2013 Nissan GT-R first drive
Creating a monster
I grew up enthralled by the idea of Nissan's Skyline GT-Rs — the ordinary made extraordinary, by virtue of an exceptionally robust turbocharged engine and highly sophisticated all-wheel drive.
Nowadays the GT-R does without that Skyline moniker, but remains one of the mightiest performance machines you can buy at any price. So although costs continue to creep upwards, put into context, the $103,980 GT-R is still a relative bargain given its capabilities. Which is a funny thing to say about a vehicle its creator describes as a "supercar."
For whatever you or I think about it, Kazutoshi Mizuno — Mr. GT-R himself — is adamant: the big Nissan is a supercar that just happens to offer seating for four and a trunk large enough for all their luggage. And given the 2013 version available in Canada boasts no less than 545 hp, surely sufficient for 0-100 km/h in less than three seconds, it seems churlish to argue. That's not just supercar pace, but rapid enough to hassle most superbikes.
The initial, rabble-rousing Porsche 911 baiting is now a moot point.
The GT-R has been with us for five years, and in that time it's become practically a cliché to talk about the digital nature of its responses. In reality an evolutionary process of refinements to the chassis, the steering and the dual-clutch gearbox have steadily massaged away those PlayStation sensations. The GT-R you can buy today feels as natural as you could possibly expect of something with such an enormous degree of technological superiority.
The electronics controlling the "ATTESA E-TS" all-wheel drive, for example, are so intelligent that when Nissan Europe decided to transplant a GT-R drivetrain into a sub-compact crossover and create the Juke R, the Frankensteinian engineers didn't even have to recalibrate it. The system recognised it was now dealing with a significantly different operating environment and adjusted itself ...
I digress. For the 2013 GT-R Nissan has largely left the exterior alone — the car received new lighting elements and an aerodynamic update last year. There are, however, yet more alterations under the skin, with further fine-tuning of the chassis, another transmission upgrade and even more power.
Top 10 race cars for the road
545 hp, 463 lb.-ft.
The hand-built 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 that originally debuted with 485 hp was boosted to 530 hp last year and now has 545 hp. Goodness only knows how many horses it will produce by the time the model cycle is through, but in order to get to this current level, Nissan has worked the air intakes, fitted a more compact underfloor catalyser and swapped to sodium-filled exhaust valves to improve their cooling. The valve control timing, the air mixture and the ignition timing have all been adjusted to suit.
This has also brought an increase in torque, with 463 lb.-ft. now straining at the driveshafts from as little as 3,500 rpm all the way to 5,800 rpm, just ahead of peak power that erupts with a final flourish at 6,400 rpm. No coincidence the gearbox gets tougher internals — stronger shift-arm fork and fixing bearing for the flywheel — and competition-spec differential oil. The result is supposedly more feel (interesting concept with a paddleshifter) and less noise.