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Saturday Drive: 2013 Nissan GT-R

Start off your weekend of motoring with a quick take on what's recently grabbed our attention in the automotive world.

March 17, 2012|By David Undercoffler, Auto Critic | Los Angeles Times
  • The 2013 Nissan GT-R gets 545 horsepower and 463 pound-feet of torque coming from a twin-turbocharged, 3.8-liter V-6 engine. Sticker price on the model seen here is $100,820.
The 2013 Nissan GT-R gets 545 horsepower and 463 pound-feet of torque coming… (David Undercoffler / Los…)

The car: 2013 Nissan GT-R

The power: 545 horsepower and 463 pound-feet of torque coming from a twin-turbocharged, 3.8-liter V-6 engine mated to a six-speed, dual-clutch transmission with magnesium paddle shifters.

The photos: 2013 Nissan GT-R

The speed: 0-60 in a startling three seconds. Some tests have shown that number as low as 2.7 seconds.

The bragging rights: If being one of the world's fastest production cars to do 0-60 isn't enough, maybe try world's cheapest supercar.

The price: The base 2013 GT-R is $97,820. Add the four-stage Super Silver paint you see here and it's $100,820.

The details: Since the 530 horsepower on the 2012 GT-R was obviously a woefully inadequate number intended for cotton-headed ninny muggins, Nissan figured 545 had a nice ring to it for 2013. This is achieved via engine modifications like improved intake efficiency, a larger intake duct for the turbos' intercooler and better exhaust efficiency. Nissan says other changes include more refined transmission shifts and a retuned suspension.

As with previous GT-R's, the personality on this one is tunable, via a trio of buttons on the dashboard. One controls the Bilstein shocks with Normal, Comfort and "R" modes (consider the "R" mode your ticket to, well, tickets. It’s the more progressive setting for each system, and allows drivers to better push the performance envelope). Another button handles the transmission shift mapping with Normal and "R" modes; and a third dials up the stability control with Normal, "R" and Off.

Power is routed to all four wheels, though the rear-biased system can automatically vary the amount of torque channeled to the rear wheels from 100% down to 50, depending on your driving situation.

Stopping duties are handled by massive Brembo brakes; up front they have six piston calipers grabbing 15.35-inch cross-drilled rotors and in the back, four-piston calipers grab 15-inch rotors. These brakes are wrapped with 20-inch forged aluminum wheels.

All this brings the curb weight of the 2013 GT-R to the same 3,829 pounds as the 2012 model.

The drive: Raw. Despite retuning the suspension, there's almost no noticeable difference in compliance between the 2012 and the 2013 versions. It's still stiffer than Don Draper's NyQuil even in "Comfort" mode, which gets a bit tedious in daily driving. But at least the seats help as they're nicely bolstered and padded.

Around town, much of the driving experience is loud and visceral with plenty of sound coming into the cabin. Whether it's the wind noise leaking through the frameless doors, the transmission rattling about in low gear or at idle, or the sound of errant pebbles being flicked into the wheel wells, it all serves as a constant reminder that this car is not here to coddle you.

The one element that is relatively subdued is the engine itself. It never really roars, but when you start pushing it, the engine sounds like a blender trying to puree Gilbert Gottfried. Any expected internal combustion noise is dominated by the sounds of forced induction, turbine wail and air being sucked and pumped into the right places. That's not to say it doesn't sound cool, but it's a 21st-century cool better enjoyed by a crowd raised on pixelated racecars in their living room than fans of naturally aspirated power.

The GT-R's speed-sensitive rack-and-pinion steering is outstanding and provides excellent communication to the driver. Where the driver's feel for the road can get lost is transitioning through and coming out of turns; this is largely because there's just so much darn mass moving about that something's going to get lost somewhere.

As you might expect, spirited driving with the traction control in Normal mode reveals some light feathering of the brakes. Putting the system into "R" mode is necessary for less inhibited flogging, but even then you can hit the traction control limits, which reign you in subtly. Turn everything off, and it is possible to get the rear end loose but you have to want it to happen.

Otherwise this car grips like very few machines can and to match its point-and-shoot brutal purity you'd have to spend several times the GT-R's $100,000 asking price. With more electronics than an entire arcade working to keep you moving forward, ever forward as fast as possible, the car isn't so much forgiving as it is willing to just cover up your mistakes. It's a slightly surreal yet endlessly thrilling experience to suddenly worry much less about grip and traction than you are thinking about just keeping your right foot planted.

Meanwhile, shifts with the dual-clutch transmission come yesterday, and they're smooth and well-timed in full-auto mode. For the real twisty stuff, use the paddles for manual downshifts; the boost takes just long enough to kick in that you've already lost time if you don't have the car spooled up beforehand.

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