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2021 Nissan GT-R Review

The 2021 Nissan GT-R high-performance coupe is getting pretty old. But it gets a pass. Because when it launched back in 2008, it came with cutting-edge technology years ahead of the competition. And it still deserves a spot in the modern supercar hall of fame for its blend of big muscle, unbelievable grip, and dialed-in handling.

At the heart of every GT-R is a powerful twin-turbocharged V6 connected to a fast-shifting 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission. The GT-R can still keep up with most modern supercars thanks to its sheer speed, computer-controlled suspension, sport-tuned all-wheel-drive system, and high-performance Brembo brakes.

Coming into yet another model year without a major redesign, though, the GT-R’s age and relative lack of refinement are made increasingly apparent by more contemporary competitors like the Porsche 911, Audi R8, and Acura NSX.

Nissan has made a variety of improvements over time while raising the price. The same basic car that cost around $75,000 when it first came out (or about $90k in 2021 dollars) now costs almost $115,000 for a base model or more than $210,000 for the top Nismo trim. Its value proposition has decreased over the years, but the GT-R’s ballistic performance keeps it relevant.

What’s New for 2021?

Nissan has reduced the number of models to the GT-R Premium and GT-R Nismo. Premium trim can now come in Bayside Blue. See the 2021 Nissan GT-R models for sale near you

What We Like

  • Phenomenally fast
  • Gloriously grippy
  • Amazingly agile
  • Provides many premium features

What We Don’t

  • Less of a status symbol than most competitors
  • Can feel a little cumbersome in tight corners
  • Advancing age

How Much?

$115,235 – $212,435

Fuel Economy

In Premium trim, the 2021 GT-R has a 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V6 generating a substantial 565 horsepower and 467 lb-ft of torque. The 2021 Nismo model develops 600 hp and 481 lb-ft of torque from the same engine but using a high-capacity turbocharger design shared with the GT-R Nismo GT3 racing car. Nismo is an amalgam of “Nissan” and “motorsport”, underlining the company’s success in domestic racing series with the current GT-R’s forerunners.

All this considerable energy goes to an advanced all-wheel-drive system through a 6-speed dual-clutch automated manual transmission with three selectable shifting programs and a rev-matching function on downshifts. The GT-R also has a separate set of modes that allow drivers to adjust performance characteristics.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates fuel consumption at 16 miles per gallon in the city, 22 mpg on the highway, and 18 mpg in combined driving — regardless of engine output.

Standard Features and Options

The 2021 Nissan GT-R performance coupe comes in Premium and Nismo trim levels. 

Premium ($115,235) has a computer-controlled suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers, Brembo brakes (front: 6-piston calipers, rear: 4-piston calipers), carbon composite driveshaft, mechanical limited-slip differential, staggered-width 20-in Rays alloy wheels, automatic on/off LED headlights, LED daytime running lights/taillights, aerodynamic flat-blade/rain-sensing wipers, anti-chip paint, front/rear parking sensors, keyless entry/ignition, titanium exhaust system with sound control, heated/power-adjustable front seats (8-way for the driver, 4-way for the passenger) with accommodation for 4-point racing harnesses, leather/simulated suede upholstery, leather-wrapped steering wheel with lap timer switch, dual-zone automatic climate control, cruise control, active noise cancellation, active sound enhancement, 8-in infotainment touchscreen, Bluetooth, navigation, Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, USB port, satellite radio, DVD player, 11-speaker Bose audio system, and a multifunction display that details a range of performance data, including G-forces, shifting patterns and lap times.

Premium is eligible for an all-weather package that consists of all-season Dunlop SP Sport run-flat tires and a 30/70 coolant/water ratio. And a Premium Interior package adds hand-stitched semi-aniline leather upholstery.

Nismo ($212,435) has the most power, plus a Nismo-tuned suspension, carbon-ceramic brake discs, carbon-fiber roof/bumpers/hood/front fenders/front spoiler/rocker panels/rear spoiler/trunk lid/interior trim, steering wheel wrapped in Alcantara (simulated suede), Recaro front seats, leather/simulated suede upholstery, and a red interior treatment.


Standard safety features include anti-lock brakes, stability control, traction control, a rearview camera, and six airbags: front, side, and head-curtain.

Active safety features found in more modern vehicles, like automatic emergency braking, are not available in the GT-R. Nor has the GT-R been put through any crash-testing programs in North America.

Behind the Wheel

The GT-R is about as fast as it gets this side of the Kennedy Space Center. The Premium version can blast from standstill to 60 mph in only 2.9 seconds before hitting a top speed of 196 mph. Naturally, the Nismo is even faster: 2.5 seconds and 205 mph.

Yet somehow this prodigious power feels a little less daunting from behind the wheel. That’s due in large part to the GT-R’s sophisticated all-wheel-drive system, precise steering, and massive brakes reeling in the car with precision and control. That’s especially true of the Nismo’s carbon-ceramic discs that can take many laps of torture without fading or warping.

Almost regardless of its speed, the GT-R feels extremely confident in corners. It maintains grip and balance as if it were a purpose-built racer. And there’s a real sense of control and stability. Through racetrack curves or a set of demanding canyon switchbacks, the GT-R is as surefooted as a world-class sports machine could and should be.

Thanks to a selectable dynamics system, the GT-R can also create an easy-going ride. In normal mode, the car takes on a less rigid personality, making it viable for daily commuting or interstate cruising — which isn’t something that can be said for every vehicle in this class.

The main drawback is the GT-R’s weight. At roughly 3,900 pounds, it’s heavier than some rivals. Losing 300 pounds could be a good thing.

Other Cars to Consider

2021 Chevrolet Corvette — Starting at almost half the price of the cheapest GT-R, the mid-engined C8 Corvette is a performance-car bargain. The 495-hp V8 enables a standstill-to-60 mph time of less than three seconds.

2021 Acura NSX — The reincarnated NSX doesn’t get the love and attention it deserves. Both the GT-R and the NSX are reincarnations of beloved 1990s Japanese sports machines, each with powerful V6 engines and all-wheel drive. However, the NSX’s mid-mounted engine is augmented by hybrid components. The car is also newer, having launched in 2016, and is one of the most civilized supercars of all time.

2021 Porsche 911 — The iconic 911 is priced similarly to the GT-R, but is more modern and more desirable in regard to heritage and collectability. A 911 Turbo S has 640 hp and costs about the same as a GT-R Nismo.

2021 Audi R8 — The Audi R8 is built on the same platform as the Lamborghini Huracan, with both cars enjoying a mid-mounted V10 engine. Yes, looks are subjective, but the more modern R8 (all-new in 2016) is arguably easier on the eye than the similarly priced GT-R.

2021 McLaren 570S/570GT — Once we’re into spending six figures on a car, many enticing choices become available. Like this carbon fiber-bodied McLaren with parts derived from Formula One racing and a mid-mounted, twin-turbo V8 making 562 hp.

Used Nissan GT-R — Considering the GT-R has been around almost unchanged since George W. Bush was in the Oval Office, this could be the most cost-effective way of acquiring Nissan’s supercar. Just be wary of previous boy-racer owners and repaired accident damage.

Autotrader’s Advice

GT-R buyers seeking the best of the best will no doubt want the top Nismo model. Then again, the Premium model — at around $115,000 — has the best overall value and remains a credible rival to supercars costing up to twice as much. Find a Nissan GT-R for sale

Colin Ryan
Colin Ryan specializes in writing about new cars. But he has also covered trucks, vans, 3-wheelers, even the occasional motorbike. That’s the kind of thing that happens while contributing to the Los Angeles Times, Autotrader, Kelley Blue Book, Popular Mechanics, Variety, Mazda and Lexus customer magazines, as well as many enthusiast sites and publications. He was also a staff writer at BBC Top... Read More about Colin Ryan

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