First Ride: 2013 Nissan GT-R
Mark Hacking discovers that a car that leaves little room for improvement can, in fact, improve dramatically when it's a Nissan GT-R.
Posted March 30, 2012
By MARK HACKING, EVERGEEK MEDIA
Palm Beach, FL - As incredible as this may seem, the brand new, 2013 Nissan GT-R leaves the then-new 2012 Nissan GT-R in its dust. Now, to the casual observer, the idea of a new car being better than its immediate predecessor hardly seems incredible - it's what cars do (or should do, anyway). But when the car being replaced offers such prodigious levels of performance to begin with, it begs the question: How is there any room for improvement?
The original Nissan GT-R was definitely good enough, if there ever is such a thing when it comes to super-sports cars. Introduced in 2007, the car codenamed "Godzilla" featured a twin-turbo V6 engine that delivered a whopping 478 horsepower, a mind-blowing 434 lb-ft of torque and a stratospheric top speed of close to 310 km/h.
All of this muscle was managed by the most technologically advanced systems of the day, including a 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and a torque-vectoring all-wheel-drive system that made the GT-R one the best handling cars on the planet.
I had the genuine pleasure of sending this GT-R down an active runway in a series of top-speed tests. It was a real thrill to push personal limits as the car crested 255 km/h before we ran out of space and had to toss out the anchor.
For sure, the 2012 model set the bar even higher. Just consider the pertinent statistics: more power (520 hp), more torque (451 lb-ft), a 0-100 km/h time of 2.9 seconds and a higher terminal velocity (rumoured to be 315 km/h).
Apparently, the engineers of the Nissan GT-R don't have time to rest on their laurels because the shocking truth is, the 2013 edition is even better on paper: Although top speed remains the same, the new GT-R boasts an increase in power (to a mammoth 545 hp), an increase in torque (to 463 lb-ft) and a reduction in acceleration time (now, it takes just 2.8 seconds to sprint from 0-100 km/h).
Of course, statistics are one thing and real-world performance can be something entirely different. Here, the shocking truth is even more shocking: Despite the fact that the improvements have been, in the grand scheme of things, merely incremental, the 2013 GT-R makes the 2012 GT-R seem like the 2007 GT-R - if that makes any sense. In other words, the newest model is easily the best of the bunch and by a considerable stretch.
For the direct comparison, a handful of lucky souls were invited to Palm Beach International Raceway in hot, humid and stormy Florida. This track, which is used primarily for club events, had some very interesting features - features that the served to highlight the key differences between the two models.
Three tests made up the day's work: a comparison between the two models on a very tight kart track, a head-to-head showdown on the drag strip and unfettered hot laps around the main circuit.
On the kart track, the differences were immediately apparent. The increased torque of the newer GT-R, combined with a more balanced torque curve, meant the 2013 model was far better at accelerating out of the very tight corners. It wasn't like night and day; it was more like day and later that same day.
On the drag strip, the newer version easily came out on top again. In a series of head-to-head acceleration tests, the 2013 model beat its predecessor every time out of the box, even on the two occasions when the new car started on the damper side of the track. This was a slam dunk.
The final test involved taking to the main circuit itself in conditions that ranged from monsoon-like to bone dry, depending on the minute. Of course, the Nissan GT-R is armed with one of the most responsive all-wheel drive systems on the planet, a torque-vectoring set-up that is perfectly suited to the very high-tech nature of this 21st-century supercar.
The Palm Beach track is very quick, with two long straights and a number of fast, flowing turns. In other words, it's nothing like the average kart circuit. The lack of laboriously slow turns, combined with the changeable weather conditions, meant making a direct comparison between the two models was close to impossible.
To nutshell it, both cars are absolute monsters. The all-wheel drive system holds on in the wet far longer than any other production model I've ever tested. The 6-speed dual-clutch transmission shifts quickly and allows both hands to stay on the wheel, a significant bonus when the car is threatening to break loose. For the new model year, shift feel has been improved and the dual-clutch system is quieter than before.
There are different settings for the transmission, suspension and engine, and a multitude of gauges to study, so keeping entertained on track is not an issue in the least. The suspension system, in particular, proved very effective; the Bilstein DampTronic adjustable shock absorbers, when in comfort mode, really helped the car lean into the soaking wet corners. And, of course, the GT-R is fast - very, very fast.
There's little question that, for the true driving enthusiast who wants to attend track days and shame everyone else out there, the Nissan GT-R is a fantastic choice. There's also little question that, all other factors being equal, the driver of the 2013 Nissan GT-R will shame the driver in the 2012 version every time out.
Pricing for the 2013 Nissan GT-R starts at $103,300 and it's an absolute steal. Of course, now that the new model has appeared, I'll bet there will be at least a few used 2012 versions hitting the open market.