2011 Nissan GT-R Review

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Nelson Ireson Nelson Ireson Senior Editor
February 18, 2011

The 2011 GT-R achieves the unthinkable: It outraces some of the world's top sports cars, at a fraction of their price.

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.

Review continues below

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.

8

2011 Nissan GT-R

Styling

Not everyone might see the 2011 Nissan GT-R in the same light as other exotics, but it definitely polarizes those who love sports-car design.

Despite the unique results of the current GT-R, the formula has had a long life with Nissan--outside the U.S. Japanese-market Skyline sports cars upgraded with monstrously powerful turbocharged engines and all-wheel drive have been around for decades.

But the newest, largest GT-R is a monster even among monsters, though its styling, while digital-age aggressive, isn't as flamboyant as the Italian or even American hardware it competes against. Conservative in some respects, while daring in others, the GT-R does manage to cut an instantly recognizable profile.

The flared-out, reaching front end and rakish roofline cuts into the rear end with tomahawk clarity, with a prominent rear wing and abruptly abbreviated rear end, marked with quad rear circular lights.

Inside, the GT-R looks quite different than other current Nissan products in the United States, with a definite cockpit feel, including center-stack controls angled toward the driver and rather narrow, heavily bolstered seats.

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2011 Nissan GT-R

Performance

Although the 2011 Nissan GT-R might not satisfy the emotional connection demanded by some drivers, its performance is among the best in the world.

Performance is really what the GT-R is, ultimately, all about. Its 3.8-liter twin-turbo V-6 engine, mounted in Nissan's front-midship position, generates 485 horsepower. Paired with a paddle-shifted automated manual transmission, the GT-R accelerates like a demon on the loose: just a tick over three seconds to 60 mph. Top speed is 193 mph.

Improvements to the shift logic and transmission in last year's model carry forward, smoothing out around-town driving. Braking is impressive, with plenty of force and traction to handle the car's hefty 3,800-pound curb weight.

The much-acclaimed launch control system that made its debut in the 2009 GT-R left the car in 2010, but despite the slightly slower take-off, the GT-R is still capable of astonishing feats.

The GT-R's handling is brilliant, and its adjustability gives the GT-R something of a cushion on public roads—made more assuring with the variable-power-split, all-wheel-drive system. Nissan calls the all-wheel-drive system ATTESA E-TS. Handling is also aided by adjustable electronics that control the shift quality, suspension firmness, and steering response in the GT-R, with an "R" mode that sharpens all of its reflexes.

Our one complaint with the GT-R is that all of the high-tech wizardry manages to interfere with the directness and tactility you normally want in a car with this much capability; on the other hand, all of the techno-goodies are what make the GT-R accessible and user-friendly despite being one of the quickest production cars on the road.

7

2011 Nissan GT-R

Comfort & Quality

A small backseat is more than you'll find in other supercars, but the 2011 Nissan GT-R leaves something to be desired—especially when it comes to the dull interior.

Unlike many of the GT-R's competitors (Porsches being the notable exception) there are actually two real rear seats in the GT-R. The sharply sloping roof and minimal legroom means adults won't be happy back there for long, but kids should be fine. This concession to comfort is among several that expand the usefulness of the GT-R beyond the go-fast two-seaters like the Ferraris and Lamborghinis it competes with on performance.

Unlike those Italian exotics, however, you won't find the lush leathers, fine woods, or machine-turned metal finishes in the GT-R. Instead, you get high-end plastics and satisfactory leathers, for the most part, though there's no mistaking it for an Infiniti G37, either. A still-stiff suspension and noisy drivetrain (particularly the transmission) remind you that though the GT-R is a street car, it's been bred for speed.

Think of the GT-R as a race-worthy car adapted for the street and you'll be more positive about the interior, both in terms of materials and ride quality.
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2011 Nissan GT-R

Safety

Plenty of safety equipment comes with the 2011 Nissan GT-R, though there aren't any crash tests to go on.

Despite the lack of hard data, however, the GT-R offers all the advanced technology you'd expect, including seat side airbags, roof-mounted curtain airbags, plus all the standard airbags.

Highly evolved traction and stability controls, plus the standard all-wheel drive boost safety further by helping to maintain control of the car, even in slippery conditions.

The traction control system can be shut off for track driving. However, it's unobtrusive, and there's no penalty to keep it on.
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2011 Nissan GT-R

Features

Although toys and comforts aren't the point of the 2011 Nissan GT-R, it has plenty of them.

Just two options and two accessories are offered on the GT-R for 2010. There's a Cold Weather Package, Special Super Silver Paint, ultra-high-performance tires, and special floor mats.

The previous base model GT-R was eliminated for the 2011 model year, leaving only the Premium model, which gets an iPod interface, heated seats and an upgraded Bose audio system with Music Box hard-drive storage as standard equipment.

A hard-drive-based navigation system with voice recognition is also standard, as are XM NavTraffic and and NavWeather alerts. Almost all of the car's functions are controlled through the center-mounted 7-inch touchscreen display.

The GT-R’s navigation and gauges deserve special notice. The GT-R’s display allows users to customize those screens, and the automaker even hired designers who worked on the Sony PlayStation's Gran Turismo game to design the interface.

Overall, the GT-R offers a decent equipment list, with some creature comforts that won't make this coupe feel so edgy if you don't want it to.
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2011 Nissan GT-R

Fuel Economy

The 2011 Nissan GT-R won't win you any friends in the Sierra Club, but it's not the least-efficient car of its type.

Rated at 15 mpg city, 21 mpg highway, and 17 mpg combined, the Nissan GT-R is well behind the pack if you look at it as a four-seat coupe. If you look at it as a supercar, however, it's actually pretty solid. The twin-turbocharged V-6 gets most of the credit there, turning out big horsepower with less fuel than most comparable V-8s in cars of similar weight.
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8.6
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 8.0
Performance 10.0
Comfort & Quality 7.0
Safety 9.0
Features 9.0
Fuel Economy 5.0
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