Godzilla Growls: 2009 Nissan GT-R

December 11, 2008, 10:55 PM UTC

2009_gt-r032The red-over-black GT-R squatted in my driveway like an angry beast from another planet. No graceful shapes or elegant curves disguised its blunt purposefulness.  This is the car designed, first and foremost, to beat all other production models around Germany’s famed Nürburgring.  Whether it does or not, it lives up to its nickname “Godzilla” even when parked.

Which would be fine, except that I live in northwestern Connecticut, and, despite the proximity of Lime Rock Park (“Roadracing capital of the East”), I almost never get an opportunity to evaluate the full potential of a 480-horsepower car that can claw its way to 60 miles an hour in 3.9 seconds (without launch control) and claims a top speed of 195 miles per hour.

What I could do was make some short loops around town and then log 150 miles at higher speeds on the Massachusetts Turnpike. What I found was that this is not a car you would choose to make a leisurely morning run for the New York Times and a cup of coffee.  That’s mainly because first gear in an all-wheel-drive car with the power of the GT-R has all the subtlety of a stump-pulling tractor, heaving and jerking as it translates the immense horsepower into forward motion.  Second gear in the dual clutch, paddle-shift, six-speed transmission was lots smoother,  but you needed to get up a little speed before the computer brain behind it would allow you to get there.

Nor does the view from the driver’s seat give you much to warm up to.  The cockpit has all the ambiance of an F1 racer, with surfaces and instruments designed more for practicality than esthetics, purpose  not pleasure. This is not a car for lounging in.  One thoughtful touch is the addition of two rear seats, suitable for pets, small children, and masochistic adults – an unusual  concession to practicality.

But although the GT-R is designed to be a daily driver and carries a relatively modest sticker price of $72,000, it is as finicky in some ways as an exotic.  Specifically, the alignment tolerances are so narrow that a minor irregularity can throw the wheels out of whack.  My GT-R shimmied regardless of the road surface, requiring constant corrections of the steering wheel.  I was informed that it needed a wheel alignment after only a few thousand miles of use.

With those caveats, the GT-R lived up to its advance billing as one of the most technologically-advanced,  high-performance cars in the world and is ably performing its task of raising Nissan’s profile. GT-R owners form a very exclusive club – the purchase of only 321 cars was transacted in November, but enthusiasts have gone bonkers over it and Motor Trend voted it car of the year. For me, however, the GT-R is a car more to admire than to love.

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