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The Nissan GT-R repeats history

I think it’s time I give up the ghost, dear reader; Mitsubishi is not going to make another 3000GT. That company’s heyday has long since passed, and the case for a super halo car is becoming more and more suspect. But that’s ok, because technically another 3000GT has already been made in the form of the Nissan GT-R. And like those 90’s Japanese super coupes, the GT-R has a major problem. No, not the fact that it’s been around for 15 years. Let’s go for a ride in a 2014 example to find out what it is.

2014 Nissan GT-R Quick Take
Get one:

Explosive power. The ultimate Japanese performance car. Old school is so much fun.

Don’t get one:

How old? And how much? Sounds like a hoover. Not very roomy (or nice) inside despite the size. No one’s home unless you’re at warp speed.

Soul Score: 7

I want to love you, GT-R, but I know those little nagging issues will prevent me from making a commitment.

The 2014 Nissan GT-R overview

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Still looks pretty good.

That 3000GT parallel isn’t so far-fetched, is it? All-wheel drive. A twin-turbocharged V-6. Grand touring layout with small back seats. Styling that tells everyone “Lookie here!”. And speed. Lots of speed.

And like that GT, the price upon introduction was reasonable: $69,850. This 2014 Nissan GT-R Premium was $99,950, not a bargain, but not bad. Yet now, head to the Nissan dealer and you will need to bring a check for $113,540, a roughly 40% increase. That 3000GT VR-4 was $30,000 when new in 1991. By 1999, a VR-4 was pushing $50,000. History loves to show repeats.

Cars like the original NSX and 3000GT always received incremental improvements from that first model year, but nothing to warrant the price increases they had over the course of their long lives.

Perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself, focusing on price before the experience, because this really is a wonderful car to drive. I almost bought one instead of the E92 (imagine how much different my life would be). Yet the reputation of the car, having virtually driven every variation of the R33 and R34 in Grand Turismo, could never live up to reality.

Performance Score: 8. VR vroom

The Nissan GT-R might as well have been a spaceship when it arrived in 2008. The mission was simple – kill a 911 Turbo for half the price, something it did with the precision of a robot welding steel. Make no mistake, a GT-R will melt your face. But something is missing.

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Hope you don’t need to see out the back.

Engine

Me and Nissans, we go way back. My parents always had one. I loved my 350Z so much I bought two in a row. Point is, I know them. And starting up this GT-R, it’s hard not to smile. I know that sound. Welcome home, Mike.

Nostalgia aside, this VR motor was very different from the VQ V-6 in Nissans of yore. It’s hand-built in Japan, and for many years was used only in the GT-R (the new Z gets a 3.0 liter version). 3.8 liters vs the typical 3.5 size of the time gave the engine more torque lower in the rev range. I can go into a lot of technical detail about why the VR is worthy of a supercar, and the VQ is stuck in grandma’s Altima, but suffice to say, the engine in the GT-R is take-your-breath-away fast.

Nissan has constantly tinkered with this motor (for instance, this 2014 model received new fuel injectors that increase throttle responsiveness—and therefore the feeling of available torque—between 4500 and 6000 rpm.) Boring. With 545 horsepower, the car is fast, fast, fast.

There is a soft spot. Below 2,000 RPM, there’s a bit of lag. Beyond that, it’s warp speed, Mr. Sulu. Slay everything in your path, leaving a wake of decimation on the highway or the school pick-up line. Acceleration is explosive.

Missing from the experience is the sound. Sorry Nissan, but I can still hear plenty of coffee grinder VQ in this VR. You can rev it for fun, sure, but if the VQ is Megadeath, this is Metallica. Still loud and obnoxious, just a different flavor.

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Big boom pipes with required rainbow titanium finishers are aftermarket, but the sound the car makes isn’t music.

Transmission

If cars like the F-TYPE are enhanced by the feel of its transmission, then this Nissan GT-R suffers just as much from it. No bueno.

In here is a six-speed DCT that makes the one from an F10 M5 feel like it belongs in a Bentley. Its clunky, rough, and early ones tended to go boom. I can give it a pass for some behavior (after all, who knows how many launches the one I drove endured), but you will not find much joy working the paddles on the steering wheel. Even putting the car in drive resulted in clanks and clunks. This cost how much?

On the road it leaves a bit more of an impression. Shifts happen right now. BANG. Another one. BANG…you get it. The DCT offers the precise feel of a wrist watch ticking time away, with the feedback of a double barrel shot gun. Just another reason to always get on this thing.

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Possibly the worst transmission in a modern performance car.

Chassis and Steering

It’s here that the GT-R begins to redeem itself. The steering is excellent. You get feedback through the column – enough to feel the weight of the car itself begin to push back on your hands at the limit. This might be the last modern car with a hydraulic steering system, and it shows. Wow, how I miss it. It’s heavy, but appropriately so because this is a beastly thing.

Luxury was never the Nissan GT-R’s mission, so though it’s a rough-riding car, I don’t care. Winter roads prevented me from really pushing it, but I felt enough grip here to bring smiles. There’s little to no body roll, and the all-wheel drive system is a marvel. Direction changes happen in an instant.

Nissan GT-R

The car pulls and pulls. Out of corners. Away from stop lights. In front of that neighbor’s house you hate. Nothing deters it. You can almost feel the car moving power from one corner to the next. Weight distribution is 50/50, and even though the GT-R weighs 4,000 lbs, it feels lighter than my M3 because it’s so direct and precise in its movements.

Still, the car is always on, always begging you for more. You can loaf around in many other super things at this price point with nary a complaint. Not here. The GT-R doesn’t just nudge you into naughty things, it demands it. Haha yea ok right bro, you told her we’re going food shopping but you really meant track amiright?! Let’s pound a Red Bull and some 93 octane and go hunt Evos!

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Steering wheel is at least excellent, with great feedback through the hydraulic rack.

Brakes

Really, really good here. No squat and dive from the suspension, a firm pedal and huge discs bring the GT-R to a halt without drama. Every brake system should inspire this much confidence. If everything else about the GT-R might scare a beginner on track, the brakes will make up for it. Push it with confidence.

The GT-R might be one of the fastest cars I’ve ever driven, but it’s also one of the most single-minded. I feel as if the engineers at Nissan made this for the kids of the PlayStation era (me), but forgot to actually make it something you want to live with every day. It clicks, clanks and clunks its way to speed. How you get to fast is just as important as going fast.

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Utility: 5. Tight touring

My 350Z never really pretended to be something it wasn’t. 22-year-old me loved it. 22-year-old me did not own a home, or have a family.

The larger GT-R gives you an awkward but still useful trunk, and what I’ve always considered to be a nicely padded shelf in the rear. I don’t get the 2+2 configuration in any car – if you like your legs, you can’t fit back there for very long.

In the front, the seats and low roof line feel a bit confining. We will track this car, yes? So how the hell am I supposed to fit inside with a helmet? If the end goal for Nissan was to make the ULTIMATE CAR, what benefit comes from making it large but impractical?

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The trunk fits a coat, your hopes and dreams, and maybe some food things.

Economy: 5. Turbo thirst

Nissan’s V-6 is never going to win a “save the planet” award (not with the way they burn through oil), so you can excuse this GT-R’s thirst. If I’m being honest, 16 MPG in city and 23 on the highway isn’t terrible for a car that’s essentially an F-15 for the road. It’s better than many high-powered V-8s despite being almost as powerful. Still, newer engines like the S58 are even better, with the same or more power.

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The speedometer’s needle starts backwards, so when you think you’re going 60, you’re going 100. This is a problem in a car with this much power.

Features and comfort: 5. Teenage dream

When I sat in this car upon its debut, I thought “Hmm, this looks like a Z”, and that was no compliment. While I understand compromise is warranted, given the mechanical acuity and speed, there’s too much Nissan and not enough Infiniti. Everything in here feels plastic and chunky. The Tonka GT-R.

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You will not mistake it for a Porsche.

Seat geek

I think a comfortable driver’s seat is one of the top 5 things a car can have. If your butt’s sliding around, your feet are awkward around the pedals, or your thighs aren’t supported, you’re going to be distracted and simply not go as fast. And the GT-R’s driver’s seat just isn’t that comfortable. The leather isn’t very soft, and though it’s an overall fine chair, it’s not really acceptable in something that can pull 1.1 Gs on a skid pad. I did not enjoy bracing against the door panel.

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The seats lack bolstering and the leather isn’t very high-end.

Reach for the shifter and find an awkward pattern to get the car in drive. Toggle switches for suspension firmness, all-wheel drive mode and traction control are definitely cool and bring a fighter-jet feel, but everything in here really feels old school.

And before you open up that email app to send me a complaint at how this is a 10-year old car, and the 2023 GT-R is improved inside, save your pixels. It’s nicer, yes, but you need to drive by a lot of things for the price of a new one. It’s not that much better.

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Are these really Recaro seats?
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Old handbrake alert!
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Toggle switches never go out of style.

Cue the Gran Turismo

The interface graphics are outdated, but some points here for Nissan working with Polyphony, the company that makes the famous video game to help sell cars like this. I was surprised that the nav worked the same here as it did in my 2007 Z. Had it really not changed at all in seven years? Cars of the same vintage have systems that have aged much better. This is also before CarPlay, but bluetooth works well enough.

Elsewhere, you get where the car is aimed at. A Bose stereo with a giant subwoofer between the rear seats brings the boom. There’s an actual handbrake! I laughed when I saw this, how fun. The great steering wheel adjusts with the gauges, a Z trick that ensures the dials always line up with your eyes. And looking out the rear view mirror shows that massive spoiler bisecting the view. Hope you don’t need to see police headlights behind you.

If I can invite 22-year old Mike back, he would have no issue with this car inside, so thrilled would he have been to drive and own this thing. But 22-year old Mike could never afford this car, and 38-year old Mike has outgrown its heavy boy-racer vibes.

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Put people you do not like back here, then turn the sub all the way up.

The Nissan GT-R suggests you should never meet your heroes

I met my wife on a dating website (bear with me for a minute here). Wow, she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. We spoke on the phone for three weeks before meeting in person. We built each other up so much that by the time we did meet in person, our first date was not good. To many nerves. I couldn’t believe it. Whoa, she really is perfect! 

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I want to love you, GT-R.

I tell you this because it is also the story of myself and the Nissan GT-R, only we didn’t get past the first date.

Fast and Furious. Gran Turismo. “Overnight parts from Japan.” This car is a legend. I’d need to fly half way across the Earth to see one before 2008. So when it came out, I was so excited to try one. Imagine my disappointment. It was not meant to be for me and the GT-R. I went on to try the E92 and never looked back.

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Still, I’m glad it’s here. It’s as close to a new 3000GT as I’ll ever get. There is a soul inside, if you dig really deep. I was hoping that years of experience driving other cars would bring a new appreciation for what Nissan is trying to accomplish here. Alas, it only highlighted more of the GT-R’s shortcomings.

If you love it and you can look past its faults, I applaud your decision. Maybe that’s me and any M3. But it feels like this GT-R is a reminder that some things are best left in the past.

Thanks to Henry at Kia of Riverdale for providing this GT-R! This car, and other high-end exotics, are available at their dealership for sale.

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2014 Nissan GT-R Premium Specifications

Vehicle Type: front-engine, all-wheel drive two-door coupe

PRICE

Base: $99,590

POWERTRAIN

3.8 liter twin-turbocharged V-6
545 horsepower @ 6,400 rpm
463 lb-ft of torque @ 3,200 rpm
Six-speed dual-clutch transmission

DIMENSIONS

Wheelbase: 109.4 in
Length: 183.9 in
Width: 74.6 in
Height: 53.9 in
Curb Weight: 3,829 lbs

EPA FUEL ECONOMY

Combined/city/highway: 19 / 16 / 23 MPG
Range: 370 miles

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