2013 Nissan GT-R Review
Edmunds' Expert Review
- Stupefying acceleration
- very high handling limits
- easy to drive
- high-quality interior
- bargain price.
- Stiff ride
- no conventional manual transmission
- transmission can be clunky in traffic, big and bulky.
The Nissan GT-R has already been firmly established as a world-class supercar. With even more power and added suspension refinements, this "affordable" exotic now makes a statement with an exclamation point.
The recipe for mouth-watering supercars is typically equal parts high technology, high performance and high price. The 2013 Nissan GT-R manages to provide the first two in abundance without requiring nearly as much of the third as its rivals. While its very brutal, Japanese-style bodywork might not be as voluptuous and beautiful as the Ferrari 458 Italia, this exotic Nissan provides nearly all the thrills at less than half the price.
Nissan continues to make yearly improvements to its iconic GT-R. This year brings an additional 15 horsepower and 15 pound-feet of torque, as Nissan tries to keep pace with the latest breed of 500-hp supercars from other companies. Some 545 hp and 463 lb-ft of torque should do the trick. Other improvements for the 2013 GT-R include a retuned suspension for even more impressive road-holding. There are also some refinements to the transmission for smoother, quieter operation, although the shift action remains somewhat clunky in stop-and-go traffic.
These upgrades will likely shave a few tenths of a second from the time it takes a GT-R to lap the Nürburgring Nordschleife, and indeed our driving impressions confirm that the 2013 Nissan GT-R does feel quicker. Of course, average drivers will probably find the addition of a standard rearview camera and a handmade carbon-fiber rear wing (for the Black Edition) more tangible improvements.
Even before all of these enhancements were made, the Nissan GT-R has provided incredibly high levels of performance at a fraction of the cost of traditional exotics. With an intoxicating blend of high technology and brute power, it will likely remain an object of desire for driving enthusiasts everywhere.
2013 Nissan GT-R models
The 2013 Nissan GT-R is a high-performance sport coupe with a 2+2 seating layout. It is offered in Premium and Black Edition trim levels.
Standard features on the Premium include 20-inch alloy wheels with high-performance tires, automatic xenon headlights, LED running lights, Brembo brakes, a rearview camera, an electronically adjustable suspension, leather/faux-suede upholstery, heated power-adjustable front seats, keyless ignition/entry, dual-zone automatic climate control and an 11-speaker Bose audio system with a CD player, satellite radio, iPod connectivity and Bluetooth phone and streaming audio. Also standard is a multifunction information monitor and a hard-drive-based navigation system with real-time traffic and weather as well as 9.4 gigabytes available for audio storage.
The Black Edition adds lightweight black wheels, a carbon-fiber rear wing, a unique black and red interior and leather Recaro seats. Options are few and include a no-cost Cold Weather package (darker wheels, Dunlop all-season run-flat tires and a unique coolant mixture for faster engine warm-up) and an extra-cost "Super Silver" paint job that has been given three layers of clear coat and then polished by hand.
Performance & mpg
The 2013 Nissan GT-R is powered by a twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 engine that generates 545 hp and 463 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission routes this power to the ground via an advanced all-wheel-drive system.
By any recorded performance measurement, the GT-R is simply incredible. Rocketing to 60 mph is a scant 3.1-second exercise, with the quarter-mile dispatched in just 11.1 seconds. And despite its rather bulky size, the Nissan posted a 73.7-mph blast through our slalom and a sticky 1.01g on the skid pad. EPA fuel economy estimates are pretty impressive for an exotic sports coupe, with ratings of 16 mpg city/23 mpg highway and 19 mpg combined.
Standard safety features on the GT-R include antilock brakes, stability control and traction control, front-seat side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing of a previous GT-R, we recorded a best 60-0-mph stopping distance of 98 feet, which ranks among the shortest distances we've ever recorded.
The 2013 Nissan GT-R achieves an impressive level of performance by utilizing technology rather than brute force. Instead of a large-displacement V8 that makes a burly rumble, there's a twin-turbo V6 that sounds like a jet engine. All four wheels work in concert to maintain a tenacious grip on the asphalt, and the car accelerates to triple-digit velocities with startling immediacy. Braking is likewise as urgent and powerful.
The GT-R really shines on serpentine roads or racetracks, where its handling limits rank with the top supercars. The suspension is unfazed by speed, so the car tracks through curves with robotic precision. The steering is as communicative and responsive as we've ever experienced in an all-wheel-drive car. However, the GT-R's curb weight of 3,800 pounds keeps it from feeling as nimble as a Porsche 911. Road noise and ride harshness can be intrusive at times, but that's a small price to pay for the 2013 Nissan GT-R's otherworldly performance.
The GT-R feels much less polished in the confines of a congested city. Despite this year's transmission refinement, there's still a decent amount of clatter while trundling around at walking speeds and it can still be clunky, especially in stop-and-go traffic. Of course, once the GT-R hits the open road, upshifts are ridiculously quick, while downshifts are accompanied by perfect throttle blips every time whether in automatic or manual mode, and this racing-style performance is what you're after in the first place, isn't it?
The rather austere cabin of the 2013 Nissan GT-R is meant to convey an impression of performance and technology. The front seats have prominent bolsters and faux-suede inserts to hold occupants in place during high-G maneuvers, yet they remain comfortable during long-distance drives. The interior itself is well constructed, with plenty of soft-touch materials, and most controls have a solid, positive feel. Opting for the Black Edition spices up the interior's appearance significantly.
The navigation screen can be used to display a variety of parameters, such as g-force during cornering, steering input, gear position and lap times. If this all sounds a bit like a video game, there's good reason. This interface has been designed by Polyphony Digital, the developers of the popular Gran Turismo series of driving-simulation video games.
Entering and exiting the GT-R takes no gymnastic aptitude, a rare thing among high-performance exotics. The rear seats are much smaller and difficult to access, but they are adequate for child-size passengers. Trunk space is commendable for this type of car, and the deep well of storage can accommodate up to 8.8 cubic feet of cargo.
Features & Specs
More About This Model
Sometimes change is good. Other times change is for the worse. And then there are those rare occasions when change amounts to, well, squat. That's the story with the 2013 Nissan GT-R Premium — squat.
And by "squat" we mean it's virtually unchanged from the 2012 model — at least when measured solely by the cold, unforgiving hundred-units-per-second standard set by our test equipment. Fortunately, there's more to a sports car — especially one this unique — than can be gleaned from sheer ones and zeros.
"The GT-R is boring to drive" and "The GT-R is easy to drive" are statements trotted out by the Internet infidel crowd so often they've become trite. Quite apart from the fact that one must actually have driven a GT-R to make such an observation authentic, these claims are simply no longer true.
And they haven't been for nearly a year.
New Year, New Updates
There's a simple reason for this. For the 2012 model year, Nissan brought about a sea change in the GT-R world, adding 45 horsepower, bigger brakes and refined suspension tuning. And for 2013, the changes keep coming.
Nissan told us the 2013 GT-R would feature "a number of engine and suspension refinements...all designed to enhance its already legendary performance." This is in addition to last year's dramatic changes. Who could blame us for being excited?
But after putting the 2013 Nissan GT-R through our test regimen, we won't waste precious bandwidth waxing on about how this fifth-year GT-R is a much better machine than last year's. But we will tell you this: It's still awesome — even if its performance numbers have changed no more than a fraction of a second.
More Power, Same Thrust
The GT-R's otherworldly goodness begins with its incredible 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6. For 2013 this hand-built all-aluminum engine has been massaged yet again. Engineers improved the effectiveness of the intake, enlarged the air intake ducts for the intercoolers and increased the efficiency of the exhaust emissions. Output jumps from 530 horsepower to 545 hp at 6,400 rpm. Torque increases 15 pound-feet as well, now at 463 lb-ft from 3,200-5,800 rpm.
But when we got to our test track, this pre-production GT-R proved slow — anywhere from three-tenths to a full second off last year's 3.1-second run to 60 mph. Launch control (race mode start in Nissan speak) appeared to be working properly, as it would hold revs at 4,000 rpm before we'd release the brake. But it couldn't spin the tires, and twice it balked just slightly after the 1-2 shift.
So we let it cool down, and then on the first run back (seventh overall), suddenly all was right in GT-R land. A dramatic all-four-tires-spinning launch netted 60 mph in 3.1 seconds (2.9 seconds with a 1-foot rolloutlike at a drag strip) and finished off the quarter-mile in 11.1 seconds at 123.3 mph, identical to the 2012 model, other than that car's slightly higher trap speed of 124.1 mph.
But Where's the Sound?
The 2013 Nissan GT-R is a blast to drive because it's so fast and so capable. And, yes, a four-tire-spinning launch is something to experience, but there's no pretending the GT-R offers the orchestra of tones offered by a Ferrari, Lamborghini, Corvette Z06 or a Porsche 911. In fact, intake noise so dominates the GT-R's twin-turbo V6 that it sounds like the world's fastest vacuum cleaner. And between the paddle shifting and the all-wheel drive, the GT-R can still, at times, seem clinical. But remember, with this antiseptic nature comes immensely accessible speed and control.
Speaking of the GT-R's six-speed dual-clutch transmission, it's been dinged from Day 1 for its noise and clunkiness. The engineers addressed the noise issue with a stiffer shift fork arm and a stronger fixing bearing for the flywheel housing. They also made motorsports-level differential oil standard.
If there's a difference, it's barely perceptible. There's still a decent amount of clatter from the transmission, and it can still be clunky, especially in stop-and-go traffic, in full Automatic mode. We're not weenies, so we usually kept full control over the gear selection using the leather-covered steering-column-mounted magnesium paddles. Upshifts are ridiculously quick, and the downshift throttle blips are perfect every time.
It's a Stiffie
The GT-R development team stiffened up the car's structure for 2013, including reinforcements around the engine bay and dash panel to "create a better sense of grip from the driver seat." We asked for more specifics, but we were told that "the GT-R is a very closely held development process."
Along with the body reinforcements came slightly stiffer spring rates, while the shocks have newly designed bypass valves. A Nissan official told us the goal was to "make the car more drivable in the real world without sacrificing performance." But on the road, the GT-R rides as harshly, or harsher, than ever — even with the cockpit-adjustable Bilstein DampTronic shocks set to Comfort. Just how stiff is it? Check out the photo of our test car lifting its inside front tire off the ground at the racetrack — no curb needed.
To our seat-of-the-pants sensibilities, the suspension changes make the 2013 Nissan GT-R more lively than ever, with a new willingness to rotate under drop-throttle or braking in medium-to-high-speed corners. It's engaging and genuinely controllable — a combo not often found in cars this quick.
The changes, although seemingly conflicted for making the GT-R more drivable, had little influence on handling from a pure numbers standpoint. Its slalom time of 73.7 mph was actually a smidge off the GT-R Black Edition we tested last year, although it's still in the very upper echelon of sports cars. Same story on the skid pad, where it turned 0.99g with ESC off (slightly worse than last year), while its 1.01g with ESC on is better.
Translation: The GT-R has outrageous grip.
Last year's GT-R received larger front brake rotors: 15.4-inch Brembos up front clamped by six-piston calipers. For 2013 everything remains the same, including the 255/40ZRF20 Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT 600 tires up front, with 285/35ZRF20s at the rear.
Still, the 2013 GT-R stopped 2 feet shorter from 60 mph (106 feet) and a foot shorter from 30 mph (26 feet). Stops were incredibly stable and the pedal has a firm feel, but distances were quite erratic, varying by as much as 7 feet.
Don't Confuse Awesome for Uninvolving
Early GT-Rs were built to understeer. It was a sad but true reality designed to keep owners on the road and alive. This conservative tuning strategy might have preserved a few GT-Rs (and possibly their occupants), but it consumed front tires at a rate that made owners question this car's value equation.
Because of its conservative chassis tuning and the fact that it produced only 480 hp, it was difficult to drive with the throttle. As Nissan has added power and livened up the suspension tuning, it's become ever easier to achieve power-on oversteer exiting corners. And with 545 hp the GT-R's attitude changes awfully quick if you get greedy with the throttle, so you'd better be ready to catch it with countersteer. In fact, everything about the 2013 GT-R is immediate and carries a welcome degree of edginess.
Steering is quick and precise and the GT-R is wonderfully communicative. And we love the fact that it is no longer the stubbornly planted machine it was originally. It now has some sass while it hauls ass. It's like a Mitsubishi Evo on 5-hour Energy when driven on twisty back roads.
Still, everything about the 2013 Nissan GT-R is designed to keep you on the road. You can hate Nissan's engineers for making this car so capable for so many drivers. Or you can appreciate and stand in awe. Which is what we generally do.
There has to be a difference for there to be a difference. Granted, we didn't drive the 2013 Nissan GT-R back-to-back with the 2012. And physics being physics, 15 extra horses should make little to no difference in a car weighing almost 4,000 pounds. And it didn't.
And so it is that, despite a few changes, the 2013 Nissan GT-R performs pretty much identically to the '12. Is that a problem? Not for us.
We drove our pre-production GT-R some 400 droning highway miles from Phoenix back to Southern California. Then we put it through our instrumented testing, drove it around town, trundled in traffic on the 405, did hot laps at a racetrack and absolutely destroyed a couple of gnarly back roads. It proved equally adept at all.
The GT-R remains what it was when it entered the market five years ago: an engineering masterpiece of a supercar that you can drive every day, in the vein of the Audi R8 and Porsche 911 Turbo, albeit for considerably less money than the Germans.
And with each year's evolution, minor as this one might be, the 2013 Nissan GT-R becomes ever more capable and, more importantly, fun to drive. Sure, the numbers this year might not add up to squat, but Nissan knows what's most important.
The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Used 2013 Nissan GT-R Overview
The Used 2013 Nissan GT-R is offered in the following submodels: GT-R Coupe. Available styles include Premium 2dr Coupe AWD (3.8L 6cyl Turbo 6AM), and Black Edition 2dr Coupe AWD (3.8L 6cyl Turbo 6AM). The Used 2013 Nissan GT-R comes with all wheel drive. Available transmissions include: 6-speed automated manual.
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Should I lease or buy a 2013 Nissan GT-R?
Is it better to lease or buy a car? Ask most people and they'll probably tell you that car buying is the way to go. And from a financial perspective, it's true, provided you're willing to make higher monthly payments, pay off the loan in full and keep the car for a few years. Leasing, on the other hand, can be a less expensive option on a month-to-month basis. It's also good if you're someone who likes to drive a new car every three years or so.