Growing to love Godzilla
You ever get the feeling you’re overthinking something? Chewing on an experience or chunk of information for so long it’s lost all its flavor? Analysis paralysis, the boss calls it, and that’s sort of where I am with the Nissan GT-R.
It’s taken me a long time to warm up to Godzilla — three stints behind the wheel, including a recent long weekend. It’s a geek’s exotic (I’m more of a nerd), a performance car for those who prize high-tech methods of going forward fast. It’s fair to say Tesla’s ludicrous mode has eclipsed the GT-R’s wizardry, but the number of processors involved in effectively planting the Nissan’s 545 hp are still impressive.
So’s the horsepower number, though even that is mid-pack in these Hellcat days. Half-throttle stabs around traffic yield a, “yeah, pretty fast” response, but it’s difficult to tell just how quick this car is without instrumentation. Flip all three dash switches to R mode and stab it from a stoplight (even eschewing the hilariously fun Launch Control) and the effect is JEeee-zus…and there’s 75 mph. It happens just like that — no fanfare, no screeching tires or fishtailing backend. The GT-R is kind of like a time machine — you visualize the place you want to be — say, two blocks away, press a button (with your right foot, in this case) and suddenly you’re there. The whole process basically just involves holding the steering wheel, and even that feels computer-stabilized.
2016 Nissan GT-R 45th Anniversary Gold Edition
Then there are the brakes, the glorious brakes. The GT-R, better than any car I’ve ever driven at any price point, hydraulically delivers the sense of caliper pistons sliding in their bores directly to the driver’s foot. It’s not the shortest pedal stroke I’ve felt, nor the most immediate braking, but the granular pedal feel is simply extraordinary.
Nissan’s clinical, white-labcoat approach to performance extends to every inch of the vehicle, from purely left-brain exterior styling to an interior almost begrudgingly devoid of luxury. One can visualize product planners pleading with the engineers: “if we’re going to charge that much for one, can’t we put some padding and nice stitching here?” Nowhere is it opulent, but it IS thoroughly Japanese, and the cockpit will be supremely comfortable for those raised on a diet of Supras, 350Zs and Evos.
Then there are the noises: Every GT-R I’ve driven sounds like it has a bad input shaft bearing and at least two cups of pea gravel in the transmission. It’s … disconcerting, particularly on a $100K-plus performance car. But it’s part of the GT-R experience.
An experience I finally learned to love, by the way.
Would I spend my $100K this way? No idea — and it’s not a question I need to concern myself with right now. Good thing too, because I’m tired of overthinking the GT-R. I just want to drive it again.
— Andrew Stoy, digital editor
2016 Nissan GT-R 45th Anniversary Gold Edition
“One of the interesting things about the GT-R is that, as good as its brakes are, you don’t really need to use them unless a stop sign or a slower car happens to be between you and where you want to be. Trust the car to rip you around the corner; there’s just that much grip, more than you’ll be able to explore in semi-legal daily driving, even through industrial parks after quitting time. Not that I’d know.
The downside of this is that the GT-R can feel cold, clinical even, when you’re driving around town, just as the drivetrain feels and sounds clunky, whiny even, at lower speeds. Have faith — no, have respect for the car and know that the faster you drive it, the better it gets.
The whole “45th Anniversary Edition” package thing merits an explanation, seeing as the first Skyline GT-R was actually introduced in 1969. “47th Anniversary Edition” not having much of a ring to it, Nissan based its $1,000 option package off the year of the introduction of the Skyline GT-R coupe: 1971.
Undoubtedly, there are fanatics in the United States who care deeply about the rich history of the not-quite-first Nissan Skyline GT-R. But it’s all somewhat academic, as the GT-R wasn’t really even sold here until this generation — at which point it was no longer technically Skyline at all.”
– Graham Kozak, associate editor
“As a 30-something-year-old, and a video gamer, the Nissan GT-R has been on my short list of dream cars to own for more than a decade now. It’s brutal and noisy, difficult to repair — according to a mechanic friend of mine — and hard on the back and kidneys when driving. I still don’t care. I like the way you have to flex your neck before stomping on the pedal so as not to get your head snapped back. The sound of the entire package is like nothing else on the road. It’s a mix of V6 growl, turbo woosh and road noise, which combine into one of my favorite sounds on the planet. Nissan also eased back on the launch control function in this second generation, so it doesn’t sound or feel like you’re getting into a car accident every time you use it. Finally, at $104,000 it joins the small group of cars I’d buy before a Porsche 911 at around $100K.”
– Jake Lingeman, road test editor