Let's kick things off by making a statement that will surely send shockwaves throughout the tuning community: The Skyline was never that great of a car. Before you get your panties in a bunch, notice that we didn't say "GT-R." We're not that dumb; we know that the Skyline GT-R has always been a fantastic machine. But the truth is, at its core, the Skyline is just a regular old under-powered family-hauler. civics have more horsepower than most non-turbo Skylines and, to be honest, seeing a non GT-R (or even GTS-t)-spec Skyline for the first time is actually pretty disappointing-it certainly killed any and all excitement we once had for the "Skyline" name. While we do know and recognize the fact that the GT-Rs of old underwent a major rework before being blessed with that coveted GT-R badge, the fact that they shared the same basic chassis with these lower-rung cars kept them from being all that they could be.
The new GT-R changes all of that. No longer burdened with the task of trying to make a supercar from a family sedan, Nissan engineers were able to create a real supercar from the ground up, and you can see this supercar's pedigree in just about every aspect of the car's construction.
Like this car's weight, for example. Nissan worked hard not only to keep this car as light as possible, but also to find creative ways to optimally distribute said poundage. Photos can't convey just how big or how pretty this car is. It looks like it was chiseled out of a solid chunk of steel-especially when sprayed in GT-R-exclusive Bright Silver paint. it looks somewhat awkward and portly in photos, and it's certainly bigger than just about anything rolling on Japanese roads, but the GT-R is actually pretty light for its size. Nissan used liberal amounts of aluminum all over the car, and many pieces, such as the doors, can be picked up with just a finger or two.
Nissan also shunned the tried-and-true method of bolting the transmission right to the engine. instead, it kept the hand-built engine up front and stuffed the paddle-shifted six-speed dual clutch transmission in the rear, connecting the two components with a carbon composite driveshaft. Carbon composite driveshafts are used once again to transfer this horsepower and torque to all four of the GT-R's wheels. Nissan says that by moving this tranny to the rear, the GT-R not only has optimal weight distribution, but any delay in responsiveness -caused by weight shifting from the front of the car to the rear-has been minimized.
About that engine: The new GT-R ditches the legendary RB26 for an all new twin turbo V6 that spits out 480 ps and 433 lb-ft of torque. An elite team of engine builders is used to construct the twin-turbo V6, and each technician works solo to hand-build and test just one engine at a time. it's a long process, to be sure, but this careful attention to detail ensures that each and every GT-R delivers the earthshattering performance its owners will demand of it. This car's 7:38 Nrburgring lap time is already the stuff of legend, but those of us that haven't been to the Green hell really can't appreciate just how fast that is. however, we can all understand and respect the GT-R's reported 3.5-second sprint to 60 and 192 mph top speed.
Unfortunately, we didn't get to experience that power at first. We were too busy white-knuckling the fatbottomed car around the narrow streets of Sendai, fighting every instinct we had to put this car on the right side of the road. We also learned that Japanese mountain roads have no shoulders, so we dropped the left wheels more than once when we had to swerve to avoid the onslaught of even wider construction trucks heading in the opposite direction. No matter. These construction trucks obviously meant that we'd be hitting spots of road work, which also meant that the new GT-R would be stationary for lengthy periods of time.
We used this downtime to get further acquainted with the GT-R's cockpit. We love the seats; they're comfortable, easily adjustable and are just snug enough to keep us locked in place. it's just too bad that the American version of the car will get wider buckets... The rest of the cabin is nice, but it feels too much like a regular Nissan. Sure, the Bose stereo sounds great, and there sure are a lot of cool buttons to play with. But this is a $70Kplus car, so we'd like to see a little more infiniti and a little less Z. Oh well, at least the paddle shifters are mounted in the proper place, by which we mean the steering column.
When traffic opened up, we started to play with the suspension settings a bit. "comfort" mode, much to our surprise, was actually very comfortable -smooth, even. Even switching the bespoke electronic Bilstein dampers to their firmer settings, the GT-R kept body roll in check without delivering a ride that was punishing in any way. Once we got to the freeway the GT-R felt even better. This car's acceleration must be experienced to be believed; it's blindingly quick, yet it gets up to and maintains speed with absolutely no drama. It's very easy to break 100 mph in the GT-R; the car is so refined, quiet and planted that you'll be approaching speeds of 150 mph before you know it. Luckily for lead foots like us, the GT-R's massive Brembo binders slow the car down quickly and efficiently.
As good as the GT-R is on the streets, it's even better on the track. After our romp on the freeway, Nissan let us drive the car around Sendai hi-Land Raceway, which turned out to be one of the more challenging tracks we've ever been on. in any other car, we likely would have run off the track and slammed right into a wall. Not the GT-R; mash the throttle and the car just goes. Turn the wheel and the car goes exactly where you point it-even if you mess up your turn-in and braking points. Brake mid-corner and the car continues to hold the line... it's really hard to upset the balance of this thing. Switching the suspension and traction aids to the "sports" or "off" modes allows one to enjoy some tail-out fun in the car. But even with the driver aids switched off, the car stays planted like a slot car. The GT-R is scary good.
Out of all the cars we've driven-and we've driven some exotic metal in our day-the GT-R is not only the easiest car to drive at speed, but the most confidence-inspiring as well. Some people may balk at the thought of paying $70,000 for a Nissan, but the GT-R delivers one of the best performance values for the buck. The extensive use of electronic controls may limit the new GT-R's ability to be tuned, but it nonetheless remains a true performance icon, and it should remain an icon in our scene. We're gonna go sell our livers so that we can buy one when it hits U.S. shores this summer.
Behind The Scenes:Nissan's GT-R FactoriesPrior to our spin in the new GT-R, Nissan invited all of us journalisttypes out to two of its main factories to see exactly how the GT-R is made. Our first stop on the GT-R tour was the Nissan Yokohama Plant. Sitting on 572,000 square meters of land, this plant is chock-full of weathered, sea-blasted, corrugated siding buildings that play home to singing robots, stamping facilities and the clean room in which the GT-R engine is built.
The process was interesting to watch, but sadly we weren't allowed in the GT-R engine clean room. We were too dirty. honest. Nissan didn't want any outside contaminants to get into the GT-R engines being built, so we had to watch the whole engine-making process from a room adjacent to the clean room. it's hard to shoot a white, sterile room through glass, but we did our best to capture the few GT-R engines we saw in various stages of build.
The production lines for the massive GT-R brake systems and new twin-clutch gearboxes are right outside the clean room, and we were allowed to do all but touch these parts. Actually, we did touch them just so that we could say we did. Hopefully that GT-R owner won't be too upset about having our greasy fingerprint on his transmission...After about an hour or so, we left the Yokohama plant so that we could endure the three-Try hour bus ride to Nissan's Tokachi plant. This sprawling campus oversees the final assembly for most of Nissan's larger cars. All your infinitis, Skylines and such are assembled here, as is the new GT-R.
We must have timed things just right, 'cause as soon as we entered the main manufacturing plant, we saw this silver GT-R begin its final assembly process. This car traveled up and down the assembly line, receiving its engine, suspension and interior bits from numerous parts of this one building. Elsewhere on the line, various GT-Rs and infinitis were undergoing quality checks to ensure that their engines worked properly and that the body work was clean and straight. Once given the OK in the plant, Nissan test drivers run the cars on the test course to ensure proper bedding for the brakes and such. And after that? The car gets shipped to a dealer near you and waits patiently for you to buy it.
That New Car Smell
'09 Nissan GT-R
Under The Hood 3.8L twin turbo Dohc V6 VR38DETT
The Power 480 hp @ 6400rpm, 430 lb-ft torque from 3200-5200 rpm
Scale Tipping 3,836 lbs
Layout Front engine, rear-wheel drive
Gearbox GR6 six-speed dual clutch auto
Stiff Stuff Bilstein DampTronic system
Rollers 20-inch forged aluminum wheels
Stoppers Radial-mount Brembo mono block six-piston (F) and four-piston (R) calipers with full-floating 15 inch, 2-piece, cross-drilled rotors and lowsteel high stiffness brake pads
The Pack corvette Z06, Porsche 911
Deep Thoughts Not only is the GT-R finally coming to America; we get the best one yet, too. This car isn't really tunable, but why mess with perfection?