2009 Nissan GT-R Long-Term Road Test - Introduction

2009 Nissan GT-R Long-Term Road Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests (2)
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  • Long-Term

There's no rest for the weary.

First an Audi R8 stormed its way into our long-term garage. Its all-wheel-drive system, single-clutch automated manual transmission and futuristic looks made it an instant favorite. But before we'd had a chance to fully savor the German-Italian hybrid, a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X MR showed up with a more advanced transmission, a more sophisticated all-wheel-drive system and a higher fun-to-cost ratio. More substance than style, it appeals more to our rational love for speed than the prurient desires conjured by the Audi.

And now, only a few weeks into that test, we've bought something that makes the Evo look sluggish, simplistic and, well, attractive in comparison: a 2009 Nissan GT-R. Sure, we're a bit tired from the wave of adrenaline we've been riding, but for our dedicated readers we'll suck it up and spend the next 12 months putting 20,000 miles on Japan's 480-horsepower, all-wheel-drive sensation known colloquially as Godzilla.

What We Bought
Skyline. GT-R. Godzilla. It doesn't really matter what you call it. Nissan's high-tech hot rod has made a bigger splash on U.S. soil than Rodan being dropped into Lake Mead. And why shouldn't it? It's faster than the Corvette Z06, faster than the Porsche 911 Turbo, faster even than our long-term Ford GT. With a 0-60 time of 3.5 seconds, the 2009 Nissan GT-R is the quickest production car we've ever tested. Traditionally, this type of organ-displacing acceleration doesn't come easy; a trained driver, a safe location and a few passes are required to get every last drop of performance out of a vehicle. But with the GT-R, not so much. It's easy.

Of course, it all starts with the motor. An all-aluminum 3.8-liter V6 is matched with twin IHI turbochargers and tuned to deliver 480 hp. Attached to the new engine via a driveshaft built from carbon-fiber composite is a six-speed dual-clutch transaxle developed with behind-the-scenes assistance from Ricardo, which engineered the dual-clutch unit for the 1,001-hp Bugatti Veyron.

In Race mode (one of three user-selectable transmission settings), the shift action is almost imperceptibly swift. Then the turbocharged power swells and rockets the Nissan forward in a way previously only known to big-wave surfers and human cannonballs. Downshifts arrive with the quickness and predictability required to keep the car balanced in even the trickiest torque-transfer scenarios. The other two modes are normal, which Nissan calls Sport and Snow. We've yet to experience snow in the GT-R, but, man does it sound like fun. (Of course, we'd probably still set the transmission to R.)

In every transmission mode, the all-wheel-drive system can send as much as 100 percent of engine torque to the rear wheels but no more than 50 percent to the front wheels. When you combine this with the transmission options (including launch control) and 480 hp, Joe Everyman can replicate that 3.5-second blast to 60 in his driveway. Just be wary of the neighbor's house across the way.

Acceleration isn't the only area of performance in which the 2009 Nissan GT-R holds a testing record with us. Despite a curb weight of some 3,800 pounds, it nearly ripped up the asphalt in a stop from 60 mph of just 98 feet. Brembo makes the stoppers that help accomplish this feat, and full floating 15-inch vented cross-drilled rotors are grabbed by six-piston monobloc calipers in front and four-pot monobloc units in the rear. Specially constructed, nitrogen-filled Bridgestone RE070R tires (high-performance summer run-flats) do the dirty work on the pavement. The only way we can figure to stop this much weight faster is to drive into a wall and, even then it'd better be a big wall (momentum's a bitch).

The 255/40ZRF20 front and 285/35ZRF20 rear Bridgestones are only available for the Premium trim level of the Nissan GT-R. Also included in the $2,050 Premium package are side curtain airbags for the driver and passenger, an 11-speaker Bose audio system and heated front seats. There are also two manufacturer-installed items on our 2009 Nissan GT-R: an iPod interface ($360), and plush floor mats featuring a GT-R emblem (a staggering $280).

Total out-of-pocket cost: $73,165. Yes, we got it for MSRP. How? For starters, we started the search nearly nine months ago. We eventually signed a deal with Nissan of Cool Springs, a place that understands car enthusiasts that's in Franklin, Tennessee, some 2,500 miles from our office in Santa Monica, California. Within days of the official availability of the 2009 Nissan GT-R on U.S. soil, we sent Senior Editor Erin Riches to pick it up in Tennessee, and updates from the inaugural drive across the country will be posted in our Long-Term blogs.

Why We Bought It
Confused about the hype over the 2009 Nissan GT-R? Think of it as a Corvette filtered through the Japanese mindset. Not the Japanese mindset of tradition and duty, but the one of unswerving dedication to progress and a fanatical addition to technology. Whereas the Corvette has stuck to the same formula -- front-engine V8, rear-wheel drive, fiberglass body -- the Skyline GT-R has followed only the incessant drumbeat of the future.

Previous iterations of GT-R (née Skyline GT-R) used the twin-turbocharged iron-block RB26DETT inline-6. Want more specs on the RB286? Go to your local mall and find the first kid with a NOPI shirt or lowered Civic and just mumble that code. Like Indiana Jones fitting the long-lost key into a temple door, gears in his brain will spin and whir until a gold mine of specs and figures flies out at a rapid pace. But Nissan has no interest in compromising performance potential for heritage, so it has adapted its latest hardware to the GT-R's mission.

So now we have a twin-turbo all-aluminum V6, lighter and more powerful (and more adaptable to left- and right-hand-drive versions of this car's packaging) than the former iron-block inline-6. The new dual-clutch unit is quicker than the manual transmission that would have been the preference of traditionalists. But for those pining over a classic GT-R R34, just be glad the new car has arrived as a Nissan instead of an Infiniti.

Apart from the obvious fact that this is the first GT-R to hit U.S shores with factory-certified air emissions gear, this car gives us an opportunity to really test Nissan's new dual-clutch transmission. We know it's fast on the street and we know it's fast on the track, but we'll see how well it will hold up. The launch sequence has been passed from editor to editor in the office quicker than a virus, and who knows how many times we'll use it?

The next 20,000 miles are not going to be easy on the GT-R. A car that is supposed to beat the Porsche 911 Turbo should be prepared to haul ass for the long haul.

Keep up with the 2009 Nissan GT-R in our long-term blogs. Twelve months with Godzilla begins now.

Current Odometer: 3,752 miles
Best Fuel Economy: 20.9 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 13.7 mpg
Average Fuel Economy (over the life of the vehicle): 18.0 mpg

Edmunds purchased this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

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Past Long-Term Road Tests