2009 Nissan GT-R Long-Term Road Test

Long-Term 2009 Nissan GT-R vs Gran Turismo Nissan GT-R

January 13, 2009

Nissan GT-R at the Luxor -- Photo by James Riswick   Gran Turismo Nissan GT-R

I had my first opportunity to play Gran Turismo 5 Prologue this weekend, which was the first version of the game I've played since GT3. Needless to say, it's a damned impressive feat of videogamery (as I'm sure many of you already know). Since I bought the game for my father-not-in-law (aka girlfriend's dad), I started things off for him. I purchased a Mini Cooper S and we began winning races and earning enough credits to purchase something better. I initially thought I'd get a 135i to see how the real and virtual versions compared, but then I noticed its price tag: 61,000 credits. The Nissan GT-R by comparison was a mere 77,000. A few extra races and we had the virtual key to a brand-new red 2009 Nissan GT-R.

After a few blasts around three different tracks, it was striking how well they nailed the GT-R -- at least as much as a video game could nail a car. Also at least as much as I remembered the GT-R. To know for sure, I took our long-termer out for a blast through the canyon and formulated an Edmunds-style consumer-biased comparison test. Enjoy.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 15,651 miles

2nd Place: Gran Turismo Nissan GT-R

Where it Leads:
Quite simply, you can actually drive the Gran Turismo GT-R at the sort of speeds the car is capable of. In this way, the approximation is quite impressive, as the virtual version surges forth with the same sort of ridiculous thrust. However, I think I got our long-termer up to maybe 80 (km of course) on Topanga and that sort of velocity on that sort of road makes me nervous (because of Mr. Law, Mr. Squirrel and Ms. Slow-Ass Prius Driver). By comparison, I got the virtual GT-R up to about 153 mph on a serpentine Swiss road. There was nothing separating my speeding Japanese supercar from a 200-foot Alpine drop but a three-foot-tall wooden pole ... and for some reason I couldn't care less.

Also, the GT5 GT-R has a vastly superior ride to our long-term GT-R -- in fact, I would describe it as positively couch-like. The gas mileage is also substantially better at infinity mpg.

Where it Follows:
The steering sucks. Oh sure, I got some feedback from the electronic rumble, but steering effort is vague and way too quick. That's probably because I'm steering via a little, hypersensitive joystick attached to a little buttoned boomerang, but seriously, this thing is dangerous. If the traction control wasn't on 8, I would have over corrected myself into countless three-foot-tall wooden poles. I could gradually get used to it as I saved myself with a bit of opposite lock drift at one point, but doing so consistently requires a gentle touch fine-tuned over way-too-many gaming hours. I greatly prefer the virtual steering of Mariokart Wii. No feel there either, but it's easier to control.

The brakes are also bad. No feel whatsoever. It's like you're completely on them or you're not. Still better than the Ford Edge and Honda Pilot.

The Verdict:
The Gran Turismo Nissan GT-R is certainly fun and an excellent approximation of the real thing but I just couldn't drive it every day.

Best For: People who live in their parents' basement, People who don't have $85,000, but do have 77,000 GT5 credits.

1st Place: Long-Term Nissan GT-R

Where it Leads:
Well, our long-term GT-R is an actual conveyance. I could take it to the grocery store, for instance. The GT5 GT-R has extremely limited passenger and trunk space -- it has 0.0 cubic feet of interior volume and cargo capacity. That's just crap.

The real GT-R sounds like an actual GT-R. Sure, the virtual version features the same sort of turbowhine, but it also has a dominant growl that the real GT-R doesn't really possess. That's probably the biggest difference between the two -- the GT5 edition just doesn't sound enough like a jet airplane. Either the designers were guessing at the sound, or they thought gamers would think the real noises sounded fake.

Again, the steering and brakes are vastly superior, as is throttle control. Much easier to drive smoothly without little jabby inputs. Having a wheel to steer with is a novel feature too -- clearly a way of the future.

Where It Follows:
Our long-term GT-R is significantly less impervious to driving head-on into brick walls at 137 mph. The video game version just bounces right off them without a stretch. Our long-termer didn't fare so well. Pity.

The Verdict:
A much better vehicle in that it is an actual vehicle. It's let down only by its lack of complete indestructibility.

Best For: People with a sense of real-world adventure, people with more money than virtual credits, people who need to actually go somewhere.

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