by Deiondre van der Merwe
The Nissan GT-R recently celebrated its 50th birthday. In half a century, Nissan leaped from the original GT-R Skyline that launched in 1969, to the R32 and all the way to the R35 that we know and love in 2020. With each digit, the GT-R got better. We saw the R32 dominating the track in '89, the R33 being the first production car to break the eight-minute barrier at the Nurburgring and most enthusiasts can remember the time they had the R34 from Fast and Furious slapped across their bedroom wall. The sixth-generation R35 lives today, and plays host to an outrageous twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 that bashes 565 horses out, no shame in sight. The cult-like following amassed by the GT-R has allowed it to go on with little concern present for the outdated interior, or the fact that it bears an exterior that's similar to when it debuted more than a decade ago. The GT-R undoubtedly dominated the market once, but competitors have caught up. Is the modern GT-R up to the task against the Mercedes-AMG GT or the Porsche 911 Turbo S?
For 2020, Nissan gives us a special 50th Anniversary Package to honor the last 50 years of GT-R, and it comes in three two-tone exterior color combinations. The twin turbochargers have been revised to increase low-rev torque characteristics, and the exterior is made slightly more modern with a revised grille and a new 20-inch RAYS wheel design. The GT-R Track Edition now boasts 600 horsepower, and the sportier version boasts a new carbon fiber roof. Upgraded carbon ceramic Brembo brakes are now optionally available on the Track Edition.
We made mention of the GT-R bearing a near-identical resemblance to the original model that made its first appearance back in 2007, but it's not all bad for the track demon. The design holds up today and is still aggressive enough to intimidate the modern supercar, with sharp vertical multi-LED headlights set on either side of a large V-Motion grille. The side sills are pushed out for improved airflow, and the result is not only functionality, but a fiercely wide stance. The famed circular GT-R taillights greet us once more, and the rear end is further complemented by newly burnished quad-exhaust pipes. The GT-R's wicked good looks are perfectly set off by a set of 20-inch wheels. The Track Edition improves the formula further with Nismo front fenders and a carbon roof.
The brawny looks of the GT-R are aided by its larger size, and it measures a total of 185.4 inches from its nose to its rear end. This makes way for a 109.4-inch wheelbase that is considerably longer than the one found on the Porsche 911 Turbo. Unapologetically broad-shouldered, the GT-R has a maximum width of 74.6 inches, and it stands 53.9 inches from the ground up. The Premium weighs in at 3,933 pounds, and the Track Edition shaves off 15 pounds. Both curb weights are heavier than the Mercedes-AMG GT and the Porsche 911 Turbo.
Nissan makes a host of exterior hues and combinations available for the GT-R, though the exterior color of your GT-R is a complicated affair. Solid Red is the only color option available at no extra cost, and while certain shades don't have a direct extra price, they require certain additional packages to be added. Jet Black Pearl, for instance: this shade requires the Premium Interior Package for it to be accessible, and so does Gun Metallic. A Super Silver Quadcoat is available for an additional $3,000, and a Pearl White Tricoat is available for $1,000. Our personal favorite is the iconic Bayside Blue that once brought the R34 to life, and this exterior shade requires the $8,500 50th Anniversary Package to be added before it becomes available. The legendary color also costs an additional $1,000 and adds a white racing stripe down the middle of the GT-R. Added to the 50th celebration is a combination of Pearl White with red stripes and Super Silver with white stripes. The Track Edition is available in three standard shades, none of which require a package to be added. They are Solid Red, Jet Black Pearl and Pearl White Tricoat.
There's a reason that the GT-R flies under the alias of "Supercar Killer", and that's because of its sheer dedication to speed above all else. The twin-turbocharged V6 churns its manic power to all four corners, and combines its determination with sticky tires. The result? An absolutely ballistic run from 0-60 mph. Nissan claims that the GT-R launches from a standstill to 60 mph in a staggering 2.7 seconds, which means that one-tenth separates it from the Porsche 911 Turbo's 2.6-second run. So, they're equal, what's the big deal? The 911 Turbo costs nearly double the price; in other words, your GT-R will save you just under $100,000 without compromising on the performance boasted by more expensive rivals. It also manages to best similarly priced competitors like the Mercedes-AMG GT that manages a 0-60 mph run in 3.9 seconds. That's a pretty big achievement for the segment, and we're willing to bet that's why enthusiasts are willing to overlook its somewhat archaic characteristics. The GT-R's main goal in life is to deliver excellent handling and vicious speed, and it excels at both, but the Japanese sports car is far from refined.
Each GT-R boasts a hand-built engine beneath its snout, and that's only one of the special things about the twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V6. The new turbochargers allow for a quicker engine response and increased efficiency, so while there aren't a lot of changes to this year's model, the small upgrades are ones that matter. The gritty V6 pushes out 565 horsepower and 467 lb-ft of torque on the Premium, and the Track Edition adds a couple of horses to the stable. The latter boasts a total of 600 horsepower, and it surpasses the Mercedes-AMG GT's more potent offering, the GT R. In black and white, the Porsche 911 Turbo's 640 hp and 590 lb-ft of torque are far superior but, as we've mentioned before, the GT-R does a good job of challenging a car that's nearly double the price and they both get to 60 mph in under three winks. The brutal V6 is mated to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission that can be rather bad-mannered at times. It performs dutifully for the most part, but at lower speeds, a playlist of squeaks and knocks can be heard. That being said, we haven't broken one yet. As a whole, the setup ticks and rumbles in harmony, and one can't bemoan it with real conviction.
The GT-R drips with confidence whether you're on your way to the office or abusing it on a track, and it's extremely persuasive. Everything about it screams power and aggression, so it comes as no surprise that it's tempting to push down on the gas, even when you've got nothing but time. Superb handling cements the larger, more affordable beast amongst the elite - whether you're chucking it into a corner or cruising on a long and open road, the old-school GT-R is married to the tar and it doesn't believe in divorce. The adjustable Bilstein suspension setup is certainly ready for the track, but prepare for an organ-punishing ride when switching out of comfort mode. We'd love a meatier steering wheel, the current one is a little too light for our liking, but steering is sharp and accurate. You'll get a pleasurable amount of road feel through the steering and it's direct enough to motivate you in and out of bends. This car is a diamond in the rough for the traditional enthusiast, and will be the go-to for those who still want to feel like they have full control of what happens next. While it'll still give rivals like the Porsche 911 Turbo a hard time, it'll be harder to motivate if you're after some advanced tech that makes it easier to drive.
These kinds of performance cars are not known for their environmental sympathy, so it's best to prepare for some hefty fuel bills. The Nissan GT-R still manages to be a little more frugal than some of its counterparts, and returns EPA estimated figures of 16/22/18 mpg city/highway/combined. These are on par with the AMG GT's EPA estimated figures. When the 19.5-gallon fuel tank is full, the Nissan will allow for around 350 miles of total range before you'll need to make a stop at the gas station.
The inside of the GT-R is a place where many enthusiasts go to fight. Modern enthusiasts dislike the old infotainment system housed in hard plastic, but old-school fans love that the inside blends track feel with functionality. We must admit, the 50th Anniversary Edition with the blend of Alcantara and red accents, a traditional instrument cluster and no-fuss infotainment incites the track fiend within us. But for a six-figure car on a daily commute, the outdated aspects are a little underwhelming. Still, the inside is mostly swathed in premium leather and velvety materials, and Nissan bestowed the necessary convenience features upon the GT-R, so your love or hate for the cabin will entirely depend on the kind of performance connoisseur you are at heart.
Seating in the GT-R gives you the best of both worlds. You get the sporty, aggressively bolstered seats you'd expect from a car of this character, but they're so well-cushioned and supportive that you won't grimace at the thought of a long trip to the coast. Ample room is offered for front passengers and six-footers will feel right at home, especially thanks to the eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat and the four-way power-adjustable passenger seat. It's a different story for the rear seats, as only small children would be able to find a semblance of comfort back there - but you don't buy a GT-R for its practicality.
While there is some slight evidence of hard plastic here and there, the GT-R is home to mostly top-notch materials. Regardless of model choice, carbon fiber bits encase the middle console and the rest of the cabin is encompassed by black leather, Alcantara is added to the 50th Anniversary Edition. The Premium comes standard with black leather upholstery and synthetic suede inserts. Four additional semi-aniline leather options are available, but they only become accessible when the Premium Interior Package is opted for. These include Kuro Night, Rakuda Night, Red Amber and Hai Grey. The 50th Anniversary Package needs to be opted for along with the Pearl White Tricoat exterior hue for the dark and light grey leather to become accessible. The Track Edition comes exclusively with a black and red leather combination.
If you're shopping within this segment, you're probably already aware that not much trunk space is offered by the cars you're looking at. The GT-R is no different, but it does outshine certain rivals. The Japanese sports car offers 8.8 cubic feet at the rear, which doesn't sound like much, but it can accommodate luggage for two or a set of golf clubs and some grocery shopping. It has almost double the amount of trunk space in the Porsche 911 Turbo, but it's worth remembering that the 911 relies on a frunk for cargo-carrying. Both have rear seats that can double as storage space, seeing as how they aren't exactly comfortable for fully-grown humans. The GT-R falls slightly behind the Mercedes-AMG GT's trunk that measures in at 10.1 cubes. Storage inside the cabin is made available through slim door pockets, a small tray in the center console, and a deep enough storage bin just behind it. A decent glovebox is also offered for sunglasses and important documents that you're hiding from your spouse.
Both GT-R models share the same convenience features, but they fall rather far behind respected rivals like the 911 Turbo and Mercedes-AMG GT in terms of standard-fitted indulgences. Keyless entry grants access to the cabin, and inside, you'll find push-button start, an eight-way power-adjustable driver's seat and heated front seats. Dual-zone climate control joins the list and three-position setup switches control the suspension, transmission and the vehicle stability system. Two 12V outlets are standard. The bare-bones approach to features attests to the GT-R's focus on performance over luxury, and cruise control rounds off the list of features. Even more skeletal is GT-R's standard safety features suite, with only a rearview camera with front and rear park sensors, an airbag system and seatbelts to keep you out of harm's way.
A bone of contention for many, the GT-R's infotainment system is old and set off by analog buttons along each side. The upside to some of the geriatric tech in the GT-R is that it was put together by Polyphony Digital, the minds behind Gran Tourismo. But beyond cool facts to tell your friends, the infotainment is disappointing. An eight-inch screen enables Bluetooth streaming and Apple CarPlay, and at least offers multi-touch control. HD Radio and SiriusXM are standard, and navigation joins the list. Boasting an 11-speaker Bose sound system, you'll have your playlist churned out with perfect clarity.
The 2020 Nissan GT-R hasn't been the victim of any recalls as yet, but the 2019 model was subject to one for a faulty back-up camera not displaying an image. Nissan offers a basic warranty of three years or 36,000 miles, and the corrosion and drivetrain warranty are both valid for five years, but the latter has a limit of 60,000 miles. Roadside assistance is standard for five years or 60,000 miles.
The Nissan GT-R hasn't been crash-tested by the NHTSA or the IIHS, but this is common for cars that carry this price tag.
The GT-R comes with almost none of the features usually offered by Nissan, and driver-assists are made up of a rearview camera and front and rear park sensors. You'll need to really be able to drive to enjoy the GT-R, as it offers no extra ease in terms of tech. A traction control system and hill start assist round the list off. Seat-mounted side-impact airbags are standard for both driver and passenger, side-curtain airbags and a head protection system are standard.
The Nissan GT-R brings years of history forth, and neatly wraps 50 years of excellence in aggressively contoured metal. We've made multiple mentions that this is a love it or hate it performance car, and we love it. When you appreciate it for what it was designed to be, it's near impossible to be disappointed. With a price tag that keeps tens of thousands of dollars in your pocket, the Nissan GT-R matches more expensive rivals with its track prowess and unapologetically brutal attitude. Yes, it has flaws, like the outdated infotainment system and sometimes punishing ride, but it's easy to give it the benefit of the doubt when you consider the V6's ability to churn out 600 horses on the Track Edition, and the excellent handling it offers. It has just enough convenience features to get by, and it does fall behind German rivals in terms of its interior. If you're solely looking for raw performance and thrill, the GT-R wins, but you may have a wandering eye if you value luxury or modern tech.
Two trim levels make up the GT-R range, the Premium and the Track Edition. While the 50th Anniversary bit is marketed as a separate car, the commemorative gesture is actually just an add-on package for the Premium model. The entry into the GT-R lineup has an MSRP of $113,540, and adding the 50th Anniversary Package to the Premium hikes the price up to $124,835. The Track Edition boasts some extra power and unique features, and has a final asking price of $145,540. These prices exclude the $1,795 destination and handling fee.
The 2020 Nissan GT-R range comprises two trim levels, the Premium and Track Edition. Both models employ a twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 engine, but the latter gets 600 horses and the former gets 565 hp. The V6 is coupled with a six-speed dual-clutch transmission and the GT-R comes standard with all-wheel-drive.
Both trim levels sit on a set of 20-inch wheels. The two models share standard convenience features that include keyless entry, push-button start and heated front seats, the driver's seat boasting eight-way power-adjustable functionality. Three-position switches control the transmission and suspension, and dual-zone climate control and cruise control are standard. Infotainment is also the same on both models, and the GT-R is home to an eight-inch infotainment screen that makes way for Bluetooth streaming, Apple CarPlay, SiriusXM and HD Radio. Navigation is also standard. A premium 11-speaker Bose sound system is included on both models. Safety features are simple, and a rearview camera, and front and rear park sensors, traction control, and hill start assist are the only features available.
The Track Edition adds a carbon-fiber roof and standard black and red semi-aniline leather upholstery.
The most notable package available for the GT-R would be the 50th Anniversary Package. This commemorative add-on costs $8,500 and welcomes the addition of unique exterior badging, access to exclusive paint colors like Bayside Blue, unique 20-inch RAYS wheels, embossed and hand-stitched leather upholstery, an Alcantara headliner, and a 50th Anniversary tachometer. Also available is the Premium Interior Package that allows access to the choice between four semi-aniline and hand-stitched leather upholstery options, as well as premium leather interior inserts. This will cost $4,280.
While the Track Edition has its own appeal due to the extra power it offers, we'd opt for the Premium model and add the 50th Anniversary Package. There's something special about owning a brand new R35 that pays homage to the R34's most stunning and iconic hue, Bayside Blue. This package also adds unique badging and wheels, so it's one way to make sure your GT-R stands out. Opting for the Premium and adding the commemorative package amounts to a final asking price of $124,835.
Fundamentally different at their cores, the stark difference of the ethos of these cars goes beyond them coming from very different places. The SRT Hellcat is priced at just over half the MSRP of the GT-R and is an all-American sports car with a different goal. The Hellcat is powered by a monstrous 6.2-liter supercharged V8 that outshines the GTR's performance, but this ultimately results in even more nauseating fuel consumption figures. The GT-R has more premium materials to offer from its interior, but that is to be expected from a car that's nearly double the price. The SRT offers a tail-happy rear-wheel drive system that's harder to control than the AWD-equipped GTR. The better one depends on your budget and preference, but we'd take the GT-R.
Both of these cars come from a long line of Japanese cult classics, both generations 'circa early 2000s went head to head repeatedly, and these two were beloved by young car enthusiasts. While the GT-R has been in steady production, the Supra only recently made an attempt to get back in the game. The Toyota is considerably more affordable and actually boasts a more modern interior, if not as premium. But we're talking about cars that were once the epitome of rivalry, so let's get down to brass tacks. The Supra is home to a much smaller engine that falls way behind the GT-R in terms of power, and the rear-wheel-drive setup in the Supra is not as dependable in wet weather as the all-wheel-drive system in the GT-R. The Supra is also much smaller, which affords it some agility that the GT-R may lose out on. That being said, the Supra is basically a Z4 with a roof, so purists may favor the GT-R by default. The better buy would be the GT-R, all things considered.
Check out some informative Nissan GT-R video reviews below.