2009 Nissan GT-R: Relentless
October 03, 2008
My first time behind the wheel of the R35 was long before we acquired our long-term 2009 Nissan GT-R. It was almost exactly one year ago in Nurburg, Germany. Nissan had just set a 7:38 lap of the 'Ring, and I was there to drive the Zorro-masked GT-R and a Porsche 997 Turbo.
In Germany I drove a "PT2" car, which is Nissan-speak for a pre-production car. The word that leapt to mind during my first blast through the GT-R's gears on the Autobahn was "relentless." Even today I can recall the seamless and ceaseless flood of speed, a sensation magnified by the car's apparent indifference to the absurd digits being wiped by the speedo needle. No drama. Just speed.
Back in town, I experimented with the GT-R's different damper settings. No matter the setting, however, the ride quality was similarly relentless.
That brings us to today, and our long-term GT-R. This one rides better than that PT2 car. We can thank a few pieces of rubber for the improvement, and I'm not talking about the tires.
Basically, the powertrain of every production car rests on mounts, which are essentially soft rubber hockey pucks. Some of them are fancy fluid-filled deals, but they all do the same job: they connect the powertrain to the chassis while preventing unwanted noise and vibration from making its way to the cabin.
So what do they have to do with ride quality? In finalizing the GT-R in the months after I drove it, Nissan engineers had increased the durometer (stiffness) of the transaxle mounts. These stiffer mounts did a better job of keeping the transaxle from moving around during hard cornering. As a result, handling improved. With this single change, the car was faster.
Nissan then tweaked the shock absorber's valving, reducing damping force by about 10%. In isolation, these softer dampers would reduce the car's willingness to change direction. But coupled with the new transaxle mount, the net result, says a Nissan engineer, was that the car's ultimate handling capability stayed the same as the PT2 car I drove in Germany but rides better.
I'm here to say it worked. Our long-term car, while still very firm, breathes better over bumps than the relentless PT2 car. The change is noticeable. And while the GT-R will never be described as plush, the enhanced pliancy is welcome.
Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor @ 7,758 miles.