The 2018 Nissan GT-R offers value in the world of supercars: You can now buy a GT-R for less than 100 grand. To be exact, $99,990. (That’s MSRP and doesn’t include the destination charge, but who’s counting?)
The 2018 GT-R Pure comes without the 11-speaker Bose sound system, Active Noise Cancellation and Active Sound Enhancement, and titanium exhaust system. You’ll still be getting Godzilla, as the GT-R is called. Maybe more so. Godzilla with noise cancellation? We don’t think so. The real Godzilla is Pure. Bring on the noise.
For 2018, Apple CarPlay is added to the NissanConnect infotainment system, and there’s a new interior package, black replacing white: in with Kuro Night, out with Ivory.
The GT-R was revised for 2017, with 20 more horsepower, as if it needed it, along with refinement to the styling and cabin.
With its twin-turbo 3.8-liter V6 making 565 horsepower and 467 pound-feet of torque, the GT-R is one of the world’s fastest sports cars, with a time from zero to sixty in 2.7 seconds. Rivals that fear Godzilla include the Porsche 911 Turbo and various models from Mercedes-AMG and BMW M.
However, the Corvette Z06, another rival, is the real bargain in this group, a monster killer. Chevrolet will sell you 650 horsepower for just $80,000, wrapped in a package that’s more distinctively aggressive than the GT-R. But then you wouldn’t have a GT-R, you’d be just another guy with a Corvette.
The GT-R gets amazing grip from its advanced all-wheel-drive system, biased to the rear but able to send 50 percent of the torque to the front wheels. The ride is relatively smooth, thanks partly to special Bilstein DampTronic dampers. It uses a fast dual-clutch transmission. There are several driving modes, including R for Race. The electronic stability control has several levels, from conservative in the wet to full off, for the track.
Like the Porsche 911, the GT-R technically seats four people, although the two in the rear must be tiny to fit. If you need to seat four, there is the Maserati GranTurismo.
There are four models: GT-R Pure ($99,990), GT-R Premium ($110,490), GT-R Track ($128,490), and GT-R Nismo ($175,490).
The new Pure isn’t bare bones. It comes with full power features, heated front seats, leather upholstery, navigation, Bluetooth audio streaming, and performance run-flat tires. The Premium adds the Bose audio, active noise cancellation, and titanium exhaust.
The Nismo has carbon-fiber trim and Recaro seats, and more horsepower: 600.
The Track is what it sounds like: legal for the street but set up for the track.
The GT-R only looks like a supercar at second or third glance. You can tell it’s special, but it doesn’t say Lamborghini. With its jagged and bulky luxury coupe outline, it could be mistaken for a kit car, with boisterous fender flares, deeply scooped air intakes, and a comically large rear wing. It all looks like anime armor, definitely including the roofline’s tomahawk slice that chops into the rear end.
Cars like the Porsche, Mercedes, and Ferrari or Lamborghini are unmistakable. The GT-R is overlookable. It looks best in dark graphite, a color that comes off subtle on the GT-R. A large Nissan V-Motion mesh grille has a matte finish. A chin spoiler and bumper add downforce, while the hood has pronounced character lines. The 20-inch wheels are a 15-spoke design.
The beltline is raised and rocker panels are bulged a bit for aerodynamics. The rear end has functional vents next to the quad exhaust outlets and under the bumper that provides good airflow at high speed. Nissan says the GT-R’s 0.26 coefficient of drag helps keep it stable at high speed.
The cabin is refined to the level of an Infiniti. The instrument panel on the horizontal dashboard is wrapped in Nappa leather, with 11 buttons (until 2017 there was a bewildering 27 buttons). The center touchscreen is 8.0 inches, and there is a Display Command control for NissanConnect on the center console. In 2017 the paddle shifters were moved to the steering wheel from the steering column, so they can be used in the turns.
The seats have good comfort and support. There’s good room in front, while the rear seat is fine for two kids, limited for adults more by lack of headroom than legroom. There’s good trunk space. A rearview camera is standard, and necessary, as the thick rear pillars block the rearward visibility.
In 2017 the cabin was made much quieter, with more sound deadening material, an acoustic glass windshield, and the noise cancellation system that’s now only on the Premium model. Wind noise is present, but not too intrusive.
You can still hear the high-strung engine in the Premium, thanks to subtle rumble of the titanium exhaust. The twin turbos create a jet-like whine mixed with a low howl. The GT-R doesn’t have the refined scream of a Ferrari 458 Italia, or the deep burble of a Shelby GT500. It’s between these and quieter.
Speaking of jet-like, the GT-R is quicker than some supercars costing twice as much. Its top speed is 196 miles per hour. It’s so fast that the driving experience can feel like a video game, except bad things happen when you crash.
It’s a brilliant road car as well as an awesome track-day car. The firm ride can be programmed to be fairly forgiving, in Comfort mode, making it a nice highway cruiser.
The steering is relatively light at low speeds, quick but without the need to make small corrections at highway speeds. The paddle-shifting is sharp and crisp. The all-wheel drive varies torque from 100 percent to the rear to 50/50, depending on tire slip, steering angle, lateral acceleration, yaw rate, road surface, speed.
The GT-R has adjustable suspension, transmission, and stability-control settings to make it work as a commuter car. But in R for Race mode, it’s a life-changing experience. You push the GT-R into long corners at triple-digit speeds, and feel almost relaxed as it handles the curve without effort. When it’s time to slow down for a hairpin, the big Brembo brakes, six pistons in front and four in rear, do the job.
The traction control is easy to use. Set all three to Race, depress the brake pedal, floor the accelerator, and the engine hovers at 4500 rpm. Release the brake and the car launches with a slight squeal of the tires. Power is distributed to the tires with the best grip.
Pushed to its handling limits on a racetrack, the GT-R tends to understeer, a trait we noticed at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. With the throttle down, the rear can slide into power oversteer but it’s controllable. Cornering grip is outstanding.
The huge brakes feel firm as they slow the car at a mesmerizing rate, and we did not experience fade during repeated hard use.
In bang for the buck, only the Corvette ZO6 beats the GT-R. But we define bang narrowly, as in performance-only. The GT-R looks powerful, but the styling is not bang-inducing.
Sam Moses contributed to this review, with staff reports.