Test Drive: 2013 Nissan GT R car test drives reviews nissan
2013 Nissan GT-R. Click image to enlarge
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Manufacturer’s website
Nissan Canada

Originally published on September 6, 2012

Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

Photo Gallery:
2013 Nissan GT-R

The sixth-generation Nissan GT-R, affectionately (or otherwise) known as Godzilla, has been with us for five years now. Rare as chicken lips and very elusive, this enigmatic bruiser has made precious few appearances in the Nissan press fleet. So when I was offered the keys to this “Hakone White” 2013 Nissan GT-R Premium for a few days, I jumped at the opportunity.

Silly me booked some track time at Mosport, but I should have guessed the car would come with a waiver forbidding any track activities. Those 20-inch Dunlops are expensive.

So the one thing Godzilla was designed for, I didn’t get to do.

Test Drive: 2013 Nissan GT R car test drives reviews nissan
2013 Nissan GT-R. Click image to enlarge

But I can say this. Despite Nissan’s continuing efforts to make the GT-R more civilized, its black reptilian soul and unblinking focus continue to make it one of the most fearsome and uncompromised street legal conveyances money can buy.

And with a base price of $103,980, this 545-hp all-wheel-drive missile is an absolute performance bargain when looking at the likes of the 530-hp Porsche 911 Turbo S ($183,400) and 525-hp Audi R8 5.2 ($173,000).

Unlike those two Germans, which blend civility, luxury, and design chic with outstanding performance, the GT-R is a hardcore brute—its concessions to civility are merely patronizing. Yes, the cabin is trimmed in soft leather and the faux-suede-faced sport seats are terrific, but there’s nothing here to suggest that when Nissan fashioned this supercar they were thinking of enduring style or sweating the NVH (noise, vibration, and harshness) details.

As a friend put it, “It’s not so much pretty as really, really scary.”

The hand-crafted 3.8L direct-injection twin-turbo V6 sings a sonorous song when on the boil, but the clever rear transaxle that houses a six-speed twin-clutch gearbox, mechanical limited-slip differential and all-wheel-drive transfer case clunks and rattles in the most alarming fashion. Seriously, if my car made those kinds of noises, I’d be reading it its last rites.

Test Drive: 2013 Nissan GT R car test drives reviews nissan
2013 Nissan GT-R. Click image to enlarge

But by gawd, attack your first on-ramp in this thing and you get a glimpse of the GT-R’s astounding potential. A few seconds of warp speed acceleration, laser-like path control and limpet-like grip from the sticky Dunlop Sports Max GT (255/40ZRF20 front, 285/35ZRF20 rear) reinforce that fact that Godzilla is a true 10/10ths car.

Another clue is the central LCD screen with its customizable array of virtual gauges showing everything from lateral g-forces to transmission oil temperature to turbo boost pressure to front/rear torque split. Front and centre is a large analogue tachometer. It’s all business in here.

Three setup switches below the screen toggle the Bilstein adaptive dampers, transmission mapping, and stability control between Normal, Special, and super aggressive “R” settings. On the latter setting, you can break the rear tires loose in progressively hairy oversteer—space and nuts permitting.

Like the Porsche Turbo S, the GT-R is user friendly and makes driving insanely fast all too easy.

Test Drive: 2013 Nissan GT R car test drives reviews nissan
Test Drive: 2013 Nissan GT R car test drives reviews nissan
Test Drive: 2013 Nissan GT R car test drives reviews nissan
2013 Nissan GT-R. Click image to enlarge

Last year the Nissan GT-R saw a major revision that bestowed increased downforce, smoother shifting, and a more compliant ride. “Compliant” is a relative term here—the car is tolerable on public roads in the softest setting. On startup it defaults to a middle setup that has this 1,737-kg 2+2 bucking like a cinched bronco over moderately rough surfaces.

For 2013, power creeps up 15 ponies to 545 hp, and torque rises from 448 lb-ft to 463 lb-ft (on tap from 3,200–5,800 rpm). All this urge is delivered in an escalating and seamless rush. It’s one helluva powerplant.

Other than the unnerving graunching sounds at low speeds, the transmission is brilliant—shifts are quick, seamless and the electronics perform rev-matching on downshifts. The big column mounted shift paddles give you direct control over the proceedings.

The GT-R has massive brakes, natch. Front and rear cross-drilled composite discs, each measuring 381 mm, are clamped respectively by six-piston and four-piston Brembo monoblock calipers. Sometimes they squeal like one of Godzilla’s hapless victims plucked from the streets of Tokyo, but pedal feel is excellent and you get the sense these binders could stop a freight train.

The 2013 GT-R Premium comes standard with Bose audio, navigation, Sirius satellite radio, backup camera, and new carbon-fibre interior trim.

On the highway, even at only 100 km/h, the GT-R’s cabin is filled with engine drone and road noise. Okay, point made. Godzilla is a highly specialized car that caters to the thinnest sliver of the enthusiast demographic. And maybe that’s why we don’t see a lot on the road. Nissan Canada sold 137 in 2008, its best year. In 2011 only 72 were moved.

I sincerely hope most of these buyers use the GT-R for which it was designed—vapourizing competitors on the race track with its atomic breath.

For those Vette and Porsche owners who tire of seeing Godzilla’s four round taillights and blaring exhaust outlets fade from view, take a cue from the original 1954 Godzilla film.

The Oxygen Destroyer was a chemical compound designed to remove all oxygen from water, causing living creatures to die of asphyxiation as their remains were liquefied. It was the first and, in many ways, the only weapon that came close to defeating Godzilla.

Might be worth a try.

Pricing: 2013 Nissan GT-R Premium
Base price: $103,980
Options: 3-Coat Metallic Pearl paint $300
A/C tax: $100
Freight and PDI: $2,300
Price as tested: $106,680

Competitors
BMW M5
Cadillac CTS-V
Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1
Dodge Challenger SRT8 392
Ford Shelby GT500
Lexus LF-A
Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG
Porsche 911 Turbo S

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