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Nissan GT-R 2012 review: first drive


GT-R - just muttering this acronym is enough to bring goosebumps to the neck of most motoring enthusiasts.

Nissan has had the badge in its arsenal since the late 1960s - with brief appearances here - but the Grand Turismo Racing vehicle that goes on sale this month in Australia is by far the most venomous yet.

The GT-R (which also amusingly stands for Ground Transportation Request) has more power, more torque across a wider rev range but with the ability to use less fuel.


The price has gone up $2000 for the model-year 2012 GT-R to start from $170,800 - still half the price of opposition equipment with the same performance potential. 

The latest incarnation of the GT-R has more than 420 representatives on Australian roads - and more than 20,000 examples worldwide since the model's launch in late 2007.

Changes are minimal on the surface - the instruments now have blue back-lighting inside the tacho ring, there's now a standard reversing camera. 

The features list also has dual-zone climate control, leather trimmed and heated front sports seats, two rear sports seats, touchscreen satnav, USB input for the sound system, Bilstein adaptive dampers, Bluetooth phone link, cruise control, keyless entry and ignition.

The Bose 11-speaker sound system's woofers have been upgraded to Bose Precision Sound System woofers and the door speakers and rear woofer are now mounted on a solid aluminium die-cast panel to reduce vibration and improve sound quality. 

The two-door super-coupe is also wearing new nitrogen-filled Dunlop SP Sport Maxx tyres that were developed specifically for the GT-R and Nissan says the updated rubber improves response and ride comfort.


The magnificent hand-built twin-turbo V6 has had work done on both the intake and exhaust sides of the engine, with the intake a new resin intake duct and more precise intake system claiming reduced airflow resistance. The exhaust side now has sodium-filled exhaust valves for better cooling and a smaller, lighter exhaust catalyser.

The result is a power jump from 390 to 404kW (at 6400rpm) while torque has improved 16Nm to 628Nm between 3200 and 5800rpm (the latter a 600rpm increase). The increases have not come at the expense of fuel consumption, claims Nissan - the company says the 2012 GT-R's ADR-laboratory derived figure for fuel use has dropped from 12 to 11.7l/100km.

The six-speed double-clutcher has also been improved, says Nissan, with better shift feel and quietness the result of work on the shift fork arm and the flywheel housing - the drivetrain now also gets a model-specific competition differential oil.


While the exterior design hasn't changed, the design of the underpinnings have - to account for the driver's weight on the righthand side, the GT-R's suspension for RHD models has been set asymmetrically, a world-first says the Japanese carmaker.

Nissan says in the outgoing car there was a 50kg bias to the right-hand side with an average-sized driver, so the spring rates are slightly altered left-to-right and some components are mounted differently, all of which means an imbalanced wheel load when the car is at a standstill, but which is equalised when underway. 

The new GT-R is boasting improved steering response, cornering stability and ride comfort. The engineers have also reinforced parts of the engine compartment and repositioned some sensors.


Godzilla gets dual front, side and curtain airbags for the front occupants, who will be strapped into the front pews with pre-tensioner and load-limiter equipped seatbelts. There's also anti-lock brakes and the adjustable stability and traction control system (which also has an R-Mode start) and the grip of all-wheel drive, which can send all drive to the rear wheels and up to 50 per cent to the front as required.


Godzilla has mutated - in a good way. Nissan’s GT-R has long-worn the movie-monster nickname and the update has given no reasons for it to fade away. The 2012 update has given more power and torque to the already-awesome twin-turbo V6, enough to suggest Nissan Japan claims of 2.8 seconds to 100km/h are feasible

The coupe leaps away from standstill, slipping quickly between gears with minimal shift shock despite the considerable force being applied through the drivetrain. There’s still some mechanical noise, but it’s more refined, with a roar that’s not ear-splitting but it is addictive. 

What is also addictive is the part-throttle power delivery - you don’t need to go flat out to appreciate the engine, which has a considerable mid-range. Firing along twisty bitumen, the two-door supercar corners with disdain, both for recommended cornering speed signs and surface changes.

Bumps are felt but do little to change the intended line – even dust, cow manure, gravel or other extras on the road surface barely ruffle the GT-R’s composure. Changes to the suspension - designed to compensate for weight on the right hand side, says Nissan - have also had an impact on the ride quality.

While it’s far from a boulevarde ride, the sharp impact from bumps felt in previous incarnations has been smoothed over – there’s still a jolt but the cutting thump has been reduced. In comfort mode the ride quality improves noticeably and for most on-road work that’s the setting of choice.

Solid body control and tenacious grip mean your internal organs are going to give in before the GT-R does - it’s not hard to see (or feel) how this car gave Top Gear’s Jeremy Clarkson a crook neck.

There’s also a solid, meaty feeling to the steering, which is on the heavier side but feels fitting for this beast of a machine. The awkward rear vision has been offset by the addition of a reversing camera, which is new for 2012.


The Nissan supercar remains the best value performance machine around - refinements in key areas haven’t detracted from the powerhouse capabilities or its appeal as a serious machine.

The ask for something with German or Italian heritage that can keep up with this Japanese mutant is more than double and you’d have to seriously question the worth of the logo.

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(base) 3.8L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO $70,840 – 81,400 2012 Nissan GT-R 2012 (base) Pricing and Specs
Stuart Martin
Contributing Journalist


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