- Exceptionally fast in a straight line
- Very easy to drive quickly
- More comfortable than in years past
- Affordable compared to similar high performance cars
- Surprisingly reliable over the long term
- Weight is masked by technology, but still informs the driving experience
- Transmission can feel cranky at low temperatures
- Six figure price for a Nissan badge is a hard sell to some premium shoppers
The 2017 Nissan GT-R is not a supercar that asks you to put down a deposit and wait your turn. It doesn’t require that you be a previous Nissan owner to buy one, or that you be vetted by a team of brand gatekeepers to determine whether you’re worth of GT-R stewardship. You don’t have to accept exotic hybrid technologies to tap into what the GT-R has to offer, nor does it come with an elaborate maintenance schedule and a pair of white gloves that you must wear each and every time you slip behind the wheel. Instead, it simply kicks enormous amounts of ass, and invites you to come along for the ride.
Although no longer the steal it was when first introduced all the way back in the 2009 model year, the six-figure Nissan GT-R still punches well above its weight when compared against the usual suspects on the high performance scene. If you’re shopping numbers alone, for $109,990 the GT-R delivers 60-mph from a standing start in an astonishing 2.9 seconds, on its way to a top speed of 196 miles per hour. How it manages to overachieve in each of these categories is what sets the Nissan GT-R apart from its rivals – few of which, aside from the comparatively inexpensive Chevrolet Corvette Z06, can match its performance without tacking on tens of thousands of dollars to the window sticker.
It starts with a revised-for-2017 3.8-liter V6, which has gained new engine management cribbed from the NISMO warehouse in order to push its twin-turbo grunt to 565 horses and 467 lb-ft of twist. The GT-R’s real parlor trick, however, is its all-wheel drive system, which in combination with its launch control feature enables the car’s neck-snapping acceleration off the line. This sure-footed power delivery is also what makes the coupe frighteningly easy to drive quickly, as a litany of electronic aids are constantly peering over your should to assist you through the corners on the track and round the bends in the road. By shifting power front, rear, and side-to-side, the GT-R keeps you looking like a champ even if your skill level is more Mario Kart than Mario Andretti.
It was with this knowledge of the Nissan’s intricate dance of ones and zeros firmly in mind that I expected the new GT-R’s steering wheel to feel more like a Playstation controller than an actual yoke. I’d heard all the jokes at my local lapping club, where these coupes regularly set FTD amidst chatter about ‘biological interference,’ and had been braced by colleagues to expect a disconnected, and somewhat jarring experience on the way to having my comfort level obliterated by the vehicle’s extreme need for speed.
None of this turned out to be true – well, except the part about being scared out of my wits by the awesome potential of the Nissan GT-R’s cruise missile power plant. With the pedal down and a long, straight stretch of highway in front of you, it feels like you should be have an oxygen mask strapped firmly to your face and one hand on the ejection seat handle as the sound of cubic yards of air being sucked in by the twin underhood snails mimics a jet fighter’s afterburners.
This sensation is of course complemented by a stoplight launch that feels akin to being catapulted from an aircraft carrier, only without the reassuring presence of wings to give lift to your rapidly-approaching take-off speed. Fortunately, a number of changes made to the GT-R’s visage for 2017 – including a larger grille, new front spoiler, and integrated corner vent LED fog lights – work together with revised side skirts and vents at the rear o the car to not only update the Nissan’s looks, but also keep things more stable at higher velocities.
While the Nissan GT-R’s organ-rending forward thrust was no surprise given its specs, I was somewhat taken aback by how connected the car felt through the steering rack. Most heavy, all-wheel drive monster machines sacrifice more than a little road feel when parsing the pavement, but when a chilly evening driving through the mountains of the Eastern Townships of Quebec suddenly turned to a snowy sojourn on slick summer tires, I was never caught out by the Nissan’s predictable and communicative behavior. I could easily sense the inappropriate rubber squirming underneath the car, allowing me to adjust my throttle and steering inputs accordingly, which was much more than I expected from a car that had previously been panned by some critics as numb. The vehicle’s adjustable suspension system also provided a welcome range of stiff-to-soft settings, reducing the punishment on rough pavement while preserving the Nissan’s poise.
In addition to its extra power and revised looks, the Nissan GT-R’s 2017 refresh has been positioned by the company as part of an effort to civilize a beast whose behavior wasn’t always best shared with polite company. While a few clunks remain in the six-speed dual-clutch gearbox on the way to warming up, I’m happy to say that the car has evolved into a livable gateway to speeds that will send your license up in smoke. With an interior that has significantly shrunk down its button quotient while simultaneously upping the quality of its leather, seating, and trim – especially on the Premium model – the GT-R now makes a more legitimate play for luxury dollars while still snagging the attentions of buyers with serious adrenaline addictions.
Sliding in at $50,000 less than a comparable Audi R8, and more than $100,000 below thePorsche 911 Turbo S, it also happens to represent one of those few times when spending a hundred large on a car feels like a bargain – especially since it’s got the goods to beat up on prancing horses and charging bulls almost at will. Best of all? You won’t have to play any bizarre exotic ownership games to park one in your garage.