The 2009 Nissan GT-R delivers the kind of supercar performance that stuns enthusiast magazines and consumer auto Web sites alike—at a price point that’s at least half of its true competitors. In the words of Edmunds, “The 2009 Nissan GT-R delivers true supercar performance in a user-friendly package for less coin than a base Porsche 911.”
The heart of the GT-R’s shocking performance is a V-6 engine that’s been twin-turbocharged and massaged into a near-ecstatic state. From a 3.8-liter twin-turbo six-cylinder, Nissan extracts a claimed 473 horsepower and 434 pound-feet of torque—close to the intended benchmark, the “mighty Porsche 997-series 911 Turbo,” Edmunds reports. It’s a hand-assembled engine, Popular Mechanics says, that’s also the “most powerful production engine Nissan has ever built.”
Coupled to a six-speed, dual-clutch automated manual transmission and all-wheel drive, the GT-R is capable of astonishing acceleration times. How about a cornea-peeling “3.2-second zero-to-60 mph time,” as Motor Trend records? Edmunds reports the GT-R “teleported to 60 mph in a drama-free 3.3 seconds, thanks to its launch control function, and turned in a blistering 11.6-second quarter-mile at nearly 121 mph.” Both times seem awfully fast against the GT-R’s claimed power and weight figures—indeed, when “Motor Trend's resident skeptic Frank Markus, puzzled that the GT-R was outperforming lighter and more powerful cars like the Porsche 911 Turbo, recently put a GT-R on a borrowed dynamometer,” the Los Angeles Times states, “he concluded the engine is producing at least 507 hp and likely a lot more.” No matter the power, Motor Trend attests, the GT-R “ties our best runs in a Porsche 911 Turbo and a 911 GT3-R, and trails only the Ferrari Enzo (3.1 sec) and Bugatti Veyron (2.7 sec) among production test cars,” making it a “Ferrari killer” in the eyes of the L.A. Times.
More on that special transmission and launch-control feature: The Times reports the launch-control system “allows the mother of all torque-brake takeoffs: There's a brief moan as the highly excited gear packs sluice torque fore and aft, but there's no drama, no wheel spin, no choking incense of clutch. The GT-R simply begins moving like some pneumatically powered experiment in a physics lab.” Car and Driver explains how to access the program: “Flip the transmission switch into 'R' mode. Flick the suspension into the firm 'R' setting. Turn off the stability and traction control. Almost ready for flight. Put the transmission into manual mode, left foot on the brake, right foot on the gas. Get it right, and the GT-R spools up to 4400 rpm and dumps the clutch when the brake is released.” The combination of transmission and all-wheel drive means the GT-R is up to the brutal task of launching all that power; the transmission, Edmunds says, “ranks right up there with the best in the business,” and Popular Mechanics points out it’s “hand built too,” and “mounted in the rear of the car with the transfer case.” Edmunds adds, though, “as good as the GT-R's exclusive clutchless manual is, you can still shift many competing models the old-fashioned way if you want, and we wish the same were true of the GT-R.”
The GT-R’s handling is rendered dramatically stable by its all-wheel-drive system, which “Nissan calls ATTESA E-TS,” Popular Mechanics reports. “Though the AWD system has a rearward torque bias, up to 50-percent of the torque can be sent through the computer controlled center differential to the front wheels. How much torque depends on speed, lateral and transverse acceleration, steering angles, tire slippage and yaw rate.” MSN Autos proclaims the system gives drivers huge doses of confidence: “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.”
Handling is also aided by adjustable electronics that control the shift quality, suspension firmness, and steering response in the GT-R. Three switches allow drivers to fiddle with settings: “One controls the suspension, another adjusts how quickly the transmission shifts and the last determines the intrusiveness of the VDC-R stability control,” Popular Mechanics observes. “R” mode “is the most aggressive setting possible, short of turning the stability control off,” they add. There is a “perceptible difference between the 'R' and 'Comfort' suspension settings,” they note, while Edmunds reports “as capable as the GT-R is at the racetrack, it nonetheless manages to be bearable on the street, even if no one will mistake it for a luxury coupe…although the GT-R's ride is never less than stiff, the suspension settings can be fiddled with so pavement imperfections need not be treated like land mines.” MSN Autos says the GT-R’s “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,” while Cars.com feels “this car rides impossibly smoothly.”
A small minority of reviewers ignores its world-class capabilities and labels the GT-R as emotionless. The Los Angeles Times calls it “Godzilla on Prozac” and says it’s “not all that exciting to drive”; Cars.com also feels “it’s not engaging to drive in day-to-day circumstances.” However, nearly all reviewers are flattened by the GT-R’s performance. “This is a nearly foolproof chassis with supernatural balance,” Car and Driver declares. “It makes any driver seem smoother and faster.” On the challenging Nurburgring racetrack in Germany, the awesomely capable “GT-R lapped the Nurburgring in 7 minutes 38 seconds with a pro driver in partially wet conditions,” Popular Mechanics points out. “That’s quicker than anything this side of a Porsche’s now discontinued, nearly half-million dollar Carerra GT.”