Road Test: Elite track star Nissan GT-R

Prices for the 2012 Nissan GT-R start at

Prices for the 2012 Nissan GT-R start at $89,950. (Credit: Handout)

Most drivers are probably familiar with the Nissan 370Z sports car. But few are aware of an even higher performance coupe that has been in the Nissan fleet for more than three years.

At a base price of nearly $90,000, the Nissan GT-R is an elite track star that blows the doors off most street-legal production models and sends exotics like Lotus into a defensive posture.

The 530-horsepower, twin-turbo V6 engine and track-tuned suspension performed amazing feats when I first drove it on a racetrack. But the car's real potential emerged when I rode with a professional test-car driver who drifted through hairpin turns without hitting the brakes, relying solely on the paddle shifters for the dual-clutch, six-speed automatic transmission.

The GT-R has four seats, though the two in back are probably better suited for smaller folks. For the driver, visibility is as good as you would expect from, say, a Chevrolet Camaro.

Despite its performance credentials, the GT-R presents a fairly conventional interior with intuitive controls on the dash and center console.

GT-R boasts the first independent rear transaxle, all-wheel- drive system. The system places the transmission, transfer case and final drive at the rear of the vehicle, improving weight distribution and handling. The driver is provided with a "setup switch" in the instrument panel to set transmission shifts, shock absorbers and the Vehicle Dynamic Control.

For 2013 models the suspension has been retuned and horsepower has increased to 545 horses.

Exterior features include high-mounted LED stoplights, bright LED rear combination taillights, "super wide beam" headlights, heated door mirrors and flat-blade windshield wipers.

GT-R's cockpit-style instrument panel surrounds the driver, with all meters at the same height to require less head movement. A large center-mounted tachometer, with gear display on its upper right, gives the driver instant detailed information. A large, metallic-framed center console features an ergonomically designed shift lever and a red "engine start" button.

The centerpiece of the instrument panel is a display that includes mechanical and driving data, acceleration, brake pedal pressure, steering angle and a recording function with playback.

 

NISSAN GT-R

 

Base price: $89,950

Price as tested:$91,230

Engine: 3.8-liter, twin-turbo DOHC V6.

Power: 530 horsepower/0-60 mph in 3.8 seconds

EPA fuel economy rating: 16 city/23 highway/19 combined

Length: 183.1 inches

Width: 74.9 inches

Height: 54 inches

Wheelbase: 109.4 inches

Curb weight: 3,829 pounds

Bottom line: There's plenty of performance and style, but is it worth the cost (and the risk of speeding tickets)?

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