2021 Nissan GT-R review: When Godzilla becomes Snowzilla
If the R35 Nissan GT-R were a kid, he would go into eighth grade, deal with acne, and develop a know-it-all attitude that would make you want to twist your neck. Yes, it’s that old now, but Nissan hasn’t completely neglected the GT-R. Each year, small changes make this supercar better and better, and as far as winter warriors go, the GT-R is surprisingly capable.
- Supercar performance
- Compliant travel
- Unique GT-R experience
I do not like
- The exhaust note is faint.
- No legroom in the back seat
- Cab technology dated
Until now I have never driven in the snow with a GT-R. Wandering around racetracks and back roads on clear summer days? Totally, countless times. On road routes and surface roads in the pouring rain? Yes, done that too. Snow Time is a new page in my expansive GT-R scrapbook.
Since the GT-R’s stock Dunlop Sports Maxx GT600 ultra-high performance tires wouldn’t get me anywhere in the snow except maybe a ditch, Nissan fitted a set of Bridgestone Blizzak LM-25 winter tires. And thankfully they did, because a couple of small snowstorms came roaring through southeastern Michigan just in time for my GT-R loan.
How does the GT-R perform in the white stuff? Phenomenally good. Winter rubber, all-wheel drive, and a 3,900-pound curb weight help roll things effortlessly over 4 inches of snow. A gentle driving style with smooth acceleration and steering controls make the Japanese supercar handle snow admirably. It’s safe to turn corners with the all-wheel drive system doing its duty imperceptibly. Braking distances increase a bit, but that should come as a surprise to anyone who has ever driven on snow or ice.
Even with traction control in the Normal setting, the GT-R gives you enough rope to pop the rear out when you move it around corners. Get too far out of shape and the electronics plug in to straighten things out, but not abruptly. For the ultimate smile, killing traction nannies opens up the world of controlled drift with just the right amount of acceleration and steering manipulation, on a deserted country road or unplowed parking lot, of course.
When the roads aren’t icky, Nissan is pleasantly compliant, thanks to years of refinement of Bilstein DampTronic shock absorbers. There was a time when the Comfort setting of the suspension wasn’t really, well, comfortable, but it works as advertised now, allowing you to get around town and take longer trips without suffering from bumps and ruts hitting you.
The 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6 is still a monster, delivering 565 horsepower and 467 pound-feet of torque, taking the GT-R to 60 mph in about 3 seconds. This engine has quick throttle response and pulls madly towards the 7,100-rpm red line, and while it sounds mean, I wish Nissan could fine-tune the GT-R’s exhaust to make it even more rough.
Power transmission to the wheels is a six-speed dual-clutch transmission, which is also the best it’s ever been, providing seamless casts and a crisp, timely ride. And being a GT-R, all the whirlwinds and creaking noises of the transmission are still present – at this point, it’s only part of the GT-R experience. Driving the GT-R normally returns an EPA estimate of 16 miles per gallon in the city and 22mpg on the highway, not that this really matters to GT-R ownership.
After all these years, I still love the look of the GT-R. He is big and purposeful, garnering a lot of love from young and old alike. Compliments on the road and comments from people in parking lots are common, not bad for the oldies segment in supercars. My favorite part is the rear with its iconic round lights that I can’t help but admire every time I get close to the car.
The GT-R received a small cabin upgrade a few years ago and still looks good, especially with the hand-stitched leather on the seats, dashboard and door panels, which are included in the optional Premium interior package. Front buckets offer some convenience and are comfortable enough for long journeys, and there’s enough lateral support to keep occupants in place when cornering. The rear seats are practically useless for passengers, but are fine for carrying goods. On top of that, you’ll find 8.8 cubic feet of trunk space.
Where the GT-R really shows its age is in the technical department. The NissanConnect The quarterbacking infotainment system is useful, but the 8-inch touchscreen menu and map graphics aren’t vibrant by today’s standards. There’s an 11-speaker Bose audio setup, navigation, Bluetooth, and Apple CarPlay. If you are an Android user, you are out of luck as Android Auto features are still missing from this outdated setup.
On the safety front, the GT-R has a backup camera with terrible resolution and parking sensors in front and behind. That’s all. You won’t find a forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking, blind spot monitoring, or lane departure warning, but honestly, that’s fine by me. It’s a supercar, after all, and none of those niceties top my list of must-have features here.
How would I specify it
For 2021, Nissan is offering the GT-R in the Premium trim or Bananas Nismo model. Since I can’t imagine spending north of $ 200,000 for a GT-R Nismo, I’d stick with the Premium starting at $ 115,335, including $ 1,795 for the destination. Put me down for the new $ 1,000 Bayside Blue paint because it’s great, but that also requires the $ 4,280 Premium Interior Package Pony for the coolest leather-wrapped cabin. Tack on the $ 277 for the floor mats and bring my ideal machine’s bottom line to $ 120,892. Not a huge saving on this $ 121,040 test machine, but it’s something.
Thriller for all seasons
After all these years, the R35 Nissan GT-R is still an extremely satisfying car. I know there is probably a large contingent of benches out there who will complain that they are too old and say that no one cares anymore, but I would beg to differ. Its performance keeps it first class and the experience behind the wheel is something unique.
And now, after wriggling in the snow in one with a cheery smile on his face, I’m a little more impressed with this old but good GT-R. Regardless of the season, environment or circumstances, the GT-R is able to deliver, making it a formidable supercar even in its old age.