Price: $136,510 to $156,860
As incredible as this may seem, the brand new, 2012 Nissan GT-R leaves the then-new 2011 Nissan GT-R in its dust.
Now, to the casual observer, the idea of a new car being better than its immediate predecessor hardly seems incredible—or out of the ordinary at all. But when the car being replaced offers such prodigious levels of performance, it begs the question: How is there any room for improvement?
For sure, the 2011 model set the bar very, very high indeed. Forget the driving impressions, just look at the pertinent statistics: 388 kW, 611 Nm of torque, a 0-100 time of 2.9 seconds and a top speed of 315 km/h. (This model, in its own right, made the original GT-R of 2007 seem fairly “second-rate”.)
But the shocking truth is, the 2012 edition is even better on paper: Although top speed remains the same, the new Nissan GT-R boasts an increase in power (to a mammoth 407kW), an increase in torque (to 627Nm) and a reduction in acceleration time (now, it takes just 2.8 seconds to sprint from 0-100km/h).
Of course, statistics are one thing and real-world performance can be something entirely different. Here, the shocking truth is even more shocking. Despite the fact that the improvements have been, in the grand scheme of things, merely incremental, the 2012 GT-R makes the 2011 GT-R seem like the 2007 GT-R—if that makes any sense. In other words, the newest model is easily the best of the bunch and by a considerable stretch.
For the direct comparison, a handful of lucky souls were invited to Palm Beach International Raceway in hot, humid and stormy Florida. This track, which is used primarily for club events, had some very interesting features—features that the served to highlight the key differences between the two models.
First on the agenda was a visit to the facility’s kart circuit. Yes, the kart circuit. While it’s true that the average kart track is completely unsuited to verifying, say, the terminal velocity of a supercar, it is perfect for testing such things as handling in tight corners and acceleration out of said corners.
I started out in the 2011 model, with all the settings in Race mode, but with the traction control left on and the transmission in the full automatic setting. Here was my thought as I negotiated the course: why does the almighty GT-R seem so bloody slow?
The answer: The torque curve of the twin-turbo 3.8-litre V6 was more suited to high-speed runs than burrowing out of one desperately slow corner after another. Ultimately, I had to switch the car into manual mode and row through the gears myself in order to keep the revs up in the proper range to keep the momentum going.
With the 2012 Nissan GT-R, it’s a whole different story. Not only does the engine feature more torque, that torque is available lower in the rev range. On the same kart circuit, the new model could be left in the full automatic setting with no trouble at all. Did the car rocket out of the turns like a shifter kart? Not really—the track was extremely tight and completely unsuited to a large supercar like the GT-R. But the improvement over the 2011 model was plain to see.
Next up was the drag strip. We’ll cut right to the chase here: In a series of head-to-head acceleration tests, the 2012 model beat its predecessor every time out of the box, even on the two occasions when the new car started on the damper side of the track. It was a slam dunk.
The final test involved taking to the main circuit itself in conditions that ranged from monsoon-like to bone dry, depending on the minute. Of course, the Nissan GT-R is armed with one of the most responsive all-wheel drive systems on the planet, a torque-vectoring set-up that is perfectly suited to the very high-tech nature of this 21st-century supercar.
The Palm Beach track is very quick, with two long straights and a number of fast, flowing turns. In other words, it’s nothing like the average kart circuit. The lack of laboriously slow turns, combined with the changeable weather conditions, meant making a direct comparison between the two models was close to impossible.
To nutshell it, both cars are absolute monsters. The all-wheel drive system holds on in the wet far longer than any other production model I’ve ever tested. The 6-speed dual-clutch transmission shifts quickly and allows both hands to stay on the wheel, a significant bonus when the car is threatening to break loose. For the new model year, shift feel has been improved and the dual-clutch system is quieter than before.
There are different settings for the transmission, suspension and engine, and a multitude of gauges to study, so keeping entertained on track is not an issue in the least. The suspension system, in particular, proved very effective; the Bilstein DampTronic adjustable shock absorbers, when in comfort mode, really helped the car lean into the soaking wet corners. And, of course, the GT-R is fast—very, very fast.
There’s little question that, for the true driving enthusiast who wants to attend track days and shame everyone else out there, the Nissan GT-R is a fantastic choice. The performance is so impressive, it leaves supercars that cost three times the price gasping for breath.
There’s also little question that, all other factors being equal, the bloke in the 2012 Nissan GT-R will shame the bloke in the 2011 version.
Click to read our local, road-focused review of the 2012 Nissan GT-R.