The Daily Drivers | By Peter Couture and Lyra Solochek, Times Staff Writers

The Daily Drivers: The 2012 Nissan GT-R Premium

We had only a few days to test the Nissan GT-R, rather than the week we usually get, but that was long enough to tease us into wanting much more. (Memo to Nissan: The newly released 2013 GT-R would be nice for a week.) So these are our initial impressions, and this is a car that makes big ones. Its nickname, after all, is "Godzilla."

Appearance: The brutish GT-R screams superhero more than supercar, with a look that would be at home in a Transformers movie; even the front fenders that encase the 20-inch alloy wheels seem to telescope from the body. Nissan says the car's body creases help create down force, funneling air to the tuner-car-worthy spoiler. There's nothing subtle about the rear view, either, which is dominated by large quad tailpipes.

Performance: When Peter got behind the wheel, his first thought was: This car is an unrefined beast. Especially at neighborhood speeds, the GT-R's dual-clutch, 6-speed sequential transmission is noisy. It's a bit startling, as you hear and feel every click and clatter in the shifts. Peter once took a hot lap in a race car and the sounds of the GT-R, including the whine of its 3.8-liter, twin-turbocharged V-6, brought that experience back. That engine, by the way, is hand-built by one person, start to finish, and delivers 530 horsepower that pins you back in the seat. (The 2013 model has been tweaked to produce 545.) The paddle shifters are large and easy to grip, and they are column-mounted, which we think makes more sense — they don't turn with the steering wheel. The GT-R's ride feels planted because its all-wheel-drive system, which starts with 100 percent torque to the rear rubber, can send power to the front wheels to improve handling. The engine sits back in the chassis for better balance. Just as important as speed is the power to stop, and the GT-R's huge rotors and Brembo brakes confidently halt the supercar. You can adjust the suspension, shift time and stability control from switches on the console, but we found the ride stiff in our limited driving. It almost feels like you are letting down the GT-R by driving it in commuter traffic.

Interior: The GT-R seats four, but only if you put small kids in the back. The front sport seats are well-bolstered, as you would expect in a performance car, and the well-laid-out cabin has a mix of soft-touch surfaces and carbon-fiber accents. But the real show is the adjustable video-gamelike navigation screen that displays parameters such as G forces and lap times. The interface was designed by the developers of the popular Gran Turismo series, which is fitting because the GT-R is an icon to gamers.

Our 3 favorites

Peter Couture Vibe: It sounds and feels like a race car.

Electronics: Like video games? Crunching numbers? This is your car.

Trunk: It's not huge, but it's fairly deep and usable. See, Honey, it's practical!

Lyra Solochek Design: Simple, chiseled and unpretentious.

Performance: Breathtaking acceleration, exhilarating handling.

Price: It's relatively inexpensive for a supercar.

The bottom line: The GT-R grew on us and became one of Lyra's favorites. (We'd love to wind one out.) So who is a fit for the GT-R? The tech-loving gearhead who wants supercar performance without a six-figure price (almost).









2012 Nissan GT-R Premium

Price: $91,230 as tested (2013 starts at $96,820)

Powertrain: 3.8-liter DOHC twin turbo V-6,

6-speed dual-clutch transmission with column-mounted paddle shifters, independent rear transaxle, AWD system

Horsepower: 530

Torque: 448 pound-feet

Curb weight: 3,829 pounds

Dimensions

in inches:

Wheelbase, 109.4

Length, 183.9

Width, 74.6

Seats: 4

Fuel economy:

16 mpg city, 23 mpg highway

Safety features: Airbags and curtains, ABS, Vehicle Dynamic Control, traction control, electronic brake-force distribution

Website: www.nissanusa.com/gt-r.html

The Daily Drivers: The 2012 Nissan GT-R Premium 03/23/12 [Last modified: Friday, March 23, 2012 4:30am]

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