TEST DRIVE: For Just $100,000, The Nissan GT-R Is The Ultimate Bargain Supercar

Photo: Travis Okulski / Business Insider

Disclosure: Nissan invited me to the Monticello Motor Club to flog the 2012 and 2013 GT-R on the race track. They fed me dinner and put me up in what has to be the swankiest Marriott Courtyard I’ve ever seen.For years, the North American enthusiast community has been begging Nissan to bring its ultimate car, the Skyline GT-R, to the states.

In 2007, Nissan finally listened and served up a car that embarrassed supercars costing three and four times as much.

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Each year, the GT-R has gotten better and better. More power, nicer interior, and better brakes, but the price has also gone up. What once was a bargain in the $70,000 range now starts at just under $100,000. That’s a big jump.

Photo: Travis Okulski / Business Insider

Instead of a normal test where Nissan would loan me a GT-R for a week of street driving, I spent an entire day with the car in an environment that it is ideally suited for: The race track.Monticello Motor Club’s track was divided into sections where I was able to do a slalom course, drag racing, lead and follow with instructors, and individual hot laps. I will say this, Nissan really knows how to show off this car. They even flew in the chief engineer and program director from Japan to speak with us.

So is it still a bargain supercar?


Kaz Mizuno, the chief engineer and father of the GT-R, had a goal of making this the ultimate driving machine (sorry for stealing your catchphrase, BMW).

Mission accomplished.

At 3,800 pounds, the GT-R is not close to being a lightweight. So you'd expect it to be a bit lethargic and lazy through the corners. In reality, it's the total opposite. Turn-in is crisp and the car barely shows its weight. It will understeer slightly, but only if you enter a corner far too hot.

The biggest weakness I found is in very high speed corners.

The GT-R can get loose and light over undulations in the road. With that large mass moving up and down, it can become a handful.

Acceleration is also brutal. The 2012 car gets from 0-60 in 2.9 seconds. 2.9! That's Bugatti Veyron territory, a car that costs more than 10 times as much.

The brakes are also amazing. I preferred the pedal feel of the 2013 to the 2012, it was more progressive and less like an on/off switch. But either way, this car can stop like nobody's business.


I like the way the GT-R looks...a lot.

It's purposeful and reminds me of an anime interpretation of a car. It is a bit comical looking, but I find that adds to the drama of the appearance.

And don't fool yourself into thinking the GT-R is small; this is a large car that can actually fit four people in relative comfort. And then it can be flogged around a race track all day long.


I'm divided on the interior.

When the GT-R cost around $70,000, it was totally acceptable. Now, the car is in the $100,000 range and it seems a little below the price you're paying.

It is purposeful, but I would like to see something with a bit more pizazz and luxury for that amount of money.

I was impressed by the central display that was designed by the makers of Gran Turismo. It told you everything you could ever want to know about the car like g-forces and engine temps. Truly amazing.

I do have to say that the seats are excellent, and are even better in the 2013. I'm 6'0' and with a helmet on, my head was hitting the roof of the 2012 car. In the 2013, the seats go lower to give the helmet wearers a bit more room.


There are a few areas that need improvement.

When the GT-R came out, the double-clutch gearbox was a revelation. However, it has fallen a little behind. In manual mode, the paddles are a little slow to respond and in auto it takes a touch too long to downshift. Compared to Porsche's gearbox, it's a little lacking.

I also turned on the windshield wipers when reaching for the paddles once, so placement might be an issue.

The other thing is weight. Going through some of the high speed corners at Monticello, the GT-R was unsettled and a bit of a handful. I attribute this to the weight. If it could drop 300 pounds, it would handle better and be even faster.

And on an emotional level, the sound is uninspiring. You mostly hear air going into the engine and not the exhaust. I want that to be reversed. It's kind of like listening to the most awesome vacuum in the world.


Where do I start?

It's amazing what Mizuno-san and his team at Nissan have accomplished. In terms of supercars, this is an amazing performer.

But compared to heavy cars with four seats, the performance is simply unreal. A car that handles, accelerates, and stops like this should normally cost far more money. But Nissan has made something truly incredible with the GT-R.

It is nearly impossible to break the car loose. And after a full day of driving it on the race track, it felt like it could then be driven home with nary a care in the world.

Awesome car.


The GT-R isn't for everyone.

If you want a pure driving experience, the GT-R isn't for you. There are technical aids all over the car to assist with handling and braking.

However, if you want a car that can outperform vehicles that cost three times as much and make nearly any driver look like a superhero, the GT-R is for you.

Sure, it may not look as dramatic as a Lamborghini or have the interior of a Ferrari, but does that matter when you can obliterate both of them on a race track?

I don't think so.

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