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Test Drive: 2014 Nissan GT-R

Evolution is an amazing thing, even with cars.

Take the Nissan GT-R.

When it hit the scene in 2009, it was a shock to the automotive ecosystem, offering supercar levels of speed and handling at a relatively bargain basement price…of about seventy grand.

OK, not cheap, but compared to the cars it could run with, practically free!

Of course, traditionalists whined that it had an unfair advantage, its performance the product of cold technology rather than passione.

Sure, it had a computer-managed all-wheel-drive system, twin-clutch automatic gearbox, active suspension and a clean-room-assembled 480 hp twin-turbocharged V6, but results are results and your sad devotion to ancient methods will only get you so far.

It comes as little surprise that since then nearly every car the GT-R competes against has followed suit to survive against its brand of fitness, ditching their manual transmissions, adding advanced stability control systems, electronically adjusted suspensions and, very often, all-wheel-drive to justify their existence, not to mention high prices.

Unfortunately for them, the GT-R has gone through a few metamorphoses over the years, too.

The engine now puts out 545 hp and 463 lb-ft of torque and puts the V10s in the Lamborghini Gallardo and Audi R8 to shame. The suspension has been re-engineered to provide a lower center of gravity for improved response while also delivering a more comfortable ride. Meanwhile the calibration of the all-wheel-drive system has been tinkered with over the years, to the point that the GT-R does a good impersonation of a rear-wheel-drive car.

Its interior has been incrementally dressed up, as well, and is now trimmed almost entirely in stitched leather, soft-touch plastics and plush carpet. The always entertaining, highly configurable, multi-multifunctional performance computer remains to provide you with more information -- torque split, g-forces, the temperature of everything in the car except you -- than anything this side of a small aircraft.

A truly technical dive of all the improvements goes a lot deeper than that, but the result is a car that’s markedly better than the already pretty incredible last one I drove, a 2012 model, let alone the groundbreaking original.

It can now get to 60 mph in 2.9 seconds (2.7 if you get your hands on one of the 150 Track Edition GT-Rs coming to the U.S.) when using launch control, and hit a top speed of at least 193 mph.

You’d be hard pressed to drive something out of a showroom and onto a road course that could beat this around it at any price. At the Monticello Motor Club, I was taking corners as fast in the GT-R as I did recently in the $268,000 McLaren MP4-12C – the new poster boy for high performance technology. To paraphrase the great Winston Zeddemore: It has the tools, it has the talent.

As for the old-schoolers that say you don’t need any of the latter to drive a GT-R quickly, they probably haven’t actually tried to drive one quickly. Sure, getting up to speed is no problem, and all the algorithms on board definitely help out in that regard. But take it to the limit -- either yours, or the car’s if you can -- and tell me with a straight face that the experience wasn’t as hairy as you think your chest is. It’ll probably get grayer in the process.

Then again, with the pace of progress seen in the supercar world, the GT-R is starting to seem a little old school. (Six speeds? That's so 2009.) Unfortunately its price has increased with age, too.

Despite its position as the “base” GT-R, the ambitiously-named Premium model costs $100,590, while the slightly sportier Black Edition with carbon fiber spoiler, lightweight wheels and two-tone Recaro seats goes for $110,330. In step with its high-performance tweaks and limited availability, the Track Edition rings up at $116,710 and jettisons the GT-R’s gorgeous, but cramped to the point of useless back seats in the process.

I’m not sure if Darwin had any thoughts about inflation, but based on this, it goes hand in hand with evolution. Good thing the GT-R still puts your money where its mouth is.

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2014 Nissan GT-R

Base Price: $100,590

Type: 4-passenger, 2-door coupe

Engine: Twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V6

Power: 545 hp, 463 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

MPG: 16 city/23 hwy