Nissan's Speedy Monster, Still on a Self-Help Program

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TESTED 2014 Nissan GT-R Premium

WHAT IS IT? One of the quickest cars on the road at any price.

HOW MUCH? Base price, $100,590; as tested, $104,875 with $4,000 premium interior package and $285 floor mats.

WHAT MAKES IT RUN? A twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V-6 (545 horsepower, 463 pound-feet of torque); 6-speed dual-clutch transmission; all-wheel drive.

IS IT THIRSTY? Compared with the Corvette and Porsche 911, yes. The E.P.A. rating is 16 m.p.g. in town, 23 on the highway.

I'd like to thank Mr. Tsunemi Ooyama for building the 3.8-liter V-6 that resides under the hood of a certain pearl-white Nissan GT-R. Nice work, Ooyama-san. Your efforts brought me much joy and helped to terrify numerous passengers unprepared for the violent acceleration unleashed by your twin-turbo handiwork. While the GT-R's motor has always been built by hand, the plaque identifying its constructor is new for 2014. It's time to give credit where credit is due.

Since its introduction as a 2009 model, the GT-R had only one year -- 2011 -- when it didn't undergo some type of improvement. More power, revised styling, improvements to the transmission and a host of other tweaks incrementally increased the performance year to year. And the GT-R wasn't exactly slow in the first place.

For 2014, the long list of tiny changes includes a new front suspension link location that helps to lower the front roll center. I'll admit I didn't perceive a problem with the old roll center, whatever it was.

I also had no qualm with the previous fuel injectors, which apparently didn't deliver satisfactory torque response from 4,500 to 6,000 r.p.m. The new premium interior, which pads the cabin with soft red leather, is very nice. But if you didn't order it, you probably wouldn't miss it.

With the GT-R, Nissan is like a party planner who obsesses over every spot on the silverware, fretting that the whole thing is a bust when all the guests are actually having a great time. But it's Nissan's party, and for 2014 they'll add an oil pan baffle if they want to.

In 2009, the base price was $70,850. The car I drove costs about $30,000 more than that. President Obama, Speaker Boehner: I plead for a bipartisan agreement to curb this disastrous GT-R inflation, which each year puts the Nissan farther and farther from the reach of hard-working, GT-R-wanting Americans.

Perhaps in part because of its six-figure price, a GT-R sighting remains an occasion. Through June, Nissan had sold only 624 of the cars in the United States. But those 624 people are in for a good time.

The often-repeated critiques of the GT-R -- that it's too heavy, too tech-laden, or that it sounds like a Flowbee for woolly mammoths -- seem to boil down to wishes that the GT-R were something other than what it is. This is not a thundering, minimalist Corvette Z06, nor a highly evolved anachronism like a Porsche 911. You could say that, like those cars, this Nissan has a technological tradition to uphold, but the GT-R's mission has always been to go as fast as possible using whatever technology furthers that goal. Turbos, high horsepower and all-wheel drive were a part of the GT-R mythology long before Americans ever got a taste of the car.

So, yes, the GT-R's front tires are going to dig in and help rocket you out of a hairpin without fear of spinning into the ditch. The V-6's intake noises will sound like someone's using the Large Hadron Collider to make margaritas. The middling fuel economy reflects the substantial mass hidden beneath that sinister bodywork.

But ultimately, the GT-R will do whatever you want it to do, at a performance level typically reserved for cars costing well above $100,000. Toggle the settings for the suspension and traction control and the GT-R will run from 0 to 60 m.p.h. in 3 seconds, spin a doughnut like a rear-drive Mustang or notch 1.2 gs on a corner. The fact that these abilities are enabled by computer-controlled clutches, yaw sensors and active differentials makes no difference to me. That's the GT-R identity, and that's what makes upper-echelon sports cars so interesting -- all the wildly different means to the same ends.

Besides, if the GT-R represents tech overload, what do we make of a moon module like the plug-in-hybrid Porsche 918 Spyder, which will also have a V-8? If you want to get nostalgic, let's start pining for the simple days when Tsunemi Ooyama could build a V-6 for a fast Nissan, and that was the only motor it had. EZRA DYER

autonews

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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