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Nissan GT-R 2009 Review

It's about 7pm on a Sunday night, it's well after dark and his family is heading for home, but the youngster refuses to be distracted. He is on a mission.

"Dad, that car is sick. Can you please, please take a photo of me with it," he pleads, snatching the camera from his mother. He is going nowhere and they cave in as quickly as a politician with his pants down.

Less than an hour later, it happens again. The only difference this time is that it's a couple of 20-somethings who are drawn to the GT-R like footballers to a pub.

"Man, that thing is awesome. Is it as good as they say? Nah, course it is," says one, dressed to impress in his best thongs and a pair of board shorts.

The next morning it's our garbo who can barely drag himself and his noisy truck away, then a rubber-necked bloke wobbles past on his motorcycle as he swivels for a perv, and even the delivery man on his way to the shops with an urgent load of parcels cannot resist a quick detour.

They just cannot get enough of the GT-R.

A couple of schoolboys wave and laugh as the Nissan rolls by. Godzilla has made their day, and probably their week. They will be telling all their friends about their close encounter with Japan's newest supercar, and probably scoring plenty of points.

So, where is this going?

About now I should be shifting gears and telling you in detail about all the reasons why this diverse group of people are right to be won over by the all-new GT-R. Things like the car's power and torque and acceleration and top speed and that very special something which turns a very small group of cars from transport modules into a motoring dream machine.

But if that's what you want you will not be finding it here. Because I'm not a fan.

Yes, the GT-R is massively quick and very good value from $148,800, but something is missing. And it's not just important, it is vital.

For me, the GT-R has no heart. No soul. Nothing that makes it truly and utterly memorable.

It's a fast car for the Gen-Y computer generation, not people who really love driving.

Driving the GT-R is like working a computer. You input your destination and desired speed, then relax and let the hardware and software crunch the numbers to get the result. It's all zeroes and ones.

I don't absolutely hate the GT-R but I'm not in love with it. It does not make me smile.

There is grudging respect, but I have to ask why it is so stupidly heavy — more than 1800 kilos — and complex. It's great to load a car with technology, as BMW has just done with its new 7 Series, but not at the cost of all the other complications and weight gain.

I can think of more than just a few cars which are more involving and rewarding than the GT-R.

And before we get too much further, I'm not just talking about the $447,500 Porsche 911 GT2 that so many people compare with the GT-R.

None of my choices is particularly cheap - unless you count an original 1989 Mazda MX-5 - but there is still good value and more enjoyment in a Lotus Elise from $69,990 or a Porsche Cayman from $122,200.

Look away if you don't want to be totally deflated, but I would even pick a Mercedes-Benz ahead of the GT-R. The C63 AMG is not just any old Benz, of course, but the car's sledgehammer V8 performance and its driving challenge - it always feels as if it would like rear up and kill you - as well as a useable back seat and real class means I would rather put down $146,271 for a silver star than spend the extra $2500 for the GT-R.

I'm also expecting the new Nissan 370Z to jump in front of the GT-R when I drive it in a few weeks. It's trimmer and tauter, and the body is much more curvy and attractive. It won't be as flat-out fast, but it will be easier to tap and more fun at regular road speeds.

Still, there is no denying that the Nissan GT-R is a dream machine.

It has a stealth-fighter look that is very 21st century and its twin- turbo V6 engine makes 353kW and 588Nm to feed to its high-tech all-wheel drive system. There are driver controls for the settings on the engine, suspension, transmission and the six-speed manu-matic gearbox which take it right up to race pace.

Posters of the car are going up on bedroom and garage walls around the world in the same sort of places where the Ferrari Enzo and Lamborghini Murcielago and the V8 Supercars of Lowndes, Skaife, Whincup, Brock and the boys usual take prime position. It's that sort of car.

It has also starred in Top Gear television, where Jeremy Clarkson cricked his neck hustling one around Fuji Speedway in Japan, and is stomping through magazine comparison stories across the world. Usually as the winner.

So why is it that I cannot get remotely excited about the GT-R?

It's something I've been thinking about for more than a week and I have answers. And it's not just an anti-GT-R bias, because I loved the original Godzilla and I like the idea of a Japanese car that can bang the doors down at Europe's supercar fortresses.

But I think the GT-R is far too heavy. And far too complex. It has silly computer displays which belong in a video game and not a car.

And is ugly. And it is hard to park. And there is no satnav or parking radar — basics on any sort of $100,000-plus car.

Starting the engine is about as exciting as starting the vacuum cleaner. The car promises plenty with four rocket-launcher exhaust pipes under the tail but it cranks like any old Nissan and the turbo exhaust is flat and boring.

Even when you get going there is nothing much coming from the engine room. Except the chance for the doof-doof boys to go wild when they get their hands on the GT-R.

The driving position is alright, but only if you fit into the curvy bucket seats. And the view over the high dash is restricted, although nothing like as bad as the black spots in the corners and tail which make reversing or lane changes a worrying job.

And then we get to the dash itself, with digital readouts supplied by the people behind the Gran Turismo driving game. It's silly stuff like rear differential oil temperature, in a bank of dials which can only distract the driver. Fun, but...

And the emphasis on the gadgets means the speedometer has been ignored with a dial which is far too hard to read. Better to pull up a digital readout in the centre of the dash, but then you repeat the distraction problem.

The boot is very big, though.

I could be the only person in the known universe who thinks the GT-R is too big and too heavy and too ugly and ... well, I could go on.

People say the GT-R can crank around the Nurburgring in 7 minutes 27, and faster than a Porsche.

But when were they at the Nurburgring? Do they even know how to say Nurburgring?

"I know what it is and I know what it means," says Alex, a GT-R nut who drives a Lancer Evo.

"Besides, if you buy a car like the GT-R you should take it on the track. That's what it's for."

And I have to admit the GT-R is mightily impressive on a racetrack.

It thumps out of corners and the super-smart all-wheel drive system means it's always finding the best way of matching grip on the road to the correct corner of the car. The paddle-shift gearbox is easy to use and fires up and down through the gears.

But don't expect the brakes to last too long . . .

I've ridden with Nissan's GT-R test pilot and Nurburgring star Toshio Suzuki and he can make the car sing and slide, but a hot lap with him has nothing like the fear factor I have experienced with rally ace Walter Rohrl on a closed public road in a Porshe 911 Turbo.

People are also going to say the GT-R has just won Targa Tasmania 2009, and that's a great result by petfood king Tony Quinn. But it was his 11th start and he learned the event driving a range of Porsches.

This rant against the machine is not because I don't like cars, or that I've gone gone off driving fast, or that I'm not impressed by something which is great value and immensely more fun than a Nissan Tiida.

Perhaps my girlfriend Ali is right about the GT-R.

"It's not a sports car. It's a big car that can drive fast," she says dismissively.

"It's a snoozy car. Ok, it can go fast, but most of the time it's just big and boofy."

On the road the GT-R takes too long to make its point. By the time the turbos are spooling you will be past the posted limit.

Firing it away from the lights is fun, but only a couple of times. And it's also good to drive a car that tracks around turns at silly speeds just by turning the wheel and cracking the throttle open a bit.

But I still had more fun this morning driving my rusty old Subaru Brumby ute, pushing it through a couple of corners the GT-R would destroy at triple the speed without blinking. The Brumby was alive and I had to work it, and work with it, to get it to do what I wanted in the way that I wanted.

What worries me most about the GT-R is that it is way over the top.

Nissan has done an impressive job on the engineering front but it is too much of a good thing. Great for a racetrack, but too much for the road.

It's a weapon for sure, but more of a battleship than a jet fighter.

The GT-R is gone now and I don't miss it.

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(base) 3.8L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO $60,900 – 77,000 2009 Nissan GT-R 2009 (base) Pricing and Specs
Premium 3.8L, PULP, 6 SP DUAL-CLUTCH AUTO $60,900 – 77,000 2009 Nissan GT-R 2009 Premium Pricing and Specs
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