2012 Nissan GT-R first drive: Thrills, chills and room for 2 sets of golf clubs

2012 Nissan GT-R

2012 Nissan GT-R

By now, you probably already know that the Nissan GT-R is a ferociously fast super car that is the match of pretty much anything on four wheels, regardless of price.

But just in case:  The upgraded 2012 Japanese coupe can accelerate from a stop to 60 mph in less than 3 seconds and continue to power its way on to the quarter-mile mark in another eight seconds at a terminal velocity of more than 120 miles per hour. Top speed, according to Nissan, is 196 mph.

It can tear up a racetrack with its tenacious grip, flawless handling and brutally powerful brakes, and along the way it can embarrass more than a few of the world’s top performance cars.

All this from a 3.8-liter, twin-turbo V-6 engine cranked up to 530 horsepower and 448 pound-feet of torque. All this from a lightning fast, dual-clutch six-speed transmission operated with paddle shifters. All this from a specially programmed all-wheel-drive system. All this from quick, laser-like steering. All this in a car that weighs nearly two tons.

And, all this at a (relatively) bargain price a few dollars shy of $100,000.

Perhaps you are wondering what this has to do with me, a rank amateur whose racing experience was highlighted by a charity event in a go-kart powered by a lawn mower engine.

Not much, really.

But I recently had the rare opportunity to spend a little time behind the wheel of a Nissan GT-R on winding country roads known to be patrolled by real, dedicated law-enforcement personnel.

With a little careful planning, I got to sense the tremendous acceleration (up to maybe 80-90 mph), I helped the GT-R zoom around a few tight turns without breaking  a sweat (mine), and I found myself lurching forward when I stomped on the brakes. Fortunately, the cops never knew I was there.

Even with such an abbreviated drive, I understood that I was driving a truly remarkable car, a car that offered a whole lot more than I could ever find the nerve to fully experience.

But my mostly gentle drive gave me some time to think about a few things that some of the highly experienced, power-addicted journalists tend not to include in their facts-and-figures reports on the GT-R’s amazing performance.

I’m talking about the GT-R as a daily driver.

In many ways, this is actually a luxury car, with an upscale interior, amenities such as air conditioning, navigation, a superb sound system with 11 speakers, Bluetooth hands-free telephone system and satellite radio

In addition, there is room for four actual people and some luggage or two sets of golf clubs.

When winter comes around, you can even bolt on a set of quality winter tires and let the all-wheel drive take you where you are going. Well, maybe not. Who would want to venture out in bad weather in such a finely tuned example of automotive engineering excellence?

Even the fuel mileage is pretty good, considering the source. The EPA estimates an around-town average of 16 miles per gallon of premium fuel and 23 mpg on the open road.


The ride is pretty stiff. You could be acceptably comfortable on smooth super highways and well maintained asphalt two-lane roads, but you wouldn’t want to be bumping around on, say, the hard-scrabble streets of New York City.

And, like it or not, unless you are planning to race the car or run hot laps at the local motor club, that ridiculous combination of power and performance is basically useless. The Nissan GT-R offers plenty of bragging rights, but the crowded public streets conspire to nullify them.

On the other hand, very few people, enthusiasts included, get to experience the thrills and chills of an authentic super car.

That alone should be enough to entice the lucky few who can throw down the necessary $100,000, give or take a few dollars.