2015 Nissan GT-R Test Drive

Godzilla is getting soft.

Not the movie monster -- although its latest iteration has been criticized for putting on a little weight -- but the Nissan GT-R, which has been likened to the famous daikaiju thanks to its nuclear levels of performance.

The numbers speak for themselves: Zero to 60 mph in under three seconds; a top speed of 196 mph; 545 horsepower courtesy of a hand-built 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V6 assembled in a clean room so high-tech that those fleeing scientists on the silver screen would kill to have one. If only they’d made it.

The GT-R’s rapid-fire 6-speed dual-clutch automatic transaxle and all-wheel-drive system may make it more of a mecha, but its ability to chew up asphalt and leave enemies in its wake can’t be denied.

Whether you’re pulling out to pass on the highway, or blasting down the front straight, fast doesn't describe the GT-R. It's like being in a particle accelerator. And while it has an equally impressive starting price of $103,365, you can easily spend two or three times as much and still end up owning a slower car. Granted, it might be more sophisticated than the GT-R, which is nearing the end of its lifespan, but on a dollar per hundredths of a second around the track basis, Nissan’s best is still hard to beat.

But while that's all well and good, the GT-R has been on sale since 2009, which makes it one of the senior citizens of the supercar world. So for 2015, it's decided to take things a little bit easier with a freshly chillaxed Premium model.

It starts by loosening its suspenders a bit. The GT-R’s adjustable dampers now offer a much cushier ride than before. It used to be so stiff that regardless of what setting they were in, if you drove over the lines painted on the road a visit to the chiropractor was recommended. In the Premium you can cruise through potholes and over bumps all day in Comfort mode, and a little ibuprofen and a warm bath will fix you right up. They still firm up nicely when you want to get frisky, but a wider range of adjustment means the gravel access road to that bug out cabin you bought in case a giant lizard-whale attacks is no longer off-limits.

That is unless you opt for the GT-R’s new Regal Red premium paint, which is embedded with 24-karat gold flakes and costs $3,000. I know, ridiculous! Except that it might actually be worth it, and not just for the potential to pawn.

It really does look like three thousand bucks, and it was the first thing mentioned by everyone who saw the car, including the hot shoes at the local SCCA autocross, my mom, and some random guy in the parking lot of the Bed Bath and Beyond that I drove to; because with its relatively large trunk you can do that with a GT-R. (Just don’t scratch the paint when you’re loading it up.)

Added sound insulation and a new electronic noise reduction system, like the one in those giant headphones everyone wears these days, further tame the beast, but its complex mechanicals still offer an entertaining backbeat.

Still, no one is paying a hundred grand for a Datsun because it’s a little fancy, and the autocross thing is still more its speed. In fact, it might not be fast enough.

The GT-R loves wide open spaces and sweeping turns, its weight and all-wheel-drivetrain still tending toward oversteer when you push it to the limit on a tightest, twistiest courses. Just not quite as much as before. Nissan says those suspension tweaks help out with the handling, too, and they certainly don’t hurt. The 15-inch brakes are fantastic, the road feel of the hydraulic-assist steering appreciated, and the acceleration so blinding those coned gates in the parking lot might as well be stargates.

Sure a couple of modified Mazda Miatas and Honda S2000s showed me up on the results sheet, but I wasn’t there to set any records, and those little cars own autocross. They own it.

If you really want to impress, Nissan also offers a Track Edition GT-R, with the requisite suspension, brake and body work, that promises a much more hardcore experience, and a NISMO GT-R that kicks it up several notches with even more tweaks plus 600 horsepower for $151,585.

I haven’t tried that last one yet, and I’m not sure I’m up for it.

I’m getting a little old and soft, too.


2015 Nissan GT-R Premium

Base Price: $103,365

As tested: $106,650

Type: 2-door, 2+2 passenger coupe

Engine: 3.8-liter turbocharged V6

Power: 545 hp, 463 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

MPG: 16 city/23 hwy