2017 Nissan GT-R Review

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2018
The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

Kirk Bell Kirk Bell Editor
June 27, 2017

With sub-3.0-second 0 to 60 mph times and an advanced all-wheel-drive system, the 2017 Nissan GT-R delivers supercar track performance in what has become a fairly refined package.

The 2017 GT-R ranks as one of the world's top-performing production cars. With its front-engine, all-wheel-drive layout, it offers immense capability and accessible performance, and it's pretty much a class of one.

It gets a 7.4 overall from us based on its remarkable performance and great features. There's room for improvement in styling and comfort, which is par for the course for many supercars. It doesn't need anything when it comes to performance, not with a sub-three-second run to 60 mph and a top end over 200 mph. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

For 2017, the GT-R gets its most extensive update since the so-called R35 generation debuted as a 2007 model (we received it in the United States in 2009). Performance fans will care that "Godzilla" adds 20 horsepower, but it also gets revised styling front and rear, a new infotainment system, an extensively updated interior, and new levels of refinement.

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Styling and performance

Objectively, few cars come close to the GT-R's 0-60 mph times of less than three seconds, or its brilliant all-wheel-drive handling. It delivers blistering acceleration, hooking up perfectly with awe-inspiring traction from the GT-R's brainy all-wheel-drive system. But this isn't a car just meant to go in a straight line. A rigid body structure, special springs, and custom-developed Bilstein DampTronic dampers help balance ride with track-ready handling. The all-wheel-drive system aids handling, too; rear-biased, it can send all the power to the rear wheels, or up to 50 percent of it to the fronts. Nissan also provides several drive modes, including an R, or Race, mode to tune the driving character to the conditions.

On the road, the GT-R isn't the same raw beast it once was. While Nissan engineers have raised the power on an almost annual basis, they've also dialed in more refinement, improving steering, ride, and interior quality along the way, and the 2017 model is the smoothest yet. That makes the current GT-R fairly easy to live with given its supercar capabilities.

The GT-R's looks have indeed always been controversial—part edgy performance car, part exotic, part race-influenced. Its jagged outline is perhaps the only non-sequitur; it reads more tuner car, more body kit, than instant classic. The components cut interesting swaths across its luxury-coupe outline: a tomahawk cut at the roofline chops into the rear end.

Design changes for 2017 include a version of Nissan's "V-Motion" grille, a revised front lip spoiler and bumper, more pronounced character lines on the hood (which is also sturdier so it won't deform at high speeds), side sills pushed outward, new 20-inch wheels, and functional vents next to the quad exhaust tips. Nissan says these changes make the car more stable at high speeds while maintaining the same 0.26 coefficient of drag.

Comfort, safety, and features

With four seats, the Nissan GT-R makes rare concessions to practicality. It's almost impossible to name another supercar with a pair of rear seats, other than the Porsche 911 Turbo—and the GT-R's will actually accommodate a pair of kids. There's great, usable space in the GT-R's front seats, as well as a useful trunk.

Changes for 2017 bring the interior considerably upscale. The instrument panel and many of the touch surfaces are now wrapped in nappa leather. Nissan has made the GT-R quieter inside by adding more sound deadener and an acoustic glass windshield. Active noise cancellation carries over. The result is Infiniti-grade luxury in a car with NASA-grade acceleration. These updates tune some of the road noise and "mechanical charm" out of the GT-R, but we're happy that it's not too raw and it still sounds something like a land jet.

Also inside, an 8.0-inch touchscreen replaces a 7.0-inch unit, and the number of knobs and switches is reduced from 27 to 11. A Display Command controller is added to the center console, and the car gets the NissanConnect system with navigation and access to mobile apps.

Value is the other rather surprising side of the GT-R's appeal. Prices have risen $111,585 to start for the lone Premium model, but you'd have to spend a lot more to sling yourself to 60 mph any faster on four wheels. An even more track-focused Nismo model will arrive later in the year, and two more models are due as well, perhaps even a lower-priced base model.

As it stands, the GT-R commands respect from a cadre of cars straight out of the exotic section—cars like the 911 Turbo, Corvette Z06, and practically the entire Mercedes AMG and BMW M lineups. Key it to life, and your attention needs to be laser-focused, even though it's one of the most predictable supercars ever. You'll roll up into triple-digits speeds—even in sweeping corners—before you can catch your breath. 

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2017 Nissan GT-R

Styling

The 2017 Nissan GT-R gets a minor styling update, but it's still distinctively Japanese and almost restrained for the exotic car it is.

The GT-R is on the receiving end of some styling attention this year, and though the changes aren't major, they're in tune with the long-running, gradual improvements the car's enjoyed over its long life.

The most readily spotted exterior changes come up front, where it gets a version of Nissan's "V-Motion" grille that is larger and therefore improves cooling capability. The mesh pattern is new and so is the matte finish. The revised front lip spoiler and bumper design add downforce, and the hood is tweaked with more pronounced character lines and a greater ability to handle high speeds.

The new GT-R looks good on the inside, great on the outside, and we've assigned it a rating based on that. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Along the sides, the sills are pushed outward to improve airflow and the 20-inch RAYS wheels feature a new 15-spoke design. The rear end gets new bodywork, with functional vents next to the quad exhaust tips and a higher beltline that is designed to make the car look wider. The shape of the rear bumper is taken from the 2015 Nismo model for better airflow.

Nissan says these changes make the car more stable at high speeds while maintaining the same 0.26 coefficient of drag. A new Blaze Metallic orange color is also added to the color palette.

Taken as a whole, the Nissan GT-R has an instantly recognizable shape and style, just like Corvettes, Vipers, 911s, and Veyrons, though it can seem like a combination of automotive ideas, in spirit, function, and form. It's part extreme tuner car, part exotic, and it even has elements of an ordinary coupe. If you view it as the latter, it seems to be clad with boisterous fender flares, deeply scooped air intakes, and a comically large rear wing.

From the front, the GT-R remains more of a luxury coupe wrapped in anime armor. Neither as instantly familiar as the Porsche, nor as lurid as any Italian, the GT-R has its finer points. The roofline chops into the rear end like a tomahawk, and the circular taillights are an easy marker, now even more so that the 'Vette isn't using them anymore. We find it attention-getting, albeit a bit too digital for some tastes.

The GT-R's cabin has improved much over the past few years, though the fundamental layout has carried over. It takes an even greater leap for 2017. The dashboard is new, with an emphasis on a horizontal layout and an instrument panel wrapped in nappa leather. An center screen is larger, the button count falls from 27 to 11, and a Display Command controller is added to the center console. Thanks to all those upgrades, it's now much more in keeping with Infiniti levels of luxury.

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2017 Nissan GT-R

Performance

Twenty more horses only aid the GT-R's sub-3-second 0-60 mph time. Pair that with relentless grip, and you get blazingly fast laps times.

The GT-R is one of today's more insane performance bargains, but how does it get there? By letting a pair of turbochargers rampage all over a 3.8-liter V-6 and sending that power through a fast-acting dual-clutch transmission to all four wheels via one of the most advanced all-wheel-drive systems on the market.

For 2017, Nissan has eked another 20 horsepower out of the engine, bringing the total to 565. It also adds 4 pound-feet of torque for a total of 467. Revised ignition timing control and additional turbo boost create the extra power, and Nissan says the car now accelerates better above 3,200 rpm.

The superlative performance of the GT-R, a great transmission, compliant ride, and handling. It's one of few cars that aces our performance rating. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Even before the addition of those 20 horses, the GT-R was astonishingly fast. With a 0-60 mph of 2.7 seconds, you could become bleary-eyed before you reach its ragged edges. It's not surprising that we, and others, have found the driving experience to be a little video game-like at times.

Constant improvement has made the GT-R a brilliant road car and an even better track machine. Early GT-Rs generated a lot of driveline clatter, but the car is now more refined. The shift feel is improved, and the steering is lighter at low speeds and no longer twitchy on center. Front suspension changes have reduced the number of small corrections needed at highway speeds. The only downside? It's now easier to vault this car forward even more nauseatingly quickly.

The all-wheel-drive system is rear-biased, and it can vary the torque split from 100 percent to the rear to 50/50 depending on speed, lateral acceleration, steering angle, tire slip, road surface, and yaw rate. The transmission and related bits live in the rear end to give the car better weight balance. The GT-R also has adjustable suspension, transmission, and stability-control settings to relieve its firm ride and neural responses when you're just tooling around for admiration. That ride has become more forgiving this year, especially in the Comfort mode, making it easier to use the GT-R as a commuter.

In R mode, all those reflexes are sharpened. It's a life-changing experience to wind the GT-R into long sweepers at triple-digit speeds and feel almost complacent as it just hangs on, drama-free, ready for you to throw on its Brembo six-piston front, four-piston rear brakes.

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2017 Nissan GT-R

Comfort & Quality

Much improved interior materials team with active noise cancellation and a usable rear seat to make the GT-R an almost civil long-distance cruiser.

The Nissan GT-R is a pure performance machine, but it's more comfortable for street duty than just about any other supercar. The 2017 interior changes make that truer than ever.

Nissan now wraps the instrument panel in nappa leather. An 8.0-inch touchscreen replaces a 7.0-inch unit, and the number of knobs and switches is reduced from 27 to 11. A Display Command controller is added to the center console, and the car gets the NissanConnect system with navigation and access to mobile apps.

The front seats are still the best seats in the house and our rating reflects that. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Nissan has made the GT-R quieter inside by adding more sound deadener and an acoustic glass windshield. Active noise cancellation carries over, and Nissan says it cuts a whopping 10 decibels of engine boom alone. The cockpit is now almost relaxed, but it still lets in levels of engine noise you'd expect in a super sports car. A new titanium exhaust system, previously an option only on the Nismo, reduces engine noise slightly, but the high-strung engine and twin turbos create a jet-like whine mixed with a low howl. The gearbox lash and the whine of the differential are now mostly in the past.

These changes elevate the interior from just functional to almost plush and easier to live with on a daily basis.

For 2017, the seats are also lighter thanks to a new construction technique and we found they offer plenty of comfort and support. The shift paddles also move from the steering column to the steering wheel, where, Nissan says, they are easier to operate mid-turn. Why you would shift mid-turn is a mystery to us.

Those who need to carry around more than one passenger will be pleasantly surprised by the rear seat. It will accommodate two kids just fine, but the sloping roofline limits adult space in back even more than the lack of legroom. You'd have to move into softer touring cars like the Maserati GranTurismo to find better four-seat space. The forthcoming Nismo model should allow you to delete the rear seats if track driving is the car's main purpose.

Trunk space in the GT-R is also a pleasant surprise; it will swallow a suit bag and a roll-aboard.

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2017 Nissan GT-R

Safety

A low-volume sports car, the GT-R hasn't been—and probably never will be—crash-tested by the government or the IIHS.

The GT-R is a rare supercar, and it hasn't been crash tested by the federal government or the IIHS. Don't expect those agencies to conduct testing any time soon.

Based on the lack of data, we're withholding a rating until more data comes in. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

As a performance car, the 2017 Nissan GT-R isn't overly encumbered by modern active-safety systems. The nannies common to luxury cars in this price range aren't found here, but Nissan still has all the safety basics covered. One modern concession to the GT-R's keep-it-simple safety equipment approach is a standard rearview camera; it's essential, as those thick rear pillars can get in the way for lane changes or parking.

Airbags and stability control are mandatory, as are traction control and electronic stability control. The GT-R has several modes for the stability control system that increase safety during conservative street driving or allow more of a margin for full-on track action. You can disable the traction aids, but that would be foolish during street driving. You can have plenty of fun within the limits of these systems and even posted speed limits, but there's a fine line between control and chaos when you reach this car's boundaries, even for experienced performance drivers. Standard all-wheel drive can also be viewed as improving safety, but it's more for traction here than poor weather grip.

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2017 Nissan GT-R

Features

An updated infotainment system joins the list of amenities that includes high-end audio and a navigation system.

Nissan starts the GT-R with the Premium model, then adds the race-oriented Nismo. That means the Black Edition and the 45th Anniversary Gold Edition model won't return initially for 2017, but Nissan has said four models are due, so the Black Edition and a new base model might round out the lineup.

Our rating is based on the GT-R's excellent base content, great touchscreen, including its advanced system that was co-developed with the makers of the popular "Gran Turismo" video game. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

Equipment also hasn't been announced, but all 2016 models have leather upholstery; heated front seats; power windows, locks and mirrors; a navigation system with real-time traffic and 3-D mapping; Bose audio with Bluetooth streaming audio; and Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT 600 summer performance run-flat tires, 255/40R20s up front and 285/35R20s out back, all on 15-spoke forged alloy RAYS wheels.

We expect Recaro seats and perhaps a carbon fiber package to be offered as well.

The GT-R's video game-style performance gauges are pretty much a feature in themselves. Tap the screen, and the GT-R reveals a set of digital gauges that lets drivers record how they're performing, whether it's grip, acceleration, or elapsed times. It's customizable, too, and Nissan worked with video game engineers to get it right.

The new Display Commander dial is offset toward the driver, so much so that the driver's arm can brush it, triggering random functions. It does, however, make it easier to choose some of the controls through the center screen than via the sea of buttons in the outgoing model.

The GT-R isn't the bargain it used to be. The price has shot up by more than $30,000 over the years and now easily surpasses six figures. However, Nissan has also added equipment, improved interior quality, and constantly improved power and performance to justify the price hikes.

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2017 Nissan GT-R

Fuel Economy

It isn't thrifty, but the combination of 500-plus horsepower and 22 highway mpg is impressive.

Despite the additional 20 horsepower, 2017's version of the Nissan GT-R manages roughly the same numbers as 2016's version. We give it a 5 for fuel economy. (Read more about how we rate cars.)

According to the EPA, the 2017 Nissan GT-R is rated at 16 mpg city, 22 highway, 18 combined. Those figures aren't quite as good as a standard Chevrolet Corvette or Porsche 911, both of which reach the upper 20s on the highway. But, if you can refrain from digging too deep into the throttle, the GT-R's turbo V-6 can be more efficient than most V-8 and all V-12 engines that make comparable power.

In a 250-mile test with a 2015 GT-R Premium model, we saw nearly 17 mpg in a combination of spirited driving on backroads plus uneven, congested freeway travel. That's certainly not fuel efficient, but the Nissan GT-R isn't as thirsty as the typical supercar. 

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7.4
Overall
Expert Rating
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Styling 8
Performance 10
Comfort & Quality 6
Safety N/A
Features 8
Fuel Economy 5
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