2009 Nissan GT-R: A Suspension Tune from Greatness
December 30, 2008
A week in the GT-R is like hanging out with Superman. Wherever you stop, people notice, and if stationary long enough, begin to congregate. Matronly types with no interest at all in automobiles put their hand near their mouth (as if the GT-R might overhear) and comment in unconsciously sultry tones on how fast the car looks. Small groups mingle on sidewalks to watch you pull away, witness to the jet-like roar as the car spools its turbos. All the while, you're ensconced in a bunker-like cocoon with fantastic seats. Beyond the ill-deserved attention, my wife specifically asked me not to bring this car home again. Why?
It was certainly not for the GT-R's chiseled good looks. This is a fairly massive coupe, but it deftly hides that bulk in a square-jawed way that grabs you as you approach the car. Favreau should have put Iron Man in this rather than the R8. In white, especially when approached from the front, its gaping maw does make it look like a whale shark has trolled onto your driveway. But in the darker shades, this is one menacing machine. Though I never got the chance to snap a photo of the two together over the holiday, a neighbor down the end of my block has a black GT-R (welcome to L.A.), and trust me, it's all ate up with menacing.
So what was up with the shun? My spouse's cruel request stemmed from the GT-R's suspension tuning. On SoCal's beautifully constructed concrete freeways, the expansion joint hop can make the GT-R a brutal penalty box over long freeway stretches. Granted, this is not a car tuned for freeway running, but in the spirit of other great grand-touring machines, this stands out from an otherwise impressive all-rounder.
The GT-R does feature an adjustable suspension, which helps calm what still feels like a combination of a brutal spring rate and overly aggressive compression damping. But even in the comfort mode, poor pavement will have the GT-R's stiff chassis transferring pounding impacts to the cabin. For all the time most owners will spend on the track, I'd happily trade the suspension's "R" mode for a silkier setting below the "Conf" notch. They could save the range of this setup, or an even stiffer one, for the upcoming GT-R V Spec.
This realm of suspension tuning is an area where the European manufacturers still seem to have an edge over their Japanese counterparts. Compliance combined with sporting control is the Euro's ace in the hole. Perhaps it's Japan's lucky emphasis on excellent road quality, but many sporting machines from Japan seem tuned in a test-track vacuum. We're always seeing GT-R mules flitting around the Nurburgring, but suspensions tuned for lap-time bragging rights often run counter to real world livability. While at the Nordschleife, they might want to hound some of the BMW crew.
This poor-pavement punishment is a standout anomaly, as the GT-R would otherwise happily serve as an everyday supercar. I can't say enough about the stellar, grippy seats, the tranny is responsive in manual mode and still works well in stop-and-go traffic, even the trunk is usefully spacious. Chassis feedback is limited as you really push this beast, but that limit is so ridiculously high, few will ever approach it on the street. Do you think if we could get some Japanese suspension engineers to apprentice for a while at BMW, they'd finally seal the ride/handling gap?
Paul Seredynski, Executive Editor @ 14,783 miles