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There's something magical about the 2011 Nissan GT-R, with the tremendous twin-turbo V-6 engine, all-wheel drive, automated manual transmission, and advanced electronic controls adding up to something greater than the sum of its parts.
Priced unlike few other cars of its performance range at $84,060 for the GT-R Premium, the only model for 2011, and offering four seats in a realm of mostly two-seaters to boot, the GT-R has little natural competition, though the speed-obsessed may cross-shop with the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1 and Porsche 911 Turbo.
The GT-R doesn't look like the voluptuous exotics it competes with, either, though it does cut a unique and instantly recognizable profile. More conservative and high-tech looking than a Ferrari or Lamborghini, with distinctly Japanese cues, the GT-R might not win the beauty pageant, but it won't leave a loser, either.
Performance is where the GT-R really rewards its owner. Thunderous acceleration, prodigious grip, and enough electronic assistance to help even less-experienced drivers look like hot shoes, the GT-R is the supercar for the average Joe on more than price alone.
Inside the GT-R, you'll find quality materials and well-assembled interfaces, but it definitely doesn't show the passion of the Italians. Small but usable rear seats add to the practicality of the car, though adults won't want to spend much time in the back.
Neither the IIHS nor NHTSA have crash-tested the GT-R, a truth almost universal to low-volume, high-performance cars. Despite the lack of testing, however, the GT-R should be a safe ride, with a full complement of airbags and highly capable stability and traction control systems, plus standard all-wheel drive.
The GT-R is a high-tech wunder-machine, and its available features back the reputation up: there are plenty of standard entertainment and navigation options, voice recognition, abundant media interfaces, and a very slick, Playstation-like interface that lets you control and display almost everything the car is doing.
On the green spectrum, the GT-R ranks somewhere toward the wrong end if you're after an efficient pavement-eater. But that's to be expected from a 485-horsepower supercar.