The Nissan GT-R arrived on US shores a few short years ago with the obvious intent of doing battle with two of the most iconic sports cars ever made, the Porsche 911 Turbo and the Chevrolet Corvette Z06. While there are some cars (Dodge Viper) that can compete in this segment; many good, even great cars (Acura NSX) have tried and failed. So what does it take for a car to make it in this market segment, and does the GT-R have it?
While the 911 Turbo is faster to 60mph and in the 1/4 mile than either of the other two by a good half second, the GT-R is within a tenth of a second of the Z06's numbers. Skidpad numbers sugest that handling is somewhere between the two competing cars, although the all-wheel-drive on two of the three cars tested make it a difficult comparison. Good interior space, with all of the right touches put the GT-R pretty well in-between the excellent 911 interior and the truly awful mix of cheap plastics and worst-in-class seats that make up the inside of a Corvette.
The GT-R is also amazingly sophisticated. While this is something that could be said of the 911 as well, the GT-R's somewhat ungainly size and weight make it clear that the impressive performance figures are owed to this sophistication. This puts the GT-R's limit of control well above that of the Corvette, and unlike the Porsche, it won't instantly kill you if you overstep it. This would make the GT-R a good pick for someone less talented (or suicidal) than 911 drivers. Unless the danger is part of the fun for you; in which case, good luck.
So, it would seem that the GT-R is pretty well in the middle of the pack, and this isn't a terrible place to be. All a car needs to compete when it's in the middle is an equally middle of the pack price, but this is where the GT-R has an advantage. With a base price more than $4000 below the Z06 and so far below the Turbo's price that you could almost buy two GT-Rs, it does more than just compete, it's clearly ahead. The problem is, in this segment there is so much more than value for money.
Emotion plays a major role in this decision, and more often than not, there is no decision. The car a buyer chooses will be one they've wanted for years, and at least in the US, nobody buying cars now had a GT-R poster on their wall when they were a child. For a newcomer to carve out a niche it has to be somehow unique. The Viper has its V10, as well as the sheer insanity of the thing, but a 3.8 liter twin-turbo six-cylinder and a sophisticated all-wheel-drive system sounds a bit familiar. The GT-R is a fantastic car, and while we're sure it will be around for a long time, it's doubtful that it will ever have the iconic status of the competition.