After years of anticipation, I finally had an opportunity to drive the Nissan GT-R. Ironically, I was in the paddock at Laguna Seca when a Nissan rep tossed me the keys, but I was unable to sample Nissan's new supercar on the famous Monterey road course, instead taking the GT-R for a run on the surrounding canyon roads.
The moment I reached the main highway and dipped hard into the throttle I learned firsthand that the GT-R is blindingly fast. The twin-turbo 3.8-liter V6 produces massive power - officially 480 horses but rumors suggest more - and delivers that power over a broad torque band. When you squeeze hard on the loud pedal the GT-R moves.
As impressive as all that power can be, the dual-clutch 6-speed rear transaxle really grabs your attention, producing smooth but very decisive shifts in a fraction of a second with virtually no interruption in power delivery. The GT-R moves off from a standstill without a hiccup in either fully automatic or manual-shift mode.
At prudent highway speeds drivers feel a level of control and overall balance that is no doubt an attribute of the high-tech all-wheel-drive system. Even under full-throttle acceleration at low speeds there is never more than a hint of slip before the GT-R hooks up and rockets forward. Under ideal conditions, the all-wheel-drive setup will deliver all the torque to the rear axle, but up to 50 percent can be shuttled forward as needed.
The steering is very direct with a level of feedback rarely found in even today's best high-performance offerings, keeping the driver in control and informed about what the car is doing. The same holds true for the brakes, with a solid and direct pedal connecting the driver to the massive Brembo calipers.
The GT-R feels like a very purposeful tool - there is no subtlety or finesse. But it goes about the job of driving quickly in a precise manner, and it will make an average driver feel like a star by covering mistakes. With a starting price just north of $70,000, it delivers supercar performance at a fraction of the cost.
© 2008 Microsoft