Test Drive: 2009 Nissan GT R car test drives nissan
2009 Nissan GT-R. Click image to enlarge

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2009 Nissan GT-R

Ottawa, Ontario – There’s not much that hasn’t already been written about the 2009 Nissan GT-R. You’ll find a library of magazine articles, countless web sites and an ongoing online enthusiast discussion of global proportions focused entirely on this car. Fans of the exotic Skyline and its progeny eat, sleep and breathe GT-R, and continue to dissect every aspect of this vehicle in minute detail.

So I guess I won’t be saying anything new, but I’ll try to make it interesting.

The GT-R is a completely stand-alone vehicle not based on any other Nissan platform. It’s designed to introduce a new category of “multi-performance supercar” to the market; one that combines extreme performance in all road conditions with advanced safety, fuel economy and ultra-low emissions.

The kicker is the price, which at $81,900, is well below anything else like it. Unfortunately for those in the market for a GT-R, there are only 150 2009 models available for Canada, and they are sold. If you want a GT-R, place a deposit and wait.

Test Drive: 2009 Nissan GT R car test drives nissan
2009 Nissan GT-R. Click image to enlarge

According to former Nissan race team director and Chief Vehicle Engineer Kazutoshi Mizuno, the GT-R embodies a particularly Japanese approach to creating such a machine, in its styling, technology and driver interface. “It shows the way for all future Nissan cars,” he says. If that’s the case, we can’t wait…

While some might describe the GT-R as a hi-tech Japanese hot rod, a baby Veyron or missile on wheels, I’m going to suggest that it’s actually an IMB: an Instrument of Male Bonding. That may not be the intention (or maybe it is!), but it will definitely be a side effect of GT-R ownership, at least for a while.

My too-short time behind the wheel lasted for something over 48-hours, and during this period I must have met about a hundred men in person (in the 20-30 age group, I’d say), who would appear singly or in pairs or groups as soon as I stopped the car. Additionally, I saw numerous guys in their own vehicles gazing at the Nissan supercar with truly pained expressions of longing on their faces. In contrast, the GT-R seems to be completely invisible to women.

So I spent a lot of my short time with the GT-R talking to guys who knew more about it than me. But that’s okay, because there was something that I knew that they could only imagine, which was what it was like to actually drive “Godzilla.”

Test Drive: 2009 Nissan GT R car test drives nissan
2009 Nissan GT-R. Click image to enlarge

This experience came as something of a surprise, first of all because I don’t think I’ve ever accelerated so quickly on four wheels in 10 years of writing about cars. The reports say 3.3 seconds from 0-100 km/h, and I guess that’s right, but by the time you collect yourself enough to steal a glance at the speedometer when accelerating from a standing start, the needle has flown rapidly by 100, headed for, well, never mind where it’s headed.

In short, the sheer physicality of selecting first gear and standing on the accelerator in a GT-R, especially the first time you do it, is something for which you are simply not prepared.

The car, of course, makes a stated 480 horsepower and 430 lb.-ft torque from its hand-built (by a single engineer) twin-turbo, 3.8-litre V6 engine. Power is put magnificently to the ground through a rear mounted, semi-automatic dual clutch, six-speed transmission (also hand-built) with paddle shifters, and a performance version of Nissan’s ATTESA-ETS all-wheel drive system. There’s a launch control to maximize acceleration, and settings for suspension and stability that modulate intervention by the car’s sophisticated electronic systems, depending on driver preference.

Test Drive: 2009 Nissan GT R car test drives nissan
Test Drive: 2009 Nissan GT R car test drives nissan
2009 Nissan GT-R. Click image to enlarge

Now some people say that Nissan has understated the horsepower of the GT-R; that it’s actually more than 480; but in my experience, auto manufacturers have historically overstated power, and I’m not sure why Nissan would understate it for the GT-R. To give a more impressive-sounding boost between it and the V-Spec version that will follow? Maybe, but maybe also the awesome performance of the GT-R is consistent with its miniscule coefficient of drag (0.27), instant gearshifts and spectacular balance, because even at approximately 1,700 kilograms, this thing handles as impressively as it launches.

To tell you the truth, without a slalom or a track, I was kind of hobbled in the handling department. But basically, the GT-R feels like a race car. Inputs to the steering wheel at speed cause it to leap in the desired direction without unsettling the vehicle at all. It has a stated top speed of over 300 km/h and in my experience, could do this while driving in a tight figure-eight.

There is no shortage of stopping power, either. GT-R uses six-piston Brembo calipers and 15-inch rotors that haul the car down from 100 km/h in something close to 32 metres. I’m very interested to get the official Canadian numbers from the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada’s “TestFest” testing in late October. The Canadian Car of the Year testing will include braking from 100-0 km/h, acceleration from 0-100 km/h and from 80-120 km/h. We’ll post the results at that time, so stay tuned.

Test Drive: 2009 Nissan GT R car test drives nissan
Test Drive: 2009 Nissan GT R car test drives nissan
2009 Nissan GT-R. Click image to enlarge

So yes, it goes, turns and stops beyond levels ever imagined for a street-legal car at this price point. You have to drive a Porsche 911 Turbo at nearly $160,000 to compete.

Inside, as everyone knows, there’s a customizable touch-screen video display designed by Polyphony Digital (makers of the Gran Turismo video game in which the GT-R features). It monitors every performance dimension of the car, including lateral (acceleration and braking) and transverse g-forces, doubles as a navigation display, and manages the audio and climate controls.

The major gauges are dominated by the large tachometer, with a slightly smaller speedometer to its left. The speedometer reads from 0-340 km/h, with 0 located at about five o’clock on the dial, and 160 at nine o’clock. Activate the centrally located digital speed readout if you’re planning acceleration runs (well, anytime really); it’s much easier to read. Digital speed readout is also available in the video display.

The driver’s seat is fully adjustable, supportive and comfortable. The two rear seats are likewise finely crafted and purposeful in appearance, but are suitable only for adults without a head. What the heck… owners of this car will never sit there. Other than the back seats, it’s very civilized in the GT-R cabin. And there’s a trunk of reasonable capacity.

Test Drive: 2009 Nissan GT R car test drives nissan
Test Drive: 2009 Nissan GT R car test drives nissan
2009 Nissan GT-R. Click image to enlarge

On smooth roads the ride is pleasant, but as soon as you encounter undulations, breaks, or other surface imperfections, it is as if the car has no suspension at all; just 20-inch wheels with 40-and 35-series tires, and what feels like axles bolted directly to the chassis. There is a comfort setting for the suspension, and I know I’m just repeating what others have said, but it doesn’t seem to do anything besides activate a light. I believe the light means, “Request noted.” In some situations the ride can be bone jarring.

Likewise, the transmission is not built for smooth operation; it’s built for immediate operation. In this it excels, but in doing so when driving at moderate speeds, it emits a range of clunks, whirrs, clicks and thunks that suggest a robot is at work under the car. This is especially so in automatic mode, unless you carefully modulate your acceleration, and make sure the transmission shifts to first when you stop. If you start in second at a very slow speed, the transmission engages first gear like you’ve been shunted by a bus. Automatic also holds top gear way too long (presumably in the interest of fuel economy), so again, when you ask for acceleration, it’s like you’ve received a swift kick.

Manual mode is the better way to go in the GT-R; shifts are assertive, but at least you know what’s coming.

For the price — $81,900 — there’s nothing else like it. Our test car did feature the Super Silver paint (hand rubbed, no less) for an additional $3,000, and freight is $2,150 for a total of $87,050. But still, you’ll have to look hard to find so complete a performance package at this price.

Test Drive: 2009 Nissan GT R car test drives nissan
2009 Nissan GT-R; photo by Russell Purcell. Click image to enlarge

Because of its performance potential and somewhat challenging driving dynamics, I initially thought this would never be a car you could actually use as a regular driver; for the track or special events, absolutely, but as a grocery-getter or commuter? I didn’t think so. After the driver settles down, however, so does the car. Nissan overstates its docility in the “comfort” suspension setting, and the smoothness of its transmission in automatic mode, but I’m thinking, you know, why not? After all, it’s a hell of a way to get around.

It begs for a Head Up Display, though.

If you want to impress your girlfriend, I don’t think this is the car. If you want to hang with the guys and talk technology forever, the Nissan GT-R is a fascinating vehicle that makes the virtual world real. But most of all, this is a thrilling car to drive, unequalled in performance and price. Owners will be transported to a new driving dimension.

Pricing: 2009 Nissan GT-R

Base price: $81,900

Options: $3,000 (Super Silver paint)
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $2,150
Price as tested: $xxx
Click here for options, dealer invoice prices and factory incentives

Specifications
  • Specifications: 2009 Nissan GT-R

    Related articles on Autos
    First Drives

    2009 Nissan GT-R, by Laurance Yap

    Day-by-Day Reviews

    2009 Nissan GT-R, by James Bergeron

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