Review of: 2017 Nissan GT-R 2dr Cpe Premium
2017 Nissan GT-R Premium: Godzilla is aging well
By Matt Bubbers
Oct. 30, 2017
Does Godzilla still have it? The Nissan GT-R is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, making it an ancient creature by automotive standards. Production of the current R35 model began in 2007 at Nissan’s factory in Tochigi, Japan and it’s been going ever since.
Nissan has tweaked and upgraded the GT-R over the years, but it’s still essentially the same car that debuted a decade ago. By comparison, over the same period, the Porsche 911 has seen two mid-cycle refreshes, an all-new model (991), and an all-new turbocharged engine lineup. The 911 is a vastly different car than it was a decade ago.
Are the days of the indomitable GT-R over?
Pros & Cons
- + Styling
- + Acceleration
- + Value for money
- - Small navigation display
- - A few cheap interior touches
- - Rear seat space
Nissan’s recently retired creative officer Shiro Nakamura, who oversaw the GT-R design, wasn’t afraid to break with convention. Under his watch, Nissan produced cars like the Cube and Juke. No surprise, then, that the GT-R looks like nothing else on the road. It eschews all the usual sports-car tropes. It’s chunky, solid, and heavy-looking, where sleek and svelte is the norm. Its wraparound glasshouse looks like a visor on a helmet. It’s unmistakable.
The styling was updated in 2011 and 2017, with fancier headlights and subtle tweaks to the bumper.
The GT-R has been around so long it’s starting to look like a modern classic. The design has aged superbly (though the styling was updated in 2011 and 2017, with fancier headlights and subtle tweaks to the bumper). It looks even better now than it did 10 years ago.
The GT-R starts at $125,000. Nissan or not, buyers in this price bracket will have high expectations for quality, and rightly so. The BMW M6 coupe—an ultra-luxury Autobahn missile—is $127,000.
Look, the GT-R is simply not as luxurious from the driver’s seat as the M6, or anything by the big German luxury brands. However, the Germans like to make customers spend a lot on options, while the basic GT-R Premium comes well-equipped, with stitched leather seats, steering wheel, gear knob and dashboard, navigation, and aluminum-trimmed pedals, plus a decent stereo. The fit and finish is tight, but the leather isn’t the softest. There’s less cheap plastic than there was in 2007, but it’s still there.
We like how the instrument cluster moves with the steering wheel when you adjust it, providing a clear view of the dials no matter your size. It’s easy to find a comfortable driving position, at least in the front seats. The rear chairs are strictly for gymnasts and/or luggage.
It was cutting-edge when unveiled, but today, not so much. The nav is small, and the main dials and instrument cluster are analog.
The engine is a 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6, dubbed VR38DETT and unique to the GT-R. Stock, the motor produces an official (read: conservative) 565 horsepower and 467 lb-ft of torque.
Look under the hood and you won’t find some plastic cover. The motor is a work of art, beautifully displayed. Six individual intakes are visible, like a tangle of snakes in the middle of the airbox. This side of Italian exotica from Ferrari and Lamborghini, nobody makes engines look this good anymore. That’s something that’s changed for the worse over the last 10 years, but the GT-R is like a time-capsule.
The motor is mated to a rear-mounted six-speed dual-clutch automatic with paddle shifters. Power goes to all four wheels through the ATTESSA-ETS system that uses two driveshafts and electronic sensors to send up to 50 per cent of the torque to the front wheels.
We’ve tested the GT-R before, at Spa-Francorchamps in Belgium, in drizzling rain. There, it defied the “drives like a video game” stereotype. If you drive the GT-R properly—avoiding understeer on corner entry and then piling on the power—the chassis will dance around with power oversteer. The multi-mode traction control allows enough slip for the average driver to have fun. Its sheer grip and ability to put power down in corners is matched only by the latest Porsche 911 Turbo, which costs twice as much. Indeed, with the GT-R you get 911 Turbo performance for base 911 Carrera money.
On the road, the motor feels stronger than its 565-hp would suggest. Because there are only six gears, the transmission doesn’t hunt for cogs like eight-speed boxes do. Maximum torque is high in the rev range compared to newer turbo engines, with the full 467 lb-ft arriving at 3,300–5,800 rpm. Peak power comes at 6,800. It’s got an old-school turbo wallop that will shock passengers. The car lunges forward like a lit rocket. It should put a smile on the face of even the most jaded supercar drivers. And it doesn’t come at the expense of throttle response, which still manages to feel sharp.
Driving the car around downtown Toronto for a week, the ride was surprisingly soft. Most sports cars are miserable over streetcar tracks, potholes, and construction, but the GT-R would be totally livable day-to-day.
The steering twists and tugs at every camber on the road, constantly pulling left or right. Some people may hate it, and it could get annoying on a long highway drive, but we don’t mind steering that reacts to the road like this. Modern electric power-steering systems can feel so aloof, but this hydraulic system feels hyper-connected… almost nostalgic.
This “Premium” GT-R is actually the base model. Including delivery and fees, it’s $128,626. On a 36-month lease, you’d be looking at paying $1,115 twice per month. It’s not cheap. The Track Edition is $149,100 and adds NISMO-style RAYS wheels, carbon spoiler, and stiffer suspension.
It’s a lot of money for a Nissan, but, unbelievably, 10 years later the GT-R is still an incredible performance bargain. Zero-100 km/h times have been recorded in the sub-three-second range. Official fuel economy is 14.5 L/100 km city and 10.7 highway.
Age hasn’t hurt Godzilla: The GT-R is only getting better. So much about the driving experience is reminiscent of a bygone era of sports cars: six-speed double-clutch, hydraulic steering, and almighty turbo-lag. It doesn’t feel computer-driven, not in 2017. The GT-R is a modern classic.
But what will happen to it? How much longer can Nissan keep tweaking and updating it? There’s no sign of a replacement on the horizon, and it can’t last much longer. Enjoy it while you can.