Nissan GT-R review

Our Rating: 
2009 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

The Nissan GT-R is a technological tour de force that can give the world's fastest supercars a run for their money

Colossal performance, incredible handling, relative value
Cheap interior, unforgiving ride, bulky to drive in town

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Despite being on sale for more than seven years, the Nissan GT-R is still a performance phenomenon. Over the years the Japanese firm has evolved the engineering underneath the brutish skin to improve the GT-R’s performance, handling, ride and efficiency, but the basic recipe has remained the same.

With acceleration to humble much more expensive supercars, the Nissan boasts a powerful 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 mated to a six-speed dual-clutch transmission and a highly sophisticated four-wheel drive system. It’s all controlled by a raft of electronics designed to put the power to the road as quickly and efficiently as possible.

As part of Nissan’s philosophy of updating its flagship year after year, this 2015 version is now more mature than ever, leaving space for the ultra-focused Nissan GT-R Nismo.

As a result the 2015 model year car gets modified suspension dampers to improve cornering stability, new tyres for a better ride and more stability, a revised brake setup for better feel and retuned steering to reduce vibration through the wheel. Over the years the GT-R’s also gained more sound deadening to further improve refinement and everyday usability.

However, one area where the Nissan might not be so usable is around town, as the car’s sheer size and compromised rearward visibility due to its muscular looks mean it’s difficult to manoeuvre. The styling is a point of contention, too, as the GT-R’s unique design won’t be too everyone’s tastes. This is not a shy, retiring car and it’ll certainly attract attention on the move.

The looks reflect the GT-R’s fairly hefty kerb weight, but despite this the chassis serves up an incredible level of grip, which means huge corner speed and incredible point-to-point pace.

While it can compete with more expensive machinery on the road, inside, the GT-R can’t hold a candle to the likes of the Porsche 911. Although it’s now comfier than ever, the interior feels cheap in places. You do get a fair amount of equipment for your money, however: 20-inch alloys, cruise control, keyless go, Bluetooth, sat-nav, a Bose sound system and adjustable suspension dampers all come as standard on the entry-level GT-R. 

Engines, performance and drive


The Nissan GT-R is a genuine technological tour de force. Its 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 engine delivers 543bhp and launch control helps it blast from 0-62mph in just 2.7 seconds. Acceleration is brutal thanks to the GT-R’s excellent four-wheel drive transmission and six-speed twin-clutch gearbox. The paddleshift set-up provides seamless power delivery and super-smooth gearchanges – it can even be used as a full auto, where it’ll shuffle gears around smoothly and without fuss.

The only slight gripe with the transmission is the grumbling noises it produces when manoeuvring at low speed. It doesn’t sound too healthy, as the diffs chunter and whine, but reliability is good and this little quirk only adds to the GT-R’s focused personality.

The advanced Electronic Stability Control system and adaptive dampers can be configured to suit road and track driving. In the most extreme R setting the Nissan demonstrates remarkable agility and can rip along twisting back roads at barely believable speed. Even so, the GT-R can’t defy the laws of physics and you’re constantly aware of the car’s hefty 1,740kg kerbweight.

Revisions to the suspension have resulted in a softer ride around town, while low speed steering assistance has been increased in a bid to improve manoeuvrability. Factor in the extra sound deadening, and the GT-R is now more civilised for day-to-day use. It’s not perfect, though. Along with that all-wheel drive system that clunks and groans at low speed, there’s plenty of tyre roar on the motorway due to the huge, low-profile tyres.

Strangely, Nissan doesn't quote a 0-62mph time for the more powerful 592bhp GT-R Nismo, but has hinted that 0-62mph in 2.5 seconds is possible. Thanks to stiffer springs and Billstein dampers, revised suspension geometry and hip-hugging Recaro seats, the driving experience is far more extreme and less comfortable than the standard car. As a result, the Nismo always feels more at home on a race track than a road, but that's no real surprise, as it was developed specifically to lap the Nurburgring Nordschliefe as quickly as possible, achieving a bonkers lap time of 7 minutes 8.69 seconds.

MPG, CO2 and running costs


On the face of it, the Nissan GT-R isn’t cheap. But look at the performance available, and you'll see that you'd have to spend nearly twice as much to find something that can match it. Running costs will be in the supercar category thanks to expensive tyres, steep servicing and pricey insurance. And you’ll need to budget for some big fuel bills, too – Nissan claims 23.9mpg, but this figure will drop to single digits if you utlilise the car’s full performance potential. 275g/km CO2 mean expensive road tax, too, at £505 per year.

There are also some question marks about how the car's complex four-wheel drive transmission will cope once miles begin to build, with some owners of early cars experiencing expensive failures of the GT-R’s complex twin-clutch gearbox. However, with the more recent models Nissan seems to have cured the problem.

Interior, design and technology


The sheer scale of the Nissan GT-R gives it huge road presence. Even cars costing twice as much will struggle to match the imposing styling of Nissan’s angular coupe. It’s not exactly pretty, but with four huge exhaust pipes, circular tail-lights and vast alloy wheels, it never fails to turn heads. Its evocative badge doesn’t hold the universal appeal of an Italian thoroughbred, but for its fans, there’s nothing to rival the appeal of the GT-R logo. 

The Nismo model marks itself out with unique front and rear bumpers, deeper side skirts and a carbon boot lid with a huge rear wing attached to it. It's not just for show either, Nissan says the Nismo produces an extra 100kg of downforce compared to the standard model at 186mph. 

Less impressive is the interior, which, as mentioned above, lacks the quality and design you’d expect from a classy coupe. Some of the plastics look and feel a little cheap, while the layout of the dashboard is reminiscent of a Japanese Eighties hi-fi system. Still, all that standard equipment, including the touchscreen infotainment system and a comprehensive data logger that records everything from cornering g-forces to lap times, is impressive and fits with the Nissan’s techy character.

Despite the lacklustre interior design, the car’s exterior styling still turns heads – where rivals have released all-new, fresher looking models, the GT-R has remained relatively constant in design terms. But that’s no bad thing, as the car still has a legion of loyal fans.

Practicality, comfort and boot space


Given the performance available, the big Nissan is surprisingly practical. Adults are unlikely to be able to squeeze into the rear seats, but they’re fine for children and extra luggage. There’s even a decent 315-litre boot – although it suffers from a high-loading lip. At least it’s a usable shape though, with no funny protrusions.

Occupants up front get plenty of head and legroom, while the driver benefits from lots of seat and wheel adjustment. However, there’s not a lot of storage, with only a glovebox, a pair of cup holders and cramped door pockets for all your odds and ends.

Technology lovers will cherish the multifunction display at the centre of the dashboard, because it provides information on everything from cornering g-forces to turbo boost pressure. However, the switchgear and cabin plastics are better suited to a supermini than a supercar, and the bluff dashboard looks basic. It comes with loads of standard kit, but simply lacks the sense of occasion you expect from a 196mph sports car.

Reliability and Safety


A host of electronic driver aids are designed to keep the Nissan GT-R on the straight and narrow, and you get six airbags as standard. The GT-R hasn’t been through the Euro NCAP crash test programme, but with such a super stiff chassis, the big coupe should be a strong performer if the hi-tech electronics fail to foil a crash. 

Big brakes and grippy tyres mean it should be able to outperform most things on the road, so with the GT-R’s high reserves of grip and performance, it should remain composed if you need to perform an extreme avoidance manoeuvre.

The GT-R went through extensive testing before it went on sale, and Nissan has a number of specialist GT-R dealers trained to maintain this hi-tech machine. If there are any mechanical maladies, it’s encouraging to know that the GT-R is covered by the same three-year warranty as other Nissan models.

Last updated: 1 Apr, 2015