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Thursday, 23 June 2011

2010 Nissan GT-R Review:

Being an automotive journalist is like being a male porn star. We're little more than Piloti-shoed buffers between the reader and the objects of their lust, and really, no one cares about us. Still, you only get one chance to make an initial impression, so my first review here on Autoblog had to be big. As luck/fate would have it, I got a phone call a few weeks back that went a little something like this: "How'd you like to drive the first 2010 Nissan GT-R on the West Coast, before the buff books get it?" Needless to say, the answer was obvious. But what to do with the brand-new R35, one of the most heavily and relentlessly covered car-stories of the past year? This takes us right back to that porno metaphor: How do I give the people what they want?
We hatched a plan – take the uber-Nissan down to San Diego and pay a visit to Comic Con! A story about 400-pound guys in Batman suits drooling all over the new GT-R practically writes itself, so we contacted various video game companies to see if they would let us drive the GT-R right onto the convention center floor. Perfect! Our stunt would be like lowering a nude, greased-up Megan Fox into a frat house. What could possibly go wrong? Without getting into the epic fail of that last bit, it didn't happen. What you're left with then is yet another review of a Nissan GT-R where some "pounding at 11/10s" wannabe hamfists Godzilla through envy-inducing, tight, twisty Southern California canyons.
My task then would be to answer the following: There's endless talk about whether or not the Nissan GT-R has a soul. Yes, we all know it's supercar quick and hypercar capable. And yes, Japan's most recent foray into the segment can utterly dominate and humiliate most British, Italian and German machines – all costing two, three or five times as much – and give like-minded American all-stars a run for their ACR/ZR1 money. But is the GT-R anything more than a numb supercomputer, mindlessly parsing bits of data and then spitting out traction and velocity? Are its capabilities a credit to Nissan's mechanical engineers, or its electrical wonks? To put it another, more Comic-Conny way, is there a ghost in Nissan's machine?
First and foremost, we should cover what's new for 2010. The big news is bye-bye launch control. We found the GT-R's penchant for grenading transmissions humorous (from a distance), but alas, farewell. However... maybe it's still there? Maybe Nissan was only telling people launch control had been deleted? We found a very deserted stretch of road, put the transmission and suspension into R mode, turned the VDC all the way off, planted our left foot on the brake pedal and pushed the throttle with our right. Instead of the tach zinging up to 4,500 rpm, fuel cutoff happens right around 2,000 rpm. Launch control is deader than last Thanksgiving's turkey. That's not very soulful.
That said, the Transmission Control Module (TCM) has been reprogrammed. Not only can the six-speed dual-clutch gearbox shift faster (when in R), but the chances of a customer having to shell out $20,000 for a new cogswapper is greatly reduced. The 2010 GT-R also sports five more horsepower, bringing the total to 485, while torque output remains unchanged at 434 lb-ft. Rumors still persist that since each GT-R engine is hand-built, power levels vary and some engines churn out as much as 520 hp, if not more. Let's chalk this up to some engines running 100 octane and others dealing with California's crapola 91 high-test. Bottom line, the power feels freakishly adequate.
The suspension's been retuned and the Bilsteins are a new design, while the brakes (somehow) have been revamped and fitted with more rigid lines and fresh pads. Our Premium GT-R tester arrived with dark, "near-black" wheels and when coated in Super Silver (like this car) you get a polished front bumper (there's also a new hue called Pearl White). More power, faster shifts, better handling, stouter brakes, blacker wheels and a transmission that's much less likely to eat itself? That sounds fantastic. Soulful, even.


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