Godzilla went to finishing school
Pros mind-bending, license-vapourizing performance
Cons transmission still clunks, lacks a tactile helm, useless back seats
Value for money good
What would I change? Add LED headlights, more steering feel
How I would spec it? definitely with the Premium Interior Package
Affectionately known as “Godzilla,” the Nissan GT-R emerged from the swamp in 2008 with a mission — to rub wasabi in the eyes of the Porsche 911 Turbo. Which it famously did by posting a faster time around Porsche’s very own playground, the Nurburgring.
Oh, but that was so long ago. There was a bit of back and forth jousting back in the day, but the Nurburgring dance card now lists a whole new crew, one the aging Godzilla can’t keep up with despite numerous incremental improvements over the past decade.
That’s not to say Nissan’s all-wheel-drive super coupe with its black reptilian soul doesn’t continue as one of the most fearsome street-legal conveyances money can buy. Its explosive acceleration and unending grip will flatten your eyeballs, rearrange you internal organs and inspire involuntary, unprintable epitaphs.
And at $125,600 for this 2018 Premium, it could still be considered quite a bargain when you look at the 540-hp Porsche 911 Turbo and 535-hp Audi R8 5.2 V10, which start respectively at $184,200 and $185,000.
What the GT-R never gave was much in the way of concessions to civility. I drove one five years ago, and along with scaring my pants off, it rode like an ox cart. I could barely hear myself think in the cabin, which incidentally was a pretty cheap-looking affair.
My Godzilla, how you’ve come along in that half-decade. Yes, the terror factor has not waned (the 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 is now up to 565 horsepower and 467 lb-ft at 3,300 rpm) but now one can soil oneself while sitting on finely stitched leather, enjoying a reasonably compliant ride, and in the case of this Premium, audibly cushioned by standard noise cancellation and an acoustic windshield.
The seats are terrific too, blending comfort with grippy support. The clever rear transaxle that houses a six-speed twin-clutch gearbox, mechanical limited-slip differential and all-wheel-drive transfer case still clunks on occasion, but added sound insulation make it less alarming.
And by gawd, attack your first on-ramp in this thing and you get a glimpse of the GT-R’s astounding potential. A few seconds of warp-speed acceleration, laser-like path control and limpet-like grip from the sticky Dunlop Sport Maxx GTs (255/40ZRF20 front, 285/35ZRF20 rear) reinforce the fact that Godzilla is a true 10/10ths car.
The hand-crafted 3.8-litre direct-injection twin-turbo V6 sings a sweet song when on the boil, and delivers its urge in an escalating and seamless rush. It’s one helluva powerplant. A new lighter titanium exhaust system for 2017 broadcasts a more mature exhaust note.
The central LCD screen with its customizable array of virtual gauges shows everything from lateral g-forces, to transmission oil temperature, to turbo boost pressure to front/rear torque split. It’s all business in here.
Three set-up switches below the screen toggle the Bilstein adaptive dampers, transmission mapping and stability control settings, the most aggressive being “R”. It may sound intimidating, but in reality Godzilla is a user-friendly device that makes driving insanely fast all too easy.
Initially, the GT-R came with a launch control that could blow up the transmission and void your warranty. Considering the Porsche 911 Turbo could “launch control” til the bovines returned to the barn, this was a bit of an embarrassment to the swaggering Nissan. All fixed now. Launch control to your heart’s content. With the stability control and transmission toggles in “R,” press on the brake with your left foot, hold the throttle to the floor with your right, and with the revs hovering around 4,500 rpm, release the brake. You’ll be at the (Ontario) speed limit in around three seconds.
The GT-R has massive brakes, natch. Front and rear cross-drilled composite discs, each measuring 381 mm, are clamped respectively by six- and four-piston Brembo monoblock calipers. Sometimes they squeal like one of Godzilla’s hapless victims plucked from the streets of Tokyo, but pedal feel is excellent and these binders could stop a freight train. While the hydraulic steering provides little in the way of feedback, it surely is accurate and very quick just off centre, making for aggressive turn-in.
Other than the unnerving graunching sounds at low speeds, the transmission is brilliant — shifts are quick, seamless and the electronics perform rev-matching on downshifts. The big shift paddles moved from the column to the steering wheel in 2017.
I expected to be exhausted (and possibly incarcerated) after my time with Godzilla. Not so. Now a full decade old, the Nissan GT-R Premium makes for an impressively well-rounded coupe that blends the expected Godzilla nutso performance with a dash of real-world civility. Who saw that coming?
Type of vehicle
AWD super coupe
3.8L twin-turbocharged V6
565 hp @ 6800 rpm, 467 lb-ft of torque @ 3300 rpm
six-speed rear-mounted twin-clutch transaxle
four-wheel Brembo, composite disc
Dunlop Sport Maxx GT, 255/40ZRF20 front, 285/35ZRF20 rear
Price: Base / As Tested
$125,600 / $131,900
Natural Resources Canada Fuel Economy
(L/100km) 14.5 city, 10.7 hwy, 12.8 combined
20-inch alloys, 8-inch touchscreen, cruise, navigation, Bose audio, push button start, Bluetooth, XM, Apple CarPlay, Nissan Connect, speed sensitive wipers
Premium Interior Package, Pearl Metallic paint