2012 Nissan GT-R Review and Prices

Last Updated: Oct 1, 2010

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2012 Nissan GT-R Buying Advice

The 2012 Nissan GT-R is the best car for you if you want a high-tech $90,000 sports car that can run with the world’s top supercars at a price that seems reasonable – at least compared to six-figure exotics.

The 2012 Nissan GT-R sports coupe is expected to see a mild midcycle freshening that will likely include modest cosmetic changes inside and out along with a minor boost in performance. The turbocharged, all-wheel-drive, four-passenger GT-R debuted in the U.S. for model-year 2009. Expected changes to the 2012 Nissan GT-R won’t affect this limited-production sports car’s basic appearance or major components because they won’t constitute a full redesign.

Should you buy a 2011 Nissan GT-R or wait for the 2012 Nissan GT-R? Pull the trigger and buy the 2011 GT-R. The car already possesses more in the way of practical performance than most drivers can appreciate, and any possible upgrades will likely be incremental. Styling changes will probably be minor as well. Plus, you can expect the purchase price of the 2012 model to increase; the Nissan GT-R’s base price jumped by more than $7,000 between model-years 2009 and 2011.

2012 Nissan GT-R Changes back to top

Styling: The 2012 Nissan GT-R will receive a midcycle update that’ll include its first cosmetic changes since the car reached U.S. shores for model-year 2009. This isn’t expected to be anywhere near a full-blown redesign, so we can expect changes to be modest. For example, published spy shots reveal little more than a redesigned front grille/bumper and a new rear spoiler. Though more styling tweaks may become evident once the car goes on sale, its overall appearance will probably change only slightly and might only be apparent to casual onlookers in a side-by-side comparison. But since there are so few examples on the road – Nissan sold only 1,534 GT-Rs here during all of 2009 – this low, wide car should remain head-turning.

This means the 2012 Nissan GT-R will continue to come wrapped in radical styling that looks like its ready to unfold any second into a giant Gundam robot from the stylized world of Japanese anime. The 2012 GT-R will remain a sturdy, yet lightweight amalgam of steel, carbon fiber and cast aluminum. Its bodywork will again be dominated by a large front grille and air intakes, a big  hood scoop, and a sharply sloping roof. Four-ring taillights and headlamps that wrap horizontally into the fenders add flavor. This celebration of Japanese design sensibility still won’t be as organic-looking as, say, a German Porsche 911 or British Aston Martin V8 Vantage. But neither will it be as adolescent in its appearance as Asian factory hot rods such as the Subaru WRX and Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution.

The GT-R arrived in the U.S. with great fanfare in 2008 as an early 2009 model. Known in Japan until recently as the Skyline GT-R, the car had long been coveted by automotive enthusiasts on this side of the Pacific. Previously, fans here could only drive the car as a special import or on a virtual basis – over the years it’s been featured in assorted video racing games, particularly the successful Gran Turismo series.

The 2012 Nissan GT-R will continue to be what is essentially a “supercar” that sells for a relatively affordable price, at least compared with the six-figure exotics with which it can run. Civilized enough to serve as a daily driver, it’s more or less the modern-day Japanese rendition of a classic American muscle coupe, though it relies on technological sophistication instead of sheer engine displacement to achieve its lofty performance specs. You still may not see one on your local showroom floor, however, as its availability will likely remain limited to only around 700 official “GT-R certified” dealers.

While the 2012 Nissan GT-R’s interior may see a few rather minor modifications as part of its midcycle freshening, expect it to retain its essential appearance. The cabin will retrain a   purposeful design. There’s plenty of room up front for two full-sized passengers, though the standard sport bucket seats should again prove be a tight fit for full-figured occupants. Two more riders are able to shoehorn themselves in rear, albeit uncomfortably.

Creators of the aforementioned GranTurismo video game helped design the coupe’s dashboard and instrument panel, which will likely carry over for model-year 2012. Indeed, the cleanly styled and legible gauges look as if they were lifted from a gaming screen. A multifunction dashboard display shows only navigation and audio-system information, but stores multiple pages of performance-related data, including readings on acceleration, brake pedal pressure, steering angle, etc. for aspiring racers who like to keep track of such things.

Mechanical: The 2012 Nissan GT-R is expected to come with added performance, but don’t expect a major overhaul in this regard. Reports suggest its 3.8-liter twin-turbocharged V-6 engine will probably get a boost in power, though the car is already genuinely fast.

For model-year 2011, the GT-R’s hand-assembled twin-turbocharged 3.8-liter V6 engine generated a blazing 485 horsepower, with 434 pound/feet of low-end torque for tire-smoking launches. Assuming it gets a bump, expect the 2012 Nissan GT-R’s engine to be rated at no more than 500 horses. While the 2012 model may wind up a tick or so quicker, the 2011 Nissan GT-R can already sprint to 60 mph in around 3.5 seconds, which places it in a league with exotic European sports cars and domestic barnburners like the $112,000 Chevrolet Corvette ZR1.

There’s little chance the 2012 GT-R would change transmission. It’ll almost certainly continue with a six-speed dual-clutch sequential-shift gearbox that can either operate automatically or manually via steering wheel-mounted paddles. This essentially is an automated manual gearbox that eschews a clutch pedal and this design is fast becoming standard fare among the likes of Ferraris and Lamborghinis and even more-common makes like Volkswagen and Ford. The advantage to this transmission design is that it not only affords a sportier feel than with any conventional automatic, it changes gears quicker in most cases than would be humanly possible with a stick shift. Three selectable transmission modes will still likely be included, with the top setting enabling the 2012 GT-R’s transmission to shift gears at what Nissan calls “race-car like” speeds.

The 2012 GT-R will continue to be built on a platform Nissan dubs “Premium Midship” to denote its exclusivity to this car and the positioning of the engine well back from the car’s nose – though the GT-R is certainly not a midengine car in the vein of the Porsche Cayman. The 2012 GR-T will still come with Nissan’s electronically controlled ATTESA E-TS all-wheel-drive system, which sends 100 percent of the engine’s power to the rear wheels under normal circumstances, yet can send as much as half the torque up front, depending on the vehicle’s speed, lateral acceleration, steering angle, tire slip, and other factors.

The 2012 Nissan GT-R will again sit low to the ground, with an optimal front-to-rear weight ratio for well-balanced handling. A driver-adjustable four-wheel independent suspension should carry over and continue to offer “comfort,” “normal” and “R” modes, with each offering progressively stiffer shock absorber damping rates to improve cornering grip, but with a concurrently harsher ride. Nissan’s anti-skid Vehicle Dynamic Control system likewise includes three selectable operating modes that enable drivers to dial up more or less intervention in extreme handling situations (especially to allow a degree of skidding for so-called “drifting” through curves). Oversized Brembo braking components should still be along for the ride to help bring the coupe to a halt with authority.

The 2012 Nissan GT-R may feature a fresh selection of wheel and tire choices; for 2011 the car comes with lightweight forged 20-inch wheels and nitrogen-filled Bridgestone ZR-rated high-performance tires; Dunlop SP Sport 600 tires were alternately available as part of an Ultra High Performance Summer Tire Package.

Features: The 2012 Nissan GT-R should continue to be offered in a single trim level, which for model-year 2011 was called the GT-R Premium. Expect to see a few of the latest features added from Nissan’s catalog of high-tech systems, including such items as lane-departure and blind-spot warning systems, multi-angle exterior video monitoring, and enhanced connectivity capabilities with smartphones and other devices.

We’ll no doubt see the GT-R’s current feature set carry over, which includes Bluetooth wireless cell-phone connectivity, an 11-speaker premium Bose audio system with hard drive digital media storage, a USB input for connectivity, DVD playback capability, and XM satellite radio. The standard voice activated GPS navigation system will likewise include the subscription-based XM NavTraffic and NavWeather information services. Front-side and side-curtain airbags to protect front and rear occupants’ heads in side-impact collisions will likewise continue to be included.

As before, the 2012 Nissan GT-R should offer only a few options. For 2011 these included a premium Super-Silver paint treatment, a Cold Weather Package with Dunlop all-season tires, and the aforementioned Ultra-High Performance Tire Package; the latter two were no-cost options that mainly swapped sets of tires.

2012 Nissan GT-R Prices back to top

Prices for the 2012 Nissan GT-R had not been released in time for this review but shouldn’t increase dramatically over 2011 levels.

For 2012, expect the GT-R to carry a base price of around $86,000. (Prices in this review include the manufacturer’s destination fee; Nissan’s fee for the 2011 GT-R was $1,000.)

2012 Nissan GT-R Fuel Economy back to top

EPA mileage estimates for 2012 Nissan GT-R models had not been released in time for this review but its fuel-economy ratings are expected to remain close to or at 2011 figures.

Assuming an anticipated minor boost in the GT-R’s engine’s horsepower rating doesn’t dramatically effect its fuel consumption expect the 2012 model to achieve an EPA rating of around 15/21 mpg city/highway, which is reasonably good considering how fast the car can go. And unlike some ultra-quick sports cars, 2012 Nissan GT-R buyers should continue to avoid having to pay a federal gas-guzzler tax.

2012 Nissan GT-R Release Date back to top

The 2012 Nissan GT-R will likely go on sale in the fall of 2011.

What's next for the 2012 Nissan GT-R back to top

After its midcycle freshening, the Nissan GT-R should continue with only minor changes before undergoing its next full redesign. This is Nissan’s worldwide performance flagship and a Gen-X automotive icon, to boot. There’s of course the remote possibility the carmaker could kill the GT-R to allocate design and development resources elsewhere. Far more probable is  a total makeover, though not before model-year 2014 or 2015.

What path might a future GT-R take, especially considering that automakers will be facing 40 percent higher corporate average fuel economy mandates by 2016? One option that’s surfaced is that the GT-R could become a hybrid sports car, with an electric motor/generator being used to augment a turbocharged V-6 engine to help boost its fuel economy. This would seem a plausible workaround, especially since an electric motor delivers 100 percent of its torque at zero rpm. Nissan could thus leverage the hybrid system as a form of “high-tech turbocharging” to maintain high levels of performance while enabling mileage ratings that could be as high as a combined city/highway 30 mpg. Some have suggested that a future GT-R could become a pure electric sports car like the Tesla Roadster, though that’s a less likely route.

The next GT-R’s styling will probably be sleeker and less edgy than the current model. Not only will this bring it more in line visually with some of the exotic cars with which it’s intended to compete, smoother lines will likely improve the car’s aerodynamics, which will further benefit its fuel economy.

2012 Nissan GT-R Competition back to top

Ford Shelby GT500: The top coupe and convertible renditions of the Ford Mustang stand out as relative bargains among high-performance cars. Here, a supercharged 5.4-liter V-8 produces 550 horsepower yet manages to escape a gas-guzzler tax with ratings of 15/23 mpg. A Tremec supplied six-speed manual transmission is arguably one of the best stick shifts ever installed in a Mustang. Those seeking added performance, or who aspire to become weekend racers, can choose an optional SVT Performance Package that includes unique springs and shocks, along with specific cosmetic add-ons. Assuming it remains in the line, a full redesign isn’t expected until model-year 2013. It’s base price ranges from approximately $50,000-$55,000.

Chevrolet Corvette ZR-1: The top version of the celebrated Chevrolet Corvette breaks the $100,000 barrier but delivers Ferrari-like performance. Whether it’s worth spending that to hit 60 mph in roughly  a second quicker (at 3.4 seconds) than a standard $50,000 Corvette is a personal decision based more on bragging rights and disposable income than sheer logic. Still, the ZR-1’s supercharged V-8 belts out a scenery-blurring 638 horsepower and includes scads of other performance enhancing equipment. Unfortunately, at around $112,000 it doesn’t look much different than the standard Corvette. A full redesign of Chevy’s sports car is expected for model-year 2014 and it remains to be seen whether a next-generation ZR-1 will be part of the plan.

BMW M6: This is essentially an over-the-top-performing rendition of BMW’s 650i, and is likewise offered in coupe and convertible models. A beefy 5.0-liter V-10 engine generates a stirring 500 horsepower and can be mated to either a six-speed manual transmission or, as a no-cost alternative, a seven-speed sequential-shift gearbox. BMW’s “MDrive” system affords a wide range of performance-oriented customization, though it can be complex to operate for those without a technological bent. Base prices range from about $104,000-$110,000. A redesign is due for model-year 2012.

2012 Nissan GT-R Next Steps