2013 Nissan GT-R

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Senior Editor
July 29, 2013

Buying tip

Don't expect to go to a Nissan dealership and test-drive the GT-R. Meet with them in advance, and in the meantime, sign up for some driving classes.

features & specs

2-Door Coupe Black Edition
2-Door Coupe Premium
16 city / 23 hwy
16 city / 23 hwy

At a fraction of the price, the 2013 Nissan GT-R beats some of the top supercars to the punch, although their sensuality is missing.

The 2013 Nissan GT-R is one of the few supercars that doesn't scream out its high-speed credentials, and if you're merely watching it go by at city speeds you might never know. But climb into the driver's seat, albeit briefly, and it's a magical piece of metal. Even at five times the price, nothing rivals its straight-line performance. It's a car that makes plenty of sense at face value, with well over 500 horsepower, all-wheel drive, brilliand handling, and 0-60 times of less than three seconds.

Some supercars are beautiful wedges of air-cheating, rolling art. The 2013 Nissan GT-R isn't that. It might be just as aerodynamically stable at supercar speeds, but its jagged cues and flared fenders evoke tuner cars and audacious body kits. Once you calm to the look, it's something more; a tomahawk cut at the roofline brings an interesting, not gorgeous, shape, and carbon fiber trim gives the plain interior just a dab of intrigue--given more panache with the red-and-black Recaros in Black Series models.

The big news for 2013 is that Nissan has improved intake efficiency and worked some other breathing magic to not only improve exhaust emissions but summon up an extra 15 horsepower and 15 pound-feet from the thundering twin-turbocharged six-cylinder engine--now making 545 hp and 463 lb-ft. Altogether the powertrain promises (and delivers) blistering performance, with awe-inspiring traction from a sophisticated all-wheel drive system and huge wheels and tires producing seemingly endless amounts of grip to make the most of it. All while handling is beautifully balanced, and a softer ride is available at the touch of a switch.

Practically speaking--and there is surprisingly some of it--the GT-R has great room for people in front, and a bit of room for small people in back, as well as a useful trunk. But don't expect too much in the way of touring-car comfort; there's plenty of noise from the road and the driveline.

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With a price starting at nearly $100k, the 2013 GT-R definitely drives a hard bargain if many of its top supercar rivals cost several times as much. There are definitely cut-rate bits and pieces, but none of them are remotely involved with its NASA-grade performance. Features are as respectable as they can be without begging any mention of plush or luxurious (that it is not), but all the basics are included, as well as a great 3D nav system, Bose audio, and Bluetooth. A rearview camera, now standard, addresses the GT-R's blind spots.



2013 Nissan GT-R


The 2013 Nissan GT-R doesn't quite fit on the same stage as other exotics, but it's one of the world's most distinctive sports cars.

The Nissan GT-R has been on offer in its home market of Japan for decades, and its home-crowd appeal plays a role in its styling, which while attention-getting might not be its strongest point to American eyes.

At first look, the GT-R impresses as part exotic, part extreme tuner car. To some it will look a little too much like a touring coupe retrofitted with visually assaulting bodywork. It can seem both a little too boisterous and cartoonish, though the big fender flares, deep-set air intakes, and big rear wing will instantly grab the fanbois.

It's attention-getting, no doubt, but it's more a digital-age shout-out; and neither as seductive as the Italians nor as instantly familiar as the 911. The tail is probably its best styling attribute, as the roofline chops down into the rear end like a tomahawk, and it's easy to pick out the circular taillamps from a distance. For 2013, the limited-production GT-R Black Edition gets a special handmade carbon-fiber 'weave' material for the rear spoiler.

You won't find much in common with other current Nissan models inside the GT-R, where there's a definite cockpit feel, including center-stack controls angled toward the driver and heavily bolstered seats. We'd rank fit and finish low--it looks cobbled-together and well below what the current Corvette musters, and well below the fully loaded, leather-lined 911. The Black Edition may earn you some compliments, though; it also adds a special black and red interior, with Recaro seats, plus light-weight black wheels.

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2013 Nissan GT-R


The 2013 Nissan GT-R is one of the best-performing cars in the world; although the emotional connection might be missing.

Performance is where there's absolutely no doubt as to why the 2013 Nissan GT-R earns a spot among some of the world's top supercars and exotics. On that stage, it's a relative bargain--a budget Bugatti Veyron, offering much of the performance but without all the leather and aluminum and at about a tenth of the price.

This is a car that no one can begin to max out on public roads, so that part of it will need to be saved for track days. There, it's a stupendous performer, turning in record-setting lap times at some of the world's most challenging race tracks. Advanced all-wheel drive and massive, meaty treads do shear off some of the unpredictable driving "joy" you'd find in some cars, and while they're assets there, it's difficult to find its character at times.

Otherwise, you could argue that the GT-R is about raw power, and it gets even more of that for 2013. It's become something of a yearly rite for the GT-R to get a power boost, and it does again this year. The 2013 GT-R, through improved intake efficiency and reduced airflow resistance, gets another 15 horsepower and 15 pound-feet of torque--for a total of 545 hp and 463 lb-ft.

On the street, the all-wheel drive is more of an asset; it shunts the massive torque output of the engine solidly to the tarmac, while a burly six-speed, automated-manual transmission smacks through the gears. 0-60 times have dropped to 3.0 seconds or less, with top speed drifting higher to just under 200 mph. It's a feat of physics, for sure, but with such sure-footedness, it doesn't waste any time on the way there. Nissan claims to have improved the shift feel and transmission quietness for 2013 due to some strengthening measures and a high-performance differential oil.

The other secret weapon for leaping away from the starting gate so quickly is Launch Control; it can be dialed in by flipping and tapping the GT-R's traction control and sport-mode buttons, by braking and by goosing the throttle. And it's like an amusement-park ride, or a once-in-a-lifetime thrill, like parachuting on a horizontal surface, with the beefy four-wheel disc brakes to haul you back to reality.

Provided you're not pushing the GT-R's boundaries--and barring insanity, you wouldn't dare on the road, the GT-R is a brilliant handler. Along with all-wheel drive, the GT-R also has adjustable suspension settings to relieve its stiff ride when you're just tooling around for admiration. In "R" mode, all those reflexes are sharpened, and it's staggering to wind the GT-R into long sweepers at triple-digit speeds and feel almost complacent as it just hangs on, drama-free.

If you can't quite obtain a GT-R, it's easy to be a hater. Just focus in on the non-exotic engine noises, its surprisingly ordinary interior, and the automatic transmission. We're converts from the driver's seat, but from a bleacher seat it won't hitting everyone's performance sweet spot.

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2013 Nissan GT-R

Comfort & Quality

The interior of the 2013 Nissan GT-R is unremarkable compared to expensive high-performance coupes; but it's way more practical than the exotics.

Among supercars and exotics, the 2013 Nissan GT-R has a rare measure of practicality thrown in. That's not to say it's quite a touring coupe, but it's one that can fit more than two people and a weekend bag.

The key 'oddity' (among supercars) in the GT-R is that it has an actual pair of rear seats--and discernible leg room to go with them. They're more usable than the really small buckets you get in a 911, and more usable than those in any other car that's nearly as fast.

In front, you'll find wide, comfortable sport seats that are ample, supportive, and up in Corvette territory. They're power-adjustable and wear perforated leather; and getting in and out is remarkably easy for this kind of car. 

The rest of the interior is stark and functional, and nothing especially luxurious or hand-crafted. There aren't any machine-turned metal trim pieces, no wood to relieve the cockpit's drabness, but there is carbon-fiber trim and some red contrast on Black Edition cars. If you consider its race-ready credentials, the interior's actually a pretty plush place.

Two kids will fit fine in back, but the sloping roof is what limits adult space in back even more than the lack of leg room. Compared to the likes of the Audi R8, the 458 Italia, the Bugatti Veyron--where there's only a token gesture--it's usable space, however.

There's no special packing required, either. The GT-R also has a trunk that will swallow a suit bag and a roll-aboard, and Nissan hasn't opted to deny you cupholders. Yet don't get yourself too convinced that the GT-R isn't a peaky supercar; there's not much effort here to quell harshness from the road and driveline, and you'll need a lot of volume from that decent Bose audio system.

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2013 Nissan GT-R


There are still no crash tests to go on in judging the GT-R's safety; but it's no slouch in features.

Just as with nearly any other low-production, high-price supercar, there are no actual crash-test ratings for the 2013 Nissan GT-R.

Neither the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have smashed a GT-R, thankfully, but that leaves us all to wonder about the GT-R's safety.

Feature-wise, you'll find side airbags and curtain airbags, while all-wheel drive and stability control will help guard against any temptation from the GT-R's massive output. While you'd be foolish to turn these systems off on the street, these highly evolved traction and stability controls can be deactivated out on the track.

A RearView Monitor is now standard on all models--which is a good thing, as in past models we've found that the GT-R's thick rear pillars can get in the way of outward visibility.


2013 Nissan GT-R


The 2013 GT-R has enough features for a high-priced performance coupe that doesn't want to be seen as too luxury-laden.

Keeping in mind that the 2013 Nissan GT-R is first and foremost a high-performance vehicle, and not necessarily a luxury coupe, it's quite well stocked with comfort features and gadgets.

There are two models offered for 2013: the GT-R Premium and the Black Edition. Black paint and black-tipped RAYS 20-inch wheels, plus a carbon-fiber spoiler are what distinguish the Black Edition on the outside, along with red-and-black Recaro seats and dark interior trim.

Leather seats are included in all models, though; so is a hard-drive-based navigation system with stealth-fighter-style 3D flyover mapping, and an 11-speaker Bose sound system with a USB port. Bluetooth phone connectivity and streaming audio are also part of the system.

The GT-R's videogame-style performance gauges are pretty much a feature in themselves. Tap the screen, and the GT-R reveals a set of digital gauges that let drivers record how they're performing, whether it's grip, acceleration, or elapsed times. It's customizable, too, and Nissan even hired designers who worked on Sony's Gran Turismo game to help render the interface. If it sounds gimmicky, it's not--it's an apt piece of tech for a car so Corvette-fryingly capable.

The only option otherwise on the 2013 GT-R is a Cold Weather Package, which wraps a special coolant mix with Dunlop all-season tires.

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2013 Nissan GT-R

Fuel Economy

The GT-R is by no means fuel-efficient, but it's not especially thirsty for a nearly 200-mph supercar.

You wouldn't expect a supercar that can approach 200 mph to be able to achieve very impressive fuel economy; and the GT-R doesn't amaze in this respect.

But it's not as bad as you might think. Some supercars can't manage more than single digits, but last year the GT-R's fuel economy ratings rose to 16/23 mpg, from 15/21 mpg, and in city driving, if you can keep your right foot under control, it's probably more efficient with its turbo V-6 than a comparable V-8 or V-12 model. But it's still not as good as the likes of the Porsche 911 or Chevy Corvette, however (both of those cars reach up to the upper 20s).

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April 16, 2015
For 2013 Nissan GT-R

Great Car.

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I have had the car 3 years. It is fast, handles well and is extremely reliable. Nissan maintenance has been excellent and compared to other high performance cars a real bargain. All the after market products I... + More »
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