performance-focused Track Edition model. This package costs exactly zero dollars over the base cost of your chosen GT-R.
The Pure trim is an entry-level supercar, and at less than $100k, is not a bad way to get into one of the quickest accelerating cars on the planet. The Premium model is intended to add a level of luxury and refinement not present on the Pure. The Track Edition maintains the luxury appointments of the Premium but adds focus, with only a very small sacrifice made in ride comfort.
We'd go all out and get the Track Edition - it features everything the others do but is almost as special as the pricier, more hardcore NISMO, which helps it keep up with its rivals a little better. With no packages available, it's up to you to pick a color, but we'd opt for the no-cost Solid Red.
The GT-R set out to be a supercar beater, and it has done just that. Compared to the super sports car that is the Porsche 911 Turbo, the ol' GT-R accelerates quicker from 0-60 and has a higher top speed. It's also more practical, but arguably less of a looker. The Porsche has a design that hasn't varied much over the decades, but it looks newer and feels more special with its rear-engined layout. The Porsche is also more comfortable, has more torque, is more refined, has more features, and even gets better fuel economy. The Porsche is the sharper tool and is guaranteed to turn heads of both car people and the average Joe, while the GT-R has a more subtle appeal only appreciated by enthusiasts. We'd love to have one in our garage, but we'd probably enjoy the drive in the Porsche more. The GT-R loses here.
When Audi launched the original R8, their public image jumped up a level. Ever since, it has built on its classic supercar MR layout with track specials and even rear-wheel-drive versions. Its looks have evolved, and somehow always manage to appear slightly futuristic while maintaining the DNA of past models. The Audi looks absolutely spectacular, and that Lamborghini-sourced V10 sounds fantastic - far better than the GT-R's acoustics. Thus, the R8 has genuine supercar credentials with its performance and wow factor. However, the GT-R has a better warranty, is supported by almost four times more dealers than the Audi, and has an incredible launch control system while the R8 has none. The R8 also does without dual-zone climate control and is far less practical, but is loaded with more tech including the incredible virtual cockpit. The GT-R handles better too, thanks in part to better weight distribution, and it gets better gas mileage. The R8 looks mega, but the GT-R is just too good on the track, dismissing the R8's supercar status almost too easily.