2014 Nissan GT-R Track Edition
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Published on Sat, Aug 17, 2013
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
By John Grafman Our moment of adventure starts at the base of a steep uphill and lengthy two-lane onramp that converges into one lane prior to entering the freeway. Ahead of us about halfway up the ramp on the right side is another car also looking to enter the Ventura freeway. Typically, whatever car I’m piloting at the moment would naturally follow the path of the preceding car. But, on this day the car du jour is the 2014 Nissan GT-R! That, my friends, changes everything. Stabbing the accelerator pedal to the floor, the Japanese supercar is all too eager to pursue and overtake. A rush overcomes us, similar to taking-off in a jet airplane. My passenger and I feel ourselves getting sucked back into the seat while easily reaching one G. The lightning-fast Nissan coupe is able to blast past and squirt out onto the highway ahead of the other motorist. This is like a magic trick where the magician pulls a rabbit out of his hat. The difference here is we can do this all day long, every day, and twice on Sundays.
The passenger to my right can once again breathe a bit easier after the thrill ride lasting a blink beyond four seconds becomes a memory. I, on the other hand, complete with a silly grin on my face, feel like Will Smith, playing the part of Captain Steven Hiller in the movie Independence Day. His initial reaction upon piloting an alien spacecraft: “I have got to get me one of these!” Now, to gush over how quickly this can move off the line or pick up speed at any point in the drive would be to downplay all of the other components, including the braking, steering, suspension, and computer oversight controls. Nevertheless, the 545 horses emanating from the relatively small, 3.8 liter, twin-turbo, V6 is simply incredible. It’s not that this much horsepower is unheard of, albeit this is still in the upper echelons of road cars, but coming from an engine of limited size is an amazing achievement. And so it goes with the rest of this Nissan as well. Each part of this car holds up its end of the deal. The dual clutch, six-speed, paddle shift transmission is up to the challenge of handling the 463 pound-feet of torque. Delivering the power to the pavement is the all-wheel drive, assuring the energy isn’t being wasted on just two tires. The smart shifting automatically gets the car into top gear at very low speeds when just poking around. However, at freeway speeds the top gear doesn’t feel quite right, like another gear or two would be appreciated. But, at the cost of using more fuel, the GT-R is always ready to snap to attention by virtue of the factory gearing and shift patterns.
The garden variety, standard issue Nissan GT-R is nothing short of supercar. But for some, good is never good enough. For those that are so inclined Nissan has a solution. This particular model is the Track Pack edition. Normally, car manufacturers offer special issue option packages that provide more power, however this isn’t one of those. The tactic here is to reduce weight. This does include a cool, dry carbon fiber rear wing, deletion of the rear seats, RAYS forged lightweight wheels, and of course the requisite serialized plaque of authenticity located in the engine compartment. Yes, these parts are nice, but at $6K I’m not totally convinced that this is money well spent. One of the aspects that make the GT-R great is the user-friendly side to it. Having a rear seat, even just for packages or groceries, would be appreciated. As there are just 150 of these Track Packs available (and only half coming to the USA), chances are these won’t be just sitting on the dealer lots gathering dust, rear seat or not. Besides the deletion of the rear seat, the front seats have been changed as well. Nissan still offers the wonderfully simply, one-button control unit on the seat side. But, the special blue trimmed, high grip seats are not all that one would hope for. These don’t offer adjustable side or shoulder bolsters, and the seats in this model felt tighter in some areas than I would prefer. One size does not fit all. Secondly, the color and material feels like a throwback to the eighties. The seating shape and fabric doesn’t seem in step with what we would expect. Yet, I have to admit that these seats hold the occupants in place nearly as good as superglue and duct tape.
To really appreciate the GT-R would require us to have a race track, but that really doesn’t provide a real world reflection of what the coupe is like. So, we opt for a suitable road course instead, Topanga Canyon. The drive to the beach this well-worn road can be either a ton of fun, or slow going, depending on the traffic. Fortunately, even on this summer day we get numerous miles of uncongested driving. This trek of about a dozen miles to the coast from the San Fernando Valley encompasses hills, blind turns, and occasional surprises ranging from wild animals to cross-traffic that doesn’t yield the right of way. In addition, the well-traveled road does have several areas where it is possible to plunge several hundred feet to the canyon floor. In other words, anything is possible, and danger lurks around every twist in the pavement. What strikes me as impressive with the GT-R is just how connected to the car the driver feels. One doesn’t need to be ham-fisted and slam the go-pedal with a heavy foot. The infinite bandwidth of the throttle provides the just right solution to every moment within the drive. The driver adjustability of the automatic transmission allows for holding a gear longer before upshifting for spirited driving, or sooner upshifts for better economy and a more comfortable ride. Additionally, the driver can adjust the specially tuned track edition suspension, allowing for a firmer ride. This is not to say that the GT-R is normally weak-kneed. The softer setting is still up to any challenge, but the firmer setting is like the cherry on top of an already delicious hot fudge sundae (and the nuts are sitting behind the steering wheel). Surprisingly, the Dunlop tires do an excellent job of providing grip, and also managing road noise and comfort. What makes this remarkable is that the rubber at each corner of the car is in the form of run-flat tires, not normally associated with this combination of characteristics.
When cutting up and back along the canyon the GT-R feels at home. All parts harmonize perfectly in the Nissan, from the progressive acceleration, and responsive and reassuring braking power, to the sensitive steering providing informative feedback. Adding to the chorus is a wonderful note from the exhaust that heralds the arrival of one high revving, engineering marvel. However, for some the musical note from the twin-turbo isn’t enough, like when stuck in the ever present stop and go traffic on the 405 freeway. Fortunately, the GT-R also has a wicked Bose sound system that rivals the over-the-top driving experience. The audio system controls can be adjusted from the steering wheel, or the control knob that’s just to the right of the steering wheel on the dash. It’s so close I can almost touch it with my right hand’s little finger while my thumb is still wrapped around the wheel, making this feel almost redundant. The ease of use, standard features including SiriusXM satellite radio, along with built in Bluetooth hands-free for the phone and streaming audio are less distracting than many. And yes, the big, red, push-button ignition sitting on the center console tempts the driver like candy tempts kids. One of the clever features of the Nissan GT-R is the driver configurable, multifunction, 7” color display providing feedback on virtually any and all aspects of the driving experience. With over a dozen screen choices, there is never a shortage of info or entertainment. One screen is nothing but gauge readouts, like oil pressure and the like. Another features turbo boost, and a third is a G meter for acceleration (there is also one for braking, and one for lateral G’s). The only improvement in this would be if the passenger could take an active role in handling the display readouts and settings. As the driver has his or her hands full in guiding this road-rocket, maybe having a participating navigator that’s willing to handle some of the chores wouldn’t be a bad idea.
Setting the Nissan GT-R apart from the other performance cars on the market including the Corvettes, Porsche 911s, Vipers, and even Ferraris and Lamborghinis is the distinct exterior design. This is by far more of a conventional coupe than the other supercars, and indeed is part of the evolutionary path of the GT-R. What this yields is shorter overhangs and a better view of the roadway. However, to say that this design is polarizing is an understatement. The origami, folded panel look isn’t too dissimilar from what Cadillac has been doing, but it definitely isn’t for everyone. If Lamborghini had to create a “normal” car, the Nissan GT-R would be it! And here’s the rub: driving a wildly styled Lambo everyone notices you; driving the stealthy Nissan GT-R very few heads turned, except for those “in the know”. Sure, for a car that breaks into the six-figure bracket one would think even in this jaded town others will take notice. Oh well, there’s always the gas pedal if everything else fails. Of course, at that point the only aspects of the design that anyone will notice are the taillights quickly fading off into the distance. SUMMARY JUDGMENT Japan has a bullet train, and we have to settle for the Nissan GT-R. I think we got the better deal! For more information on this, visit www.nissanusa.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2014 Nissan GT-R Track Edition Price: $115,710 (base) $116,995 (as tested) Engine type: Twin Turbo 3.8-litre V6, DOHC, 4 valves/cylinder CVTCS, aluminum block and heads EPA mileage estimates: 16 city/23 highway Horsepower: 545 @ 6,400 rpm Torque: 463 pound-feet @ 3,200-5,800 rpm Transmission type: Dual clutch sequential 6-speed rear transaxle, magnesium paddle shifters, gear pre-selection Drive configuration: Mid-mounted front engine, all-wheel drive Suspension Front: Independent double wishbone aluminum, integral tube-frame structure, six-point mounting, Large-diameter hollow stabilizer bar, Bilstein DampTronic mono-tube shock absorbers, computer controlled, 3-position driver adjustable, Progressive rate (non-linear) springs, High-accuracy alignment, fully adjustable. Track Edition-tuned suspension with unique shock absorber settings and high spring rates Rear: Independent m, ulti-link aluminum suspension, integral tube-frame structure, six-point mounting, aluminum upper/lower links (spherical bearing design), Large-diameter hollow stabilizer bar, Bilstein DampTronic mono-tube shock absorbers, computer controlled, 3-position driver adjustable, Progressive rate (non-linear) springs, High-accuracy alignment, fully adjustable. Track Edition-tuned suspension with unique shock absorber settings and high spring rates Wheels and tires Front: 6-spoke RAYS® aluminum-alloy forged, black finish, 20x9.5”, Dunlop® SP Sport Maxx GT600 ultra high performance run-flat tires 255/40ZRF20 Rear: 6-spoke RAYS® aluminum-alloy forged, black finish, 20x10.5”, Dunlop® SP Sport Maxx GT600 ultra high performance run-flat tires 285/35ZRF20 Brakes Front: Brembo six-piston monoblock calipers, full- floating, vented and drilled rotors 15.35” x 1.28” Rear: Brembo four-piston monoblock calipers, full- floating, vented and drilled rotors 15.0” x 1.18” Anti-lock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Brake force Distribution (EBD), Brake Assist (BA) Dimensions Overall length: 183.8” Overall width: 74.6” Overall height: 54.9” Curb weight (lbs): 3,796