Spend A Week With the Nissan GT-R

A formidable supercar with torque on tap – and it isn’t even Italian.

We like to go fast. Like, really, really fast. Unfortunately, in New York City, speed freaks like us live in a perpetual state of frustration thanks to demonic cabbies, fault-line-sized potholes, gridlock traffic, and the NYPD’s ticket quota. So when we took a trip to the West Coast and were offered a chance to drive Nissan’s rocketship, the 2014 GT-R, we snatched up the keys faster than the GT-R could go from 0-60 (that’s around 2.7 seconds). 

Before even starting the GT-R, there were some things we noticed about it. This is a subtle and surprisingly versatile car. It has a spacious trunk and actual back seats (though it’s in no way a sedan, it’ll do in a pinch) – two perks you don’t ever see in the GT-R’s higher-priced German and Italian counterparts. Say what you will about race cars not needing these basic automobile essentials; when you’re spending six figures on a car, it’s nice to be able to fit more than a satchel in the trunk.

Perhaps it’s these small niceties that let the GT-R fly under the radar of typical exotics. The interior is comfortable but still hard enough for racing. The navigation system and heads-up display are smartly designed and useful at all times; there wasn’t a moment in our travels along the Pacific when we weren’t using them to some extent. The Pearl White body of the one we were driving might have looked like a kitted up Nissan 370Z to casual onlookers, but to anyone who knows even a little about cars, it is unmistakably Nissan’s flagship. One thing is for sure: there’s no mistaking the GT-R once you push its big red ignition button (which, gloriously, feels like you’re launching a nuclear attack. Every. Single. Time.), and the V6 Twin Turbos rev to life, because everyone within earshot knows there’s something special about this car.

What might be the most special thing about the GT-R is the fact that its V6 engine can hold its own against the likes of V12Lamborghinis. One of the criticisms leveled at the GT-R is that it has no soul. We beg to differ. Sure, Nissan’s titan is using technology more than its competition, with an automated dual-clutch transmission that intuitively guesses your next gear and a computer system that can throw its torque from rear to front, among many other computerized aspects (that can be switched off on the fly right from the center console). The GT-R is much more the dead-panning Schwarzenegger of Terminator 2 than the ice-cold Schwarzenegger of Terminator 1. This is the future. This is a time in car history where even Lamborghinis and Ferraris have forsaken standard gearboxes for ones with computerized brains. If the GT-R doesn’t have soul, it’s because you, as the driver, need to lend it yours. In that respect, Nissan’s GT-R feels like the Jaegermech-suits of Pacific Rim. Only, instead of beating other-worldly sea-creatures to a pulp, you and the GT-R fuse to become a sleek, speedy monster that eats up asphalt.

Performance-wise, there are few cars out there that provide the pure exhilaration of driving like the GT-R. While it’s insanely fast off the line – stomping the gas causes anything not strapped down fly to the back seat – it’s the top-end acceleration that really floored us. The steady cruising of traffic on California’s Pacific Coast Highway felt like it was at a standstill as we gassed from 80 to 120 mph while swinging out to the right lane and circumventing drivers in lesser cars (which was all of them). Without a track, we pushed the GT-R well into the three figure range dozens of times and every time the car felt like a dog waiting for treats, begging us to feed it more gas so it could show us new tricks. This is horsepower on demand, unlike any other automobile you’d find in this price range. Sorry, Audi R8. Tony Stark can keep you; we’ll stick with the GT-R.

It’s no wonder that the GT-R has become the tuner car of choice of late. We haven’t seen a Japanese machine become so beloved in the tuner community since the Toyota Supras of the ‘90s. Seriously, check out any YouTube video of the infamous TX2K underground night races in Texas and you’re sure to see a souped up GT-R taking on equally tuned Gallardos and Aventadors and Italias. We love American muscle, we really do. But Mustangs and Corvettes just can’t hang when Godzilla inches up to the line.

Nuts and bolts aside, there’s an interesting thing we noticed, culturally, about driving the GT-R for a week: the compliments. Head nods abounded, like we’d just been inducted into some motorhead version of the freemasons. A day trip to Santa Barbara from LA had guys in BMWs racing to keep up with our GT-R, to get a look at its style, its driver, and to give a little salute before we breezed past them. Valet attendants fought for the chance to take our keys, even to just sit in the car and move it 20 feet…because the GT-R never saw the depths of a parking garage but, instead, was parked proudly in front of whatever restaurant we were patronizing, as if taste in cars somehow translated to taste in food. The GT-R didn’t just turn heads; it turned attitudes.

After a week, giving back the keys was a sad moment indeed, and our red-eye flight home to NYC was marked with longing dreams of empty stretches of chewed up highways. After returning home, we got a call from one of our friends who took a ride in the GT-R with us. He was asking how he could rent one for the weekend. We asked why, and his response nailed the way we felt about the GT-R: “Because it’s the thing that’s missing from my life.”

Photos by Nissan