Automotive

Review: Godzilla is aging, but the 2021 Nissan GT-R still dominates

Review: Godzilla is aging, but...
The new GT-R’s top speed is 196 mph (315 km/h) for the Premium model and 205 mph (330 km/h) for the Nismo
The new GT-R’s top speed is 196 mph (315 km/h) for the Premium model and 205 mph (330 km/h) for the Nismo
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The 2021 Nissan GT-R we drove came in Bayside Blue, a direct throwback to the 1990s GT-R that made this car’s name
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The 2021 Nissan GT-R we drove came in Bayside Blue, a direct throwback to the 1990s GT-R that made this car’s name
The 2021 GT-R can, at 12 years of age, still give serious competition to vehicles fresh off the design floor
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The 2021 GT-R can, at 12 years of age, still give serious competition to vehicles fresh off the design floor
The GT-R's look is now iconic and fully recognizable by any sports car enthusiasts, love or hate
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The GT-R's look is now iconic and fully recognizable by any sports car enthusiasts, love or hate
Everything about the Nissan GT-R's design is made to push the tires down to the pavement for maximum grip at all times
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Everything about the Nissan GT-R's design is made to push the tires down to the pavement for maximum grip at all times
The new GT-R’s top speed is 196 mph (315 km/h) for the Premium model and 205 mph (330 km/h) for the Nismo
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The new GT-R’s top speed is 196 mph (315 km/h) for the Premium model and 205 mph (330 km/h) for the Nismo
The aggressive front fascia of the 2021 Nissan GT-R pulls in air with the vents on top of the hood working in harmony to keep the engine fed and cooled
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The aggressive front fascia of the 2021 Nissan GT-R pulls in air with the vents on top of the hood working in harmony to keep the engine fed and cooled
The view from the rear of the GT-R is often seen by other sports cars that can't quite measure up
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The view from the rear of the GT-R is often seen by other sports cars that can't quite measure up
The cabin of the Nissan GT-R is all aimed at the driver and was considered pretty luxurious when this car debuted 12 years ago
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The cabin of the Nissan GT-R is all aimed at the driver and was considered pretty luxurious when this car debuted 12 years ago
Infotainment in the 2021 GT-R is about two generations behind, on a small 8-inch screen
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Infotainment in the 2021 GT-R is about two generations behind, on a small 8-inch screen
The ultra-efficient 3.6-liter engine in the Nissan GT-R is made to produce lots of power very quickly and its turbochargers work in unison to make that happen
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The ultra-efficient 3.6-liter engine in the Nissan GT-R is made to produce lots of power very quickly and its turbochargers work in unison to make that happen
Every GT-R's engine is hand built by one of a handful of master craftsmen at Nissan
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Every GT-R's engine is hand built by one of a handful of master craftsmen at Nissan
View gallery - 11 images

The current generation of the Nissan GT-R came to market in 2009, carrying the Godzilla nickname from its predecessor, the R32 GT-R. It remains one of the fastest sports cars in the world despite its age, and our week in the 2021 model proved that it may be old, but it’s still worthy of the name.

At a glance

  • The GT-R is aging, but not yet outpaced
  • People might not like the GT-R, but everyone respects Godzilla
  • Everything on the GT-R is about pushing power to the tires without losing grip
  • The GT-R’s "back seat" and "Comfort" setting are hilarious codswallop

The 2021 Nissan GT-R we drove came in Bayside Blue, a new option for 2021 and a direct throwback to the 1990s GT-R that made this car’s name. The only other major change this year is the dropping of the Track trim level. Compared to other rivals in the sports car segment, the GT-R is no longer the off-the-shelf best-of-breed in performance technology. But the fact that it can, at 12 years of age, still give serious competition to vehicles fresh off the design floor is worth noting.

The ultra-efficient 3.6-liter engine in the Nissan GT-R is made to produce lots of power very quickly and its turbochargers work in unison to make that happen
The ultra-efficient 3.6-liter engine in the Nissan GT-R is made to produce lots of power very quickly and its turbochargers work in unison to make that happen

The Premium model sports a 3.8-liter six-cylinder, hand-built engine that produces 565 horsepower (421 kW) and 467 pound-feet (633 Nm) of torque. A six-speed dual-clutch automatic and full-time all-wheel drive finish the drivetrain. The Nismo model bumps HP to 600 (447.4 kW) and adds 14 lb-ft to the torque.

The keys there are the power output, its fast delivery via aggressive turbochargers, and all-wheel drive.

And before the naysayers start chiming in and saying that their [insert EV of choice here] is "faster," the answer to that is "nope." It might be quicker, for a minute, but it won’t be faster. The new GT-R’s top speed is 196 mph (315 km/h) for the Premium and 205 mph (330 km/h) for the Nismo ... and that EV won’t sustain top speed or have anywhere near the respect level that the GT-R has gained in its decade-plus as a supercar.

The Nissan GT-R is the one that has been seen, time after time, besting cars with three times its price tag in quarter-mile sprints and on GT tracks. More recently, that dominance has faded as competitors bring newer technology to the mix, but every sports car enthusiast, whatever they think of the GT-R, respects the GT-R. Even against Ludicrous settings.

Much of the GT-R’s strength is in its drivetrain design. Unlike others who focus on lightweighting and aerodynamics as their chief claim to speed, the GT-R focuses on controlling its engine output to keep all four wheels spinning without creating smoke. Yes, for anyone who has tried, it’s very difficult to do burnouts or drift in a GT-R on dry pavement. It’s designed to prevent those tire slips and keep all its grip, all of the time.

Then, when it comes time to stop, the generally light weight of the GT-R comes into play as well – this comes thanks to using a V6 instead of a larger displacement powerplant, along with some help from Brembo performance brakes. The electronically-controlled Bilstein shock absorber-topped sport suspension works hard to keep the tires pushed against the pavement as well, and anyone driving a GT-R knows it’s definitely a sports car as a result. The half-jokingly named "Comfort" mode for the suspension is proof of that. Take your fish oil, you’ll need to loosen up before driving the Nissan GT-R any distance.

The cabin of the Nissan GT-R is all aimed at the driver and was considered pretty luxurious when this car debuted 12 years ago
The cabin of the Nissan GT-R is all aimed at the driver and was considered pretty luxurious when this car debuted 12 years ago

The rest of the technology and comfort items offered in the 2021 Nissan GT-R are, to be frank, pretty blunt-edged for expectations today. Keyless entry, push-button starting, leather, heated seats, Bose audio, and an 8-inch touchscreen were big deals 12 years ago. A lack of Android Auto integration is odd for this car, as is the presence of the completely useless back seating. On the up side, though, the GT-R has a very large trunk for its size, and is easier to get into than most sports cars.

What the new GT-R really has, though, is recognition. At this point, it’s the still-powerful, but no longer dominant player on the field that everyone knows deserves great amounts of respect. Not in a pandering way, but in that "this one might still beat me sometimes" way. And no matter what sports car an enthusiast might be driving, they still turn their head to watch the GT-R scream by. This is by far one of the most readily recognizable supercars on the road. Nobody fumbles for a foreign-sounding name or weird numbering nomenclature to name this one. We all know Godzilla when we see it.

The 2021 Nissan GT-R Premium starts at US$113,540 – our test model with upgraded paint and interior carpeting rang in at $121,040 including packaging and destination. The Nismo model, with its more heavily tuned engine, carbon fiber replacements, and more performance-oriented upgrades hits dealer lots at $210,740 before options or delivery.

Product page: 2021 Nissan GT-R

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3 comments
3 comments
ScienceFan
The world needs to change. This is not helping. Please read the latest IPCC report.
Wile E. Coyote
There was an orange GT-R in the 1974 Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla monster movie driven by one of the scientists. Of course, it ended up being trashed, but it was driven around most of the movie.
TpPa
Bummer, I wanted to hear that baby run, last time I heard it was in Grand Turismo 30 years ago