The Ford Focus in my rearview mirror seems a bit puzzled as to why I’m slowing down all of a sudden and dipping below the posted speed limit. There’s a good reason for my sudden loss of pace: the black hole is approaching and I want to experience the full effect of warp speed, hence the reduction in speed. I flick the left paddle mounted behind the steering wheel and a loud bark exits the exhaust system. We’re ready for blast off in a sleek black spaceship, but before we shoot into the stars, let me set the stage for you.
On a random sunny day in California, I got a phone call from Martin Musial, the head honcho at AMS Performance. He tells me that he’s got the company’s Alpha 9packaged GT-R headed down to Edmunds.com for a driving test, and after they’re done with it there’s a couple days where it will sit idly until the transport picks it up for its voyage back to AMS in Chicago. I hesitate just long enough to appear professional and then calmly state that I could make the time to take care of it for a few days. In my mind, I’m already jumping up and down at a chance to flog a GT-R that’s capable of 060 mph in 2.6 seconds and devours the standing mile in 27.5 seconds at 189 mph! Martin obliges, and just like that, I’ve secured myself the thrill ride of the century.
But like most things in life, when it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. When word gets out to Motor Trend that there’s a 10-second, fully streetable GT-R sitting in our parking lot (we share the same office as the folks at Motor Trend), they want a piece of it and just happen to be heading out to do some standing-mile testing. All of a sudden, my three days of babysitting the GT-R are cut down to one, but I’m not about to let the shortened schedule ruin the fun; 24 hours is still plenty of time to test the warp factor speeds of Alpha 9.
Once the car is finally in my possession, the day’s route is already planned. The first half would consist of some hard driving through Southern California’s many canyon roads, followed by highway jaunts and then wrapping things up with a night cruise through the streets of LA. But before my associate editor, Nate Hassler, and I can hit the road, the GT-R needs a splash of the good stuff: VP Racing 103 unleaded gas. To ensure we get to unleash all 800 hp and 550 ft-lbs of torque out of the big V-6, we need to mix some 103 gas in with the knock-prone 91-octane dino juice we have here in California. This isn’t done out of my greed for peak power but rather out of necessity. The GT-R is tuned for Chicago’s 93-octane pump gas, so running 91 would be cutting it a little too close for comfort. As Martin put it, The car should be OK, but just to be safe, mix some 103 in there and then you can beat on it all you want. And safe I want to be nuking a motor in my own car is one thing, but a big-dollar GT-R engine is in a whole other tax bracket.
From the inside, the Alpha 9 GT-R is as stock as stock gets. The exterior upgrades are almost as restrained the OEM trunk has been ditched in favor of an AMS carbon trunk that weighs 14 lbs less than its metal counterpart. An AMS carbon hood also sheds another 10 lbs, and while I’m not a huge fan of exposed carbon fiber, because this GT-R is black, the overall appearance is clean and subtle. The 19x10 front and 19x10.5 rear Volk RE30 wheels, wrapped in Continental rubber, and the subtle AMS decals are the only other visual cues that there’s something special about this GT-R.
The serious business sits under the hood, though. You can’t really tell just by looking at it, but beneath the black powdercoated intercooler piping are upgraded billet wheel OEM turbochargers with AMS Spec external wastegates that regulate boost to a modest 21 psi. The AMS front-mount intercooler is 30 percent larger than the stock units and subsequently aids in effectively cooling the charge before it enters the combustion chambers, where the stock pistons still reside. In fact, the entire block is stock and unmolested, proving just how strong the Nissan powerplant really is. The fuel system is a different story, where a significant bump in fuel delivery is needed, hence the addition of two Bosch fuel pumps and 1,000cc injectors.
The remaining modifications are all on the exhaust side and include AMS 200-cell count high-flow cats built into 3-inch downpipes. From there, the exhaust gases flow out through an AMS resonated midpipe that’s been mated to an HKS Legamax exhaust, about the only product on the GT-R that AMS didn’t build.
With upgraded turbos and 800 hp on tap, one would expect the GT-R to be a rather uncivilized ride, but the sheer stockness of the driving experience leaves me shaking my head in disbelief. I’m not kidding when I say that outside the louder exhaust note, you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between driving the Alpha 9 GT-R and a completely stock one.
That is until you step on the gas pedal and experience what can be only described as ballistic acceleration the Alpha 9 slams you back into the seat like no other vehicle I have ever experienced. It hit so hard and fast that before I even have a chance to reach for the paddle shifter, the engine is feverishly bouncing off the rev limiter. You have to anticipate shifts and react a split second sooner to ensure a clean transition to the next gear. No matter how fast your fingers are, when you see that needle dip past 7000 rpm and haven’t tapped the paddle shifter, you’re too late. Get it right, though, and the GT-R keeps surging forward into triple-digit speeds before you can even check the speedometer. Words really cannot describe the violent forward thrust the Alpha 9 produces. It’s mind-boggling that all this power can be unleashed so quickly and smoothly.
And that’s what makes this GT-R so unbelievable there’s no hint of turbo lag. The power is always there when you need it, and when you don’t, it behaves like a sedate commuter car, happily obliging during stop-and-go traffic. Even the JRZ RS Pro coilovers are compliant enough on city streets to provide, dare I say, a comfortable ride.
Trying to push this GT-R anywhere near its astronomical limits without being on a racetrack is nerve-racking business. Staring at steep and abrupt drop-offs on the canyon roads when we stopped to snap some photos put my ego in check. Even though the GT-R has one of the best computer-controlled suspension and AWD systems on the planet, you can’t escape physics. When you’re strapped to a 3,800-lb missile and you’re blasting toward a hairpin corner, I don’t care how good the brakes are, if you squeeze the gas pedal an instant too long, assume the crash position. The 800 hp is just too much power for these tight and twisty roads it was time for some open-road hoonage.
That brings me back to my black hole, a tunnel on the Pacific Coast Highway. If you’re anything like me, when a tunnel comes along, you know what to do. Slowing the GT-R down, I shifted it into second gear, held it at 3500 rpm for a second and then dropped the hammer. The GT-R surged forward as all four Continental tires struggled to maintain traction. The HKS exhaust exploded into a furious symphony that would have made Beethoven and Kurt Cobain green with envy. I tipped into third gear and the cacophony of exhaust gases reverberated off the tunnel walls, producing a crack so loud that it startled me. But I kept my foot in it, the sounds entering the cabin were so heavenly that it was impossible to lift. Exiting the tunnel, I pressed firmly on the binders, bringing the GT-R back from warp speed. I looked over at Nate and we both burst into uncontrollable laughter. It was the kind of laugh you have as a kid when something truly amazing happens say, sticking the landing on an accidental backflip off the jungle gym but for these two overgrown children it was the Alpha 9 GT-R that provided the ultimate moment of wonder and bliss.
As we wrapped up our road trip with a late-night cruise down Sunset Blvd. and a stop at Pink’s Famous Hot Dogs, I couldn’t help but crunch the numbers. It’s $85,000 for a new ’11 GT-R, plus $22,000 for the AMS Alpha 9 package, another $6,300 for installation and you’re looking at a cool $113,300. Hardly chump change, but that figure is actually a serious bargain when you consider Motor Trend’s test figures, where it kept up with a $2,000,000 Bugatti Veyron to 130 mph and toasts about any other supercar on the market Ferrari, Lambo, ZR-1, 911, you name it and the Alpha 9 will stomp it out with remarkably civility.
Commercial space travel is still years (if not decades) away, but experiencing rocket shiplike acceleration is already here, and it comes in the form of the AMS Alpha 9 GT-R. Book your flight today.
Specs & Details
'09 Nissan GT-R
Engine 3.8-liter turbocharged VR38DETT V-6
Engine Modifications AMS upgraded billet wheel ball bearing turbochargers, upgraded fuel system, larger turbo inlet pipes, custom-calibrated MAF sensors, 76mm intercooler piping w/ HKS blow-off valves, high-flow intake piping w/ K&N air filters, 90 mm stainless steel 200-cell catalytic converter & downpipes, 90mm resonated midpipe/Y-pipe, HKS Legamax stainless steel exhaust
Engine Management COBB AccessPORT tuning system w/ custom AMS calibrated map
Wheels, Tires & Brakes Volk Racing RE30 19x10" (f) & 19x10.5" (r) wheels; Continental ContisportContact 3s 285/35ZR-19 (f/r)
If you’re interested in cold hard facts and numbers, then log onto Motor Trend’s website at motortrend.com, where they test the AMS GT-R in every aspect of performance.