2013 Nissan GT-R: First Drive

Nissan's GT-R sport coupe, launched in Japan in late 2007 and in the U.S. mid-2008, is the continuation of the storied Nissan Skyline GT-R. Throughout its history, the GT-R's blend of stunning performance and reasonable value has earned the car legions of fans worldwide.

If you’ve never had the opportunity to drive a Nissan GT-R, the experience can be somewhat surreal. Thanks to plenty of horsepower and all-wheel-drive grip, acceleration is impressive, even for us jaded-auto-journalist types.

Mat the accelerator pedal, and the GT-R launches like a bullet from a gun. One minute you’re standing still, while the next you’re being hurtled through time and space as if being moved by the hand of God. Or in this case, the hand of Godzilla.

Nissan upped the ante on its 2012 GT-R, boosting output from its 3.8-liter, twin- turbo V-6 to 530 horsepower (from 485 hp) and raising torque to 448 pound-feet (from 434 lb.-ft). The body was mildly restyled, too, in an effort to improve airflow and reduce lift at speed.

The net result was that an already-impressively-fast car became even faster, while maintaining its bargain-basement pricing (by supercar standards, anyway). Most manufacturers would be content to revise a few interior bits for the next year and call it done, but that’s not the GT-R way.

The staff behind the development of the GT-R operates more like a race team than an automaker, and it’s continually looking for ways to improve the product. For 2013, the GT-R gets even more horsepower and torque, courtesy of ported and polished cylinder heads. Expect 545 horsepower and 463 pound-feet of torque from new models.

The 2013 Nissan GT-R. Image: Nissan

The 2013 Nissan GT-R. Image: Nissan

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Intercooler breathing is improved, too, and transmission shift feel is better than last year. The suspension has been retuned with a slight spring rate increase, and the Bilstein DampTronic shocks now use a “bypass valve” system to increase ride comfort. New model-specific Dunlop tires round out the package.

To highlight the differences between last year’s car and this year’s model, Nissan is currently running a program for journalists, dealers and existing GT-R owners called “The GT-R Experience.”

By allowing us to drive 2012 and 2013 models back-to-back, through exercises meant to showcase the new car’s abilities, Nissan hopes to illustrate what’s been improved on the 2013 model.

First up was an eighth-mile drag race, followed by a 0-60-0 mph run. While 15 horsepower and 15 more pound feet of torque may not sound like much, the difference in acceleration is noticeable. In case you can’t feel it on the “butt-dyno,” the 0-60-0 run, which takes less room in the 2013 car, gives a good benchmark.

The 2013 Nissan GT-R at Palm Beach International Raceway

The 2013 Nissan GT-R at Palm Beach International Raceway

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Next up was a short handling course, meant to illustrate the difference in suspension from 2012 to 2013. Even with the shocks in the center, “normal” setting, the stiffer springs produced flatter cornering at turn-in. The ride quality was noticeably improved, too, adding to the GT-R’s appeal as a daily driver.

Once Nissan was satisfied that us media types wouldn’t stack $100,000 sports cars, we were sent to an autocross track to work with instructors from the Skip Barber school. Again the difference between the 2012 GT-R and the 2013 GT-R was immediately apparent.

The 2013 model pulled harder down the short straight, and with the suspension in “Comfort” mode actually worked better through the course’s quick left-right-left corners. When you consider that the GT-R has a curb weight of 3,829 pounds, its ability to quickly transition from corner to corner seems to defy physics.

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