2021 Nissan GT-R Review: Unique, subtle, properly athletic

Chris Teague

Chris Teague

The Nissan GT-R probably isn't the first supercar that comes to mind, but it's worthy of consideration if you're not all about being seen.

You put the pedal down. A confident growl busts out the back end. The wheels may squeal, and you might too. It’s not all about the power, though it has plenty. The 2021 Nissan GT-R delivers the type of drive experience that you’re never going to get from an electric vehicle – and it’s magnificent.

Godzilla has been in production since 2007 with nips and tucks and add-ons here and there along the way. It’s not as sleek or stylish as the Audi E-Tron GT or even Audi’s R8. There’s no giant wing out back à la McLaren and certainly nothing Italian about it. The GT-R is it’s own man.

Even areas of the country that are supercar-heavy, aren’t heavy with GT-Rs. A Ferrari or Lamborghini is a bigger status symbol for adoring eyes. It’s the real drivers out there who know that a GT-R is perhaps the better investment for someone who wants a supercar to drive, not just to be seen in. Its unique looks are subtle but properly athletic.

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The car is capable as a daily driver but it can also push the limits during a track day.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

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The reason for that starts but doesn’t end with Nissan’s 3.8-liter twin-turbo V6. It rests below the hood, not behind your ears, and delivers 565 horsepower and 467 pound-feet of torque creating a visceral acceleration experience. It’s enough to satisfy you, bring a smile to your face, impress those around you, and make you realize that Godzilla really is a beast.

The six-speed dual-clutch transmission in the GT-R Premium ($113,540 base price) manages the power nicely and shifts relatively smoothly – it’s no Ford 10-speed automatic and that’s okay. If you want a GT-R with a manual transmission, you’ll have to upgrade to the NISMO model. Don’t “save the manuals” me. So few people are buying them that they’re becoming extinct despite your bumper sticker saying and hashtag. Most supercars don’t have them. Nissan is just simply following an industry trend and the DCT is perfectly fine for drivers not spending the majority of their time on a track.

All wheel drive is standard on the model, meaning that the GT-R sticks to the road as you put it through its paces. That also means that you don’t need to head home every time there’s rainfall or snow in the forecast, and you can take corners a little faster than the local constabulary may prefer.

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The car has athletic looks despite not conforming to the typical supercar design language.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

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Proper engineering has made the GT-R a great daily driver. It’s fun to push it around the twisties on a winding road in the country during a long weekend, but it’s also not a bad car to commute or run errands in (it has a real trunk!). Like any good supercar, the GT-R goes right where you want, when you want it, whether you’re doing slow speed maneuvering around a neighborhood or putting the throttle down on the highway. The speed-sensitive steering calibration is spot-on.

Parts of the interior are dated, especially when compared to other vehicles in its price point. But none of those parts are enough to make the GT-R even the least bit undesirable. The seats are surprisingly comfortable and the ride isn’t too harsh. Analog dials are a nice break for the eyes.

But the real reason you’re in the GT-R isn’t because of the the amenities. It’s because you love to drive. Because you’re confident enough to go with Godzilla rather than a flashy Italian or German. Because you understand that the car nicknamed after a fictional monster, and its gasoline-powered ilk, are in danger of going extinct as carbon neutral priorities seem keen on removing the type of visceral fun that internal combustion engines provide.

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The car has analog dials in front of the driver.Photo courtesy of Nissan North America

If we’re going to have to make concessions to make the air and water cleaner, it would be nice if, on the other end of the spectrum, the powers that be let us keep having the muscle of the GT-R.

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