NISSAN GT-R. Photos courtesy Nissan

Unleashing the Tiger

Engine: 545 hp, 3.8 liter, twin turbocharged V-6.
Acceleration: 0-60 in 2.9 seconds.
Brakes: Brembo six-piston front and four-piston rear calipers with cross-drilled, ventilated rotors.
Sound system: Bose audio system with USB port connection.
Price: base price (Black Edition), $106,320; as tested, $107,320.

With its astounding acceleration and superior handling, the 2013 Nissan GT-R gives us something to rev about.

ONE OF THE MOST SUPERB high-performance cars of the year is also the most stealth. Nissan’s GT-R-released earlier in Japan as the “Skyline,” serving as the GT-R’s predecessor-is earning well-deserved attention for its racing and performance prowess.

In 2008, Nissan decided to quietly import the Skyline, with a slight name change, into the U.S. Over the last five years, Nissan has been sliding in upgrades to the frame, maintaining a peak performance agenda, yet adding to comfort and approachability for the highly discerning American car buyer.

For 2013, Nissan has completely pulled back the curtain, upping the horsepower from the twin turbocharged V-6 from 530 to 545, which has sent rocket flares through the domestic auto trade press. LED lighting and other design tweaks were enough to garner serious attention. Finally, a special “Black Edition”-with bolstered wheels and interior leather package options, other such accessories-hit us patriots right where we like it.

Let’s get down to brass tacks: The GT-R boasts a jaw-dropping, almost unbelievable 0 to 60 time of 2.9 seconds, with a top speed of 195 mph.

And while some other speedsters may have more raw power (see our “Luxury Asides” bit on the Mustang), Nissan adds technology to harness this beast-like speed demon.

First, all the GT-Rs have four-wheel drive and a Formula One-like, double clutch, six-speed transmission. And to help with takeoffs, so to speak, a special launch control keeps wheel spin manageable.

Handling keeps with the theme-that is, a race car for the street. With the push of a series of buttons, engine performance, shifting, traction control and suspension settings can be adjusted to fit your mood. Large 20-inch wheels are on the lighter side, with so-called “summer” tires that root the GT-R to the ground. In fact, the tires are so sticky that they pick loose gravel and throw it into the wheel wells. And, of course, the transmission can be instantly shifted with paddles mounted on the back of the steering wheel. But if your grandma wants to drive this Nissan, she can place the transmission into automatic mode and the computer will take over gear-changing duties. Brakes are big Brembo calipers on cross-drilled, ventilated rotors.

Steering with the leather-lined wheel is direct and instantaneous. Twitch the wheel and you change direction immediately. The ride is taut without jarring with every street imperfection. Cornering exceeds one G in side force-which is pretty hard to beat.

Keeping the driver and passenger in place on those corners are Recaro high bolster leather seats. Leather lines the interior, as does highlights of carbon fiber accouterment, which adds to the overall sumptuous look. All the luxury features are present and accounted for, including a large 7-inch screen in the center of the dash. Maps, rear camera scenes, navigation assistance, stereo, climate, and Bluetooth telephone functions can be manipulated on the screen. A USB port permits downloading into the stereo. With the key on the driver, the doors will simply open and the powerplant started with a push button.

Rear seating is tight and really designed for kids. But the trunk area is relatively large and can be expanded by dropping the seat back.

Exterior styling has all the racing clues. The stance is squat, but not so low as to make entry and exit difficult. A large rear carbon fiber spoiler caps the trunk hatch. Below the bumper is a diffuser designed to maintain a solid footing surrounded by four huge exhaust pipes. LED lights appear below the headlights and a small spoiler keeps the front planted.

With a long heritage of racing the Skyline GT-R in Japan, Nissan has wisely decided to bring this super car to the U.S. That history is quite noticeable in aesthetics-yet truly felt in performance.

Luxury Asides


In true American fashion, while nearly everyone has gas mileage front-of-mind when purchasing a new automobile, there is (quite conversely) an ongoing horsepower war among the domestic sports coupes and convertibles.

Among the Ford Mustangs, Chevy Camaros and Dodge Challengers, this escalation has reached new heights with the recent introduction of the 2013 Mustang Shelby GT500, offered in both a coupe and convertible. Popped into the engine compartment is a 5.8-liter supercharged all-aluminum V-8 powerplant that churns out jaw-dropping 650 horsepower-making this engine the most powerful production V-8 in the world. (For the record, this is 100 horsepower increase from last year’s model.)

Remember those pesky on-board computer speed limiters that would theoretically hold you down to a mere 155 mph? Ford left that “feature” in the dust, leaving you to clock past the checkered flag at a touch over 200 mph.

Other perks include a handy dashboard button that can be punched to control the suspension modes, from sport to normal. Super-sized Brembo brakes are needed to halt this beast, and they are present to confirm this pony’s stopping prowess. Bilstein adjustable shocks dampen any former body control issues that might have arisen.

Cost in comparison to the horsepower is what makes this car truly attractive; $54,995 for the sport coupe and $59,995 for the convertible. This is one affordable addition to lead your stable.

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