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Review of the 2017 Nissan GT-R: Godzilla Grows Up

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On: Mon, Aug 15, 2016 at 3:27PM | By: Lou Ruggieri

Review of the 2017 Nissan GT-R:  Godzilla Grows Up

Sometimes there are sports cars that come into our world that perform well, look good, and yet never really succeed at being very memorable. Whether too slow to really stand out, too posh to really be sporty, too bland in character, or maybe just too brief a production run, there are any number of reasons those cars just didn’t stick with us. But then, there are some cars that storm onto the scene with apocalyptic world-ending force.

The Nissan GT-R was nicknamed Godzilla, and when it hit our shores in 2008 as a 2009 model, it lived up to its name. Out of nowhere, from the shores of Japan, the mighty Nissan was a monstrosity that devastated everything in its path, destroying egos and records at a blistering pace. It was an unstoppably fast machine that used all of the latest tech possible: A dual-clutch auto that shifted faster than you could, a twin-turbo V6 that spooled up quickly and made a frightening 480 horsepower and 434 lb-ft of torque that was probably more powerful than what you were driving, and oh yeah, it used an all-wheel drive set-up that made it grab the tarmac and take off faster than anything you’ve got in the garage. Oh, and even if you had the one car on the planet that could keep pace with it (the million dollar Bugatti Veyron), the GT-R cost less than a tenth of what you paid for your car. It was like something dreamed up by a teenager that actually came to life. It was hard-shifting, harsh-riding, nasty in every way possible, and a loud (from not only the exhaust, but the engine and the transmission as well) bruiser that punished its driver almost as badly as it punished its competition.

Fast forward almost a decade later. The GT-R is still alive and kicking, demoralizing Corvette and Ferrari owners all the time. But the 2017 GT-R comes to town with a little bit of a surprising change: Civility. Now we know, we can hear it from the purists already: “Blasphemy!” But before you go crying to social media that the GT-R has lost its edge, hang on a sec. Nissan isn’t a dumb company, they have their reasons. Basically, the idea is that the GT-R has made its Godzillic splash on the scene, made its point, and proven that it is among (if not) the best value performance cars money can buy. But that first wave of consumers were mostly younger guys with money. Now, all of them are almost a decade older too, and with maturity comes an increased appreciation for luxury, and a decreased interest in being constantly beat up.

Again, don’t worry. The newest GT-R starts out by tweaking the beast under the hood. The hand-built 3.8-liter DOHC twin-turbo V6 gets some software tweaks to help boost the monster to make a nightmarish 565-horsepower (up 20 from last year) and a freight-train-like 467 lb-ft of torque (up 4 lb-ft from last year). The mighty Nissan still uses the same dual-clutch 6-speed auto that is lightning quick, but it has been tuned to not slam into gear as hard as it used to, thanks to a new flywheel damper and some tighter gear tolerances. Sure, you won’t mistake it for that 8-speed auto in your BMW station wagon, but then if you wanted to drive a marshmallow, maybe you should give back your GT-R keys. The GT-R also still goes like a bat out of hell, so rest easy. Though it tips the scales at an arguably portly 3,900 pounds, the extra power does help offset some of that weight. Performance should about match that of the outgoing model: 0–60 mph in a disgusting 2.5 seconds, 0–100 mph in a ridiculous 6.2 seconds, and through the quarter-mile in an absolutely frightening 10.6 seconds @ 130 mph. Oh, and a drag-limited top speed of 198 mph. Skidpad numbers should come in at around 1.07 g, while braking from 70–0 mph should take only 145 feet. Fuel economy is claimed to be 16/22 city/highway… But who really cares in a car like this?

The ride in the GT-R is what’s noticeably changed. Sure, at the edge, it still performs like one of the most prolific automobiles on the planet, but under low to normal load, the mighty Nissan has softened … a little. There have been chassis reinforcements and while the spring rates remain unchanged and the anti-roll bars are stiffer, the dampers have been retuned to be a bit softer, especially at low speeds. Inside the cabin, the ride becomes even more… refined (?!) than ever before. There is extra sound insulation (like there was much of any before), an acoustic windshield, electronic noise-cancelling, and an active exhaust valving that purports to reduce inside noise by as much as 10 decibels. Aside from the noticeable auditory revisions, the interior of the GT-R has been redone with higher-quality materials that can be appreciated immediately. Finer leather, and a less-cluttered dashboard combined with a new 8-inch touchscreen that makes enjoying your favorite music even easier than before.

So, while the base price of a GT-R has steadily risen over the years to a new base price of $109,990, it still is an unbelievable deal considering just how much power and performance it gives you in return. Nissan has not done the unthinkable and castrated their halo car, but, rather, has helped it mature to a point that it can be respected as a total package and not just a boy-racer’s fantasy toy. Since its debut as a 2009 model, the monster from Japan has destroyed just about everything in its path and left a wake of broken dreams and frustrated exotic car owners across miles and years. But now, the GT-R is doing what grown-ups learn to do to become better people: Focus on making your weakness better, rather than just accentuating your strengths. The 2017 GT-R is taking the first major steps to prove it can be more than just a spine-compressing behemoth, but may actually be a car you can enjoy driving fast, and slow. Apparently, even Godzilla can grow up.

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