Cars and Concepts

Nissan hushes the beast in GT-R

Photo credit: BLOOMBERG

Nissan is giving the GT-R supercar the biggest design and engineering overhaul since its U.S. debut in 2008, making it simultaneously more threatening and more refined.

Brute muscle in a small car is what the GT-R was all about when it arrived in the U.S. market.

Now, Nissan has upped the brute factor -- taking what fans refer to as “Godzilla” from 545 hp to 565 hp for 2017, the company revealed today in unveiling it at the New York Auto Show.

But at the same time, the new GT-R will be quieter around town, with smoother-shifting gears as it circles the shopping mall or commutes to work. And it features a more elegant cockpit, with refined leather and a simplified instrument panel with fewer buttons and switches.

“We’re trying to give Godzilla a little bit of manners,” says Bob Munson, Nissan North America’s product planning senior manager for the GT-R, 370Z, Nismo performance and electric Leaf programs.

Engine dampening

The 2017 GT-R comes with a new selector setting that allows the driver to shut off one of the car’s two exhaust pipes below 3,000 rpm, dampening engine roar to avoid disturbing the neighborhood.

The car’s dual-clutch, six-speed transmission has been re-engineered to reduce the torque in lower gears, says Steven Tsai, senior product planner for the car. As a result, there is a less noticeable jolt of torque as the car shifts into higher gear he says.

“The big emphasis we wanted to make with these changes was to bring in some of the refinements we’re seeing with some of our higher-end competitors, like Porsche,” Tsai says. “We really focused on ride-comfort improvement and quietness.

“This vehicle should be great to drive from your house to work or on a weekend road trip,” he says.

The GT-R sits like a crown on Nissan’s brand lineup and identity. The car repeatedly has bested the world racetrack performances of such upper-crust performance cars as the Porsche 911 Turbo.

Nissan also has tweaked the noses of racetrack icons by marketing the GT-R as a performance bargain. The 2016 GT-R starts at $103,365, including destination.

That is more than three times the price of Nissan’s base model 2016 370Z sports car, but it is significantly lower than some of its direct-facing competitors. The new Acura NSX starts at $157,800 with shipping.

The Japanese-designed and -built GT-R typically generates sales of 1,000 to 1,500 vehicles a year in the United States, its largest market.

Other changes for 2017 include restyled body panels and hood, a redesigned front grille with a new mesh pattern, and a slightly lowered dash panel to improve driver visibility.

Inside, acoustic glass has been introduced to reduce road noise. The cockpit shows just 11 control switches, replacing the 27 of the previous model. And the vehicle’s paddle shifters have been moved from the steering column onto the steering wheel for 2017.

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at