2011 Nissan GT-R Premium

The thing that I like most about the Nissan GT-R Premium is that it is a raucous, exuberant machine.

The thing that I like most about the Nissan GT-R Premium is that it is a raucous, exuberant machine. That’s right: machine.

Sure, there are all manner of interior amenities. I was able to use the navigation system while listening to satellite radio. I was able to make the necessary powered adjustment to the driver’s seat (had it not been summer, I could have warmed my posterior). I could adjust the steering system just-so. But then there’s that bright red button on the center console and before you know it a roar that would scare the Hulk. The 485-hp, 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6 makes scary-appealing noises that can scare small children while attracting the attention of people of the opposite sex. It has a dual-clutch paddle-shift six-speed transmission that you can either work yourself (there are really well-textured magnesium paddle shifters) or let it run in automatic mode, and it should be noted that the automatic mode works far better than those found in some European cars that are more or less in its class (you don’t want to let them shift automatically unless you want to spend some extra time at your chiropractor’s).

 

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But here’s the wonderful thing about the GT-R. It is first and foremost a machine. It seems as though the approach that many vehicle manufacturers—domestic and foreign--take to performance and even muscle cars is to make them seem more mannerly. Nice. To take away any sense that once you peal away the appealing sheet metal, carefully place aside that carbon fiber body work, there is a machine under there. But that’s not the case with the GT-R.

Don’t think of “machine” as something negative. Rather it is something, if executed well, should be celebrated. And that’s the thing about this car: it celebrates its machinery in a way that is becoming all-too absent from cars.

 

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Of course, unless you own several cars, it may be that you’re going to have to drive the GT-R on occasions other than those that have something to do with wearing a helmet. While this is far from being a grocery-getter, let’s face it: chances are you spend more time at the supermarket than you do at the superspeedway.

So you do want some refinement. But you don’t want the soul sucked right out of it, which is why the GT-R is, if you’re looking for a car that can have a top speed of 220 mph on the speedometer without apology, somewhat sui generis in contemporary dealerships.

Now I’ve got to let the other Piloti drop: The retail base MSRP on the car is $84,060.

Yes, you should pause for a breath here.

And the machine metaphor notwithstanding, it is really a high-tech tour de force, with its specially developed independent rear transaxle all-wheel-drive system (yes, the trans in the back to help assure weight balance: 53% in the front, 47% in the rear), switches to quickly set the transmission, suspension, and dynamic control modes, and more. So it’s not like you’re getting something from the steam age here.

To say the GT-R is not for everybody would be to nearly overstate the case. In 2009, Nissan moved just 1,534 units in the U.S. (To put that in some perspective, consider this: the sales of the Nissan Xterra (yes, not something someone would cross-shop with the GT-R) fell by 51% in 2009, yet more than 10x as many were sold (16,455).)

But so what? This is one hell of a machine.

 

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Selected specs

Engine: 3.8-liter, DOHC twin-turbocharged V6

Valves per cylinder: Four

Materials: Aluminum block/head

Horsepower: 485 @ 6,400 rpm

Torque: 434 lb-ft @ 3,200 rpm

Transmission: Six-speed dual-clutch

Wheelbase: 109.4 in.

Overall length: 183.1 in.

Overall width: 74.9 in.

Overall height: 54 in.

Curb weight: 3,829 lb.

EPA fuel economy: 15 mpg city/21 mpg highway