Like a pilot preparing for takeoff, I flick a few switches before heading out. I reach down to the base of the center stack and push up on the transmission, damper, and stability control switches to set them to Race mode. It’s time to see what Godzilla can do on the 11-turn, 2.14-mile Gingerman Raceway road course in western Michigan.

Every GT-R is a bona fide performance monster, but the range has a hierarchy. If the GT-R Nismo is Godzilla at his deadliest, the Track Edition is one step down, the monster with only a slightly better attitude. It combines elements of the Nismo and the base model, adding some of the performance bits without the power bump.

Those bits start with the stiffer tune for the double wishbone front and multi-link rear suspension, including the Bilstein adjustable dampers. It also gets lighter, forged aluminum Rays 20-inch wheels, the wider Nismo front fenders, additional body bonding for improved body rigidity, a carbon fiber rear spoiler, and Recaro bucket seats.

2018 Nissan GT-R Track Edition, Gingerman Raceway, May 2018

2018 Nissan GT-R Track Edition, Gingerman Raceway, May 2018

Nissan doesn’t mess with the twin-turbocharged VR38DETT 3.8-liter V-6. The same 13.5 psi of boost pressure is crammed down its throat and it erupts with the same 565 horsepower at 6,800 rpm and 467 pound-feet of torque from 3,300 to 5,800 rpm. No 600-hp Nismo engine here. How will I ever survive?

The 6-speed dual-clutch transaxle is also unchanged from the base model. So is the ATTESA E-TS all-wheel-drive system, which defaults to a 0/100 front/rear torque split and can send up to 50 percent of the torque to the front wheels when needed.

My test car is a 2018 GT-R Track Edition in Blaze Metallic, a deep, rich gold color that’s nearly a perfect match for my dad’s drag car 40 years ago. It’s a color that’s near and dear to my heart, and it adds $1,000 to the $128,490 base price. Carpeted GT-R logo floor mats with a first aid kit add another $420, and the delivery charge of $1,695 brings the total to $131,605. That’s almost twice the price of a new GT-R when it debuted in the U.S. in 2007, but comfort is much improved since then and so is performance.

Track beast

I’ve driven the GT-R on a track before. It was at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps circuit in 2016 for the launch of the updated 2017 model. The sheer joy of that once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was tempered by a consistent downpour. And Spa is big track without the tight corners of Gingerman. Today is bright and sunny with temperatures in the 90s. It might be sweaty work, but the grip should be phenomenal, and the conditions should reveal Godzilla’s true performance personality.

I plan on five 12-15-minute sessions that will include an out lap, five or so timed laps, and a cool-down lap. That’s hard work for any car, and it can result in heat-soak—especially on a day like this—or flat-out malfunction. A 2016 Focus RS performed well here, but its torque-vectoring rear differential eventually overheated after a lot of exercise, while a 2017 Alfa Romeo Giulia Quadrifoglio threw nine codes on just the second session.

Godzilla isn’t so soft. Let’s see how it handles five sessions of track time.

2018 Nissan GT-R Track Edition, Gingerman Raceway, May 2018

2018 Nissan GT-R Track Edition, Gingerman Raceway, May 2018

Session 1

Just prior to my session I hit the Function button next to the center screen and go the Stop Watch screen. I’m going to keep track of lap times. I hit the Start/Stop button on the steering wheel to start the timing, then tap the Mark button on the wheel as I cross the start/finish line to time each lap.

Within a few corners of setting out, a few truths about the GT-R Track Edition become abundantly clear. First, it’s blazingly fast. Second, it feels like it has rear-wheel drive instead of all-wheel drive. And third, it feels heavy but well but balanced.

As for speed, Race mode works well on the track. The transmission is always in the right gear, and I don’t need to shift with the amply sized steering wheel paddles. The twin-turbo V-6 suffers from a bit of turbo lag at lower rpms then builds speed relentlessly. Prior to each corner, I’m hitting speeds I haven’t seen at this track: 98 mph into turn 3, 106 into the 5/6 double apex right-hander, 97 at the end of the 7/8/9 combination, and 131 at the end of the longest straight, turn 11. Holy Japanese monster!

That rear-drive character? It’s a combination of the ATTESA all-wheel-drive system favoring a rear bias and the stability control’s Race mode programming that lets the car’s tail step out or the whole car slide sideways for short stretches. The power doesn’t flow to the front to pull the GT-R out of a slide unless things really get out of whack and I’m not about to let that happen.

And about that weight and balance? Like other heavy cars, the GT-R will understeer when pushed too hard into a turn, especially Gingerman’s tighter corners, like the turn 2 and 3 right-handers and that 5/6 double-apex. However, let off the gas and the nose begins to tuck in to help the car carve a sharp line. That line gets even sharper with trail braking. That’s balance.

This is a getting-to-know-you session, but I’m putting up times in the mid 1:43s, which is as fast as I’ve ever gone around this track. The GT-R isn’t as agile in the tight corners as the Focus RS with that effective torque-vectoring rear diff, but it’s much faster in the straights.

Sessions 2-3

Now familiar with the car, I find it easier to handle. When I’m feeling randy, I can go into a corner hot, pitch the car sideways with a flick of the steering wheel to induce a short four-wheel drift, set it on the proper line, then drive it through the corner. That’s not usually the fastest way through a corner, but it’s fun. The Race mode setting for the stability control system leaves plenty of slip angle without bringing the car back on line through targeted braking or cutting power. For a car that’s been accused of feeling digital, that’s awfully analog. I couldn’t make such bold moves if I couldn’t feel what the GT-R is doing at track-level.

My lap times are coming down, too, as I find new ways to extract more performance from the car. Session 2 gets into the low 1:43s and one particularly good lap on Session 3 yields a 1:42.14, more than a second faster than I’ve ever gone here.

2018 Nissan GT-R Track Edition, Gingerman Raceway, May 2018

2018 Nissan GT-R Track Edition, Gingerman Raceway, May 2018

Sessions 4-5

This time out everything clicks. I find little bits of speed in various corners, and getting on the throttle earlier near apexes makes up for the slight bit of throttle lag. It pays off in higher speeds at the ends of straights: 100 mph into corner 3, 108 into 5/6, 100 again at the end of 7/8/9 combination, and 133 into turn 11.

My times are now consistently in the 1:41s and I set a personal best 1:40.64 on my third lap. I’ve cut almost three seconds off my time from the first session.

I’ve learned the car’s character so well that I can feel its sweet spot. The Dunlop SP Sport Maxx GT 600 DSST Ctt tires heat up and start to feel greasy after three or four laps, but bounce back with a 20- to 30-minute cool-down. The brakes do the same. They feel great, with a high pedal for the first four or five laps, then the pedal sinks a bit lower but stopping power never fades. Next time out, the pedal is back up high again.

I’m back in the 1:41s again for Session 5, with one high 1:40 time, but I can’t beat my previous best. That’s OK. It was a great run.

Godzilla has proven to be a monster that could handle all the punishment I could throw at it. It survived five sessions in the heat with ease.


Race mode is great for the track, but it’s not ideal for street use. For my 2.5-hour drive back to Chicago, I reach down to the mode switches again, this time turning them all to Comfort mode.

Comfort is a relative term here. Comfort mode for the Bilstein dampers takes the sharpness out of bumps while adding some abrupt bounding over highway expansion joints, which may be worse for concrete freeway pavement. Around town and over Chicago’s pockmarked streets, however, Comfort is the only mode to use. Speaking of comfort, the Track Edition’s Recaro buckets are a little too tight for my slightly too large hindquarters. That’s great on the track, but not ideal for longer trips.

If you buy a GT-R Track Edition, take its name into account and be sure to find a way to get it out on a track to get the best out of it.

Godzilla may be a monster, but he proved to be a hero on the track and a little salty on the street.