2009 Nissan GT-R: Nashville to LA, Part 5: Cortez to Moab to Home
August 09, 2008
I have a problem with underestimating driving distances, and that's why our 2009 Nissan GT-R and I are facing the prospect of driving 950 miles in one day. It doesn't matter. We're still going to take Highway 145 north toward Telluride (elevation: 8,700 feet) and then cross into Utah on CO Hwy 90/UT Hwy 46.
It ends up being so worth it. The 145 is gorgeous on the approach to Telluride, with snow-flecked mountains rising from truly green hillsides. If only I'd had enough time to do some hiking. Here again, the turns are more sweeper than switchback, so the GT-R makes rapid progress until I have to pull over and ogle the scenery.
We've descended onto a high plateau and open rangeland by the time we reach Utah, and our arrival is made eventful only by the bullet hole through the Hwy 90 sign. I don't carry a gun. Also, I manage not to hit any cows, but the GT-R's wide mug murders 794,534 insects during our trip. (I gave it a self-service bath in Cortez to wash away some of the evidence.)
It's desert-hot by the time we turn onto U.S. 191, and again, I'm frustrated by lack of time for hiking in either Canyonlands or Arches National Park. Summer's not over, yet, though.
Getting back onto I-70 takes some of the wind out of my sails. The Utah stretch of this interstate is in terrible condition and the ride quality is just a hair short of intolerable -- I feel every ripple and fissure in the pavement. I'll never again drive this road in our long-term GT-R.
Traffic is light, though (because, what do you know, this highway's a closed course, too!), which means there's plenty of room for the the Nissan to settle in at its preferred triple-digit cruising speeds. Yet, it never does worse than 18 mpg for the rest of the day.
Radar picks up significantly once we're on I-15, and I'm glad to have the Escort radar detector of long-term Audi R8 road trip fame. Ours is the top-of-the-line 9500ix and I've been using it the whole trip. As you can imagine, it quickly became indispensable, and conveniently, the GT-R has a seam between its IP and center stack panels that allows perfect nesting for the power cord. The relevant power point is just right of the steering wheel.
I've never used a radar detector before, but as you can imagine, this $500 model has a lot of features, my favorite being the audible prompts that tell you what kind of radar or laser you're about to drive into. Also, the Escort tells you when its GPS signal has been lost when you're driving through the mountains, so you know when you're on your own out there.
When we hit Santa Monica, California, at about 10:30 PM that night, the long-term Nissan GT-R has 3,096 miles on its odometer. I think the greatest compliment I can give is to say that I'd originally planned to make this a 2,000-mile trip (roughly the distance between Nissan of Cool Springs in Franklin, TN, and my house in LA). But I've gone and amassed over 3,000 miles and I've scarcely noticed. My back's a little sore from today's haul, but I could keep going, no problem.
I still don't know if I can love the 2009 Nissan GT-R, but I do like this car and I respect both its massive performance capabilities and its capacity to function as a real car that can be taken on a real road trip. Ride quality is still iffy, for sure, but choose your route carefully and you'll be happy in it. And for the record, I love the way this car looks.
Lowest gas price: $3.88 for 91 octane somewhere in Kansas. Highest gas price: $4.89 for 91 octane in Baker, California. Best value gas price: $4.00 for 93 octane in Columbia, Missouri.
Erin Riches, Edmunds Senior Editor @ 3,151 miles