Nissan GT-R Review: 2010 Model | GT-R | Car Buyers Guide

2010 Nissan GT-R Review



Only a few weeks previously, while at the launch of the new-look Mercedes-Benz SL, I’d been read the riot act by a stereotypical-looking Californian ‘CHIPS’-style cop. It’s difficult to argue with a big man with a bigger looking gun. It’s even harder to argue with his sentiment that he wasn’t going to tolerate any nonsense from a bunch of motoring journos in flash ‘Benzes on the roads his wife and kids drive on every day.


Really, America is a bloody stupid place to launch a car! There are few stretches of tarmac worth getting excited about; the ridiculously named but fantastically twisty Spunky Canyon Road in California and quieter parts off Highway 1 on the Pacific Coast Highway are the odd exceptions. However, radar and gun-toting cops with nothing better to do make any driving, real driving, in the US a licence lottery.


Yet I’m on a plane again, heading Stateside to drive another mega-power sports car. The weak dollar might be hitting sales, but it obviously makes events such as this one a more affordable proposition. With 55mph speed limits on my mind, I ponder just how much I’m going to learn about Nissan’s new GT-R. This time I’m off to Lake Tahoe, which requires a short hop in a plane significantly smaller than the jumbo transporting me across the Atlantic. It’s not often there’s a chance for down-time on car launches, but as this one eats into the weekend – and Nissan is concerned about putting jet-lagged writers into its flagship sports car – we’ve got a day to relax.


There’s snow on the hills though, and that means only one thing for me: skiing. Well, it would be a shame to come all this way and not try to hit the slopes. Skiing is hardly relaxing, I admit, but it is huge fun. Lake Tahoe really is a beautiful place. On the Nevada/California border, the lake is surrounded by mountains peaked with snow and several ski resorts. And the sinuous road to our hotel through the mountains suggests that perhaps Nissan isn’t so silly to be letting us drive its four-wheel-drive, twin-turbo technological tour-de-force here after all.


For all its beauty, Lake Tahoe can be a brute too; snow markers at the side of the roads suggest hellish winters, as do the wizened faces of the real locals – not the wealthy, perma-tanned, smooth-skinned holiday home owners who arrive at weekends in their X5s, MLs, Range Rovers and Cayennes. None of the holiday traffic has anything on my ride, though, with even a Bentley Azure having to play second fiddle to my Japanese technological fest. In the spring sun, the GT-R looks absolutely fantastic, its style an odd but beguiling combination of fighter jet and muscle car. It works well in the US, as there’s an architectural quality to its design that’s in keeping with the newness of the States – the GT-R is certain to look as good among the sky-scrapers of LA as it does in downtown Tokyo.


Butch-looking enough to face off the real and retro-designed muscle cars that make up so much of the traffic in the wealthier parts of America, the GT-R is overtly Japanese. That’s no bad thing; European cars look obviously European here, and the GT-R shines like a beacon to Japanese technological prowess. Even so, it’s stealthy enough to sneak through the less salubrious areas, yet classy enough to ensure the parking valet doesn’t secrete it away in the dark recesses of an underground car park and instead leaves it out front. If the GT-R could be equated to stereotypical Americans, it’s a mix of the chiselled, college football star and his head cheerleader girlfriend – only with significantly more brain power than both put together.



Climbing out of Lake Tahoe, the GT-R takes advantage of the few places where overtaking is possible on the winding roads though the hills. The temptation to go off-route and explore is too much, and soon the quest for a piece of road to test the GT-R’s capabilities is taking me up to ski area car parks and the beautiful sight of snow-capped hills and valley bottoms that are bleak but strangely captivating. I’ve only a day with Nissan’s 480hp GT-R, which is hardly enough time to look at the 7 fixed and 4 customisable screens that allow the display of up to 17 different performance parameters. Really, though, the sat nav is all I’m interested in; I’ve got this far in life without knowing the rear differential temperature of anything I’ve ever driven and to date the best G-sensor I’ve ever used is my ample rear end. As the sat nav also contains a route that winds up at Reno-Fernley Raceway, I’ve little time to hang around.


Virginia City and Silver City are on the journey and apparently Bonanza was filmed in Silver City. It has clearly changed little since filming; however, now Ford Explorers and F250 Super Duty pick-ups have taken the place of the horses for the cowboys and girls. Not that there are any cows about, actually. Indeed, there’s nothing really about except a few tumble-down buildings, and dust. Virginia City is unusual; because it’s a historical site, there are no obvious chain stores or fast food outlets, which is a welcome break from same-as-same-as America, perhaps. However, historical in the US feels very different to historical in Europe. In its sojourn through both towns, the GT-R looks like it’s an escapee from Area 51 down the road, an alien refugee in a land stuck in time, its driver unable to remove the da, dala, dala, dala, dala, dala-daaaaaa, da, dala, dala, dala, dala, dala-la-da-da of the Bonanza theme tune from his mind.


Normality – apart from the in-head infuriating repetition of the Bonanza-tune – resumes on the interstate, where fast food and chain store advertising mix with religious righteousness on the plentiful bill-boards that line the speed-strangulated arteries of America. Trains occasionally heave by – the lines of communication in the US more often than not flow along by following the line of least resistance: train tracks, telephone and electricity cables and interstates share valley floors for mile after repetitive mile. Usually in a straight line. Painfully, agonisingly slow straight lines.


The turn off for the Reno-Fernley Raceway arrives, and the promise of some track time after hours of enthusiasm-sapping speed limits is one that sees the accelerator pushed to the floor. Within seconds, the GT-R is up to 120mph, gathering pace with such easy intensity that it feels like it could just keep going. Hell, you don’t even need to change gears yourself if you don’t want to! On the brief but arse-clenching foray into say-hello-to-your-new-cellmate-Bubba three-figure territory, the GT-R designer’s aim of being able to hold conversation without raising your voice is demonstrated brilliantly: my passenger’s advice that slowing down a bit might be prudent was heard clearly. Just as well, perhaps, as I’m not sure how convincing an argument testing the designer’s claims would be in a local courthouse.


Reno-Fernley Raceway appears like an oasis in the stark desert landscape, a twisting undulating ribbon of tarmac that reminds me of my home track in Knockhill, Scotland. Actually, twisty blacktop aside, there’s not much in common, as Knockhill is bleak in a dark-clouded, always-raining-horizontally sort of way, and Reno-Fernley is baking hot and dry as a camel’s hoof. There’s not much in the way of runoff either; there is dirt where you’d usually expect to see grass at the side of the tarmac and it immediately betrays a botched line on the exit of a corner with a cloud of dust. Treat the whole place off the tarmac like a gravel-trap then…


Here the GT-R really begins to reveal its enormous performance repertoire. The 3.8-litre twin-turbo V6 might be a technical wonder with plasma-coated cylinder liners, but all I’m interested in is its 480hp and 3.5-second 0-100km/h time, twin-clutch paddle-shift six-speed transmission and hugely complex ATTESSA ET-S all-wheel-drive system. Steve Millen, one-time GTS racer for Nissan, is on hand to demonstrate. A few laps with Steve at the wheel reveals that the GT-R is nearly as fast in my hands as his, its hugely complicated drivetrain and electronics allowing me to lap at a pace not far off Steve’s professional times. With the sun blazing above, the GT-R batters some of the other journalists into submission on track. The shear physicality of driving it – due to its mesmerising grip, almost unbreakable traction and relentless accelerative and braking power – visibly drains its drivers. I can’t get enough of it, though; it’s like the best theme-park ride there is, as the GT-R allows you to feel like you’re the master of your own destiny, but provides a virtual big padded bar to ensure you’re safe.


It might be a distinctly Japanese interpretation of a performance car, but for all its crushingly effective technology there’s a real fusion of cars in the GT-R. Its scale and presence are pure muscle car; the chassis demonstrates some European finesse and all those screens and electronics are undiluted Japanese. It’s very much like America: a pick-and-mix of cultures, a confusion of landscapes, thrill-seeking, bold and sometimes beautiful. Cheap too, so long as you live over there – just under $70,000 buys you the standard car, and $71,900 gets you the premium model, which gains Bose audio, among other goodies. That’s around €45,000 at current exchange rates, and about as good a reason as any to emigrate given it’s likely to be three times that in Ireland when it arrives next year. The skiing is better in America, too.     



Fast but strangled in speed-restricted America, the GT-R is so cheap there it’s worth emigrating.




Nissan GT-R



3,799cc V6 twin-turbo



480hp, 588Nm



6-sp twin-clutch manual



0-100km/h 3.5 seconds


Top Speed

300+ km/h



12.2 litres/100km


CO2 Emissions

Info Not Available


CO2 Tax Band

Info Not Available





Boot Capacity

315 litres


Base Price

€120,000 (Est)



Insane ability, pace, sensational looks



A bit soulless, needs a racetrack


















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