Nissan GT-R (2009-2020)

By Jonathan Crouch

Models Covered

2dr Coupe [Premium Edition, Spec V, Recaro, Prestige, 50th, Track Pack, Nismo]


A supercar for the PlayStation generation, the Nissan GT-R is astonishingly accessible and frighteningly quick. Finding something that’s faster made in the 21st century’s second decade is hard enough at any price but for the kind of money this car sells at, it’s impossible. Here, we look at models made from the beginning of UK sales in 2009 right up to 2020.

The History

Tucked away amongst the cane fields of Hokkaido, Japan's north island, is the test track that is itself a tiny piece of Germany. Signs point to Cologne and there are perfect replicas of autobahn rest stops. The road surface is Germanic and if you wait a while, you might hear the ballistic roar of a turbocharged Porsche 911 flying past at three miles a minute. Creating a supercar to beat Audi, Mercedes and, yes, Porsche requires nothing less than this kind of attention to detail. And the result, in December 2007, was the launch of this, Nissan’s astonishing GT-R.

Prior to this, the Japanese brand had brought us Ferrari-baiting supercars with GT-R badges, but they’d always been called Skylines, the R32 of 1989, then the ones we saw in Britain, the R33, launched here in 1997 and the R34 which followed it in 1999. With these cars, Nissan was learning: with this R35, introduced here in 2009, the gloves were off: no more Skyline references to cheaper mass-market models. It was just badged ‘GT-R’, purpose-built for 200mph Porsche performance at a fraction of the price.

In the years following, the GT-R package was gradually evolved, with subtle updates nearly every year, but the same basic recipe remained, based around brutal styling and a rumbling 3.8-litre V6 beneath the bonnet. As production of this R35-series model neared its end, the car was no longer selling at a fraction of Porsche prices – well it wasn’t in top Nismo form anyway – but in performance-per-pound terms, what you got with it was still pretty impressive. The Nismo model, flagship of the GT-R range, was first launched in 2016 and by 2020, remaining sales were being based around it. Lots of brands claim to offer ‘a race car for the road’; but this Nissan really is. Here, we focus on it for examples made up to the 2020 model year.

What You Get

There’s nothing subtle about this shape, clearly not Italian, German or American, in every way the definitive Japanese supercar for the X-Box generation. It’s an interesting approach, this is the very first GT-R not based on a mass-market vehicle. The muscular body structure with its perfect 50:50 weight distribution drapes a body structure variously made up of carbonfibre, aluminium and steel that’s slipperier than you might think, the 0.27cd drag factor matching that of a sleek Toyota Prius. It might not be pretty but purposeful?

This uncompromising approach continues inside. Instead of trying to copy the Europeans, Nissan stuck to what it knew which meant heavy use of metal-look plastic. No fancy design themes but a maze of apparently haphazard but actually logically-placed rectangles, circle and squares – though the contra-rotating speedometer and rev counter dials take a bit of getting used to. You’ll need to spend ages with the handbook first – there are no fewer than eleven buttons on the steering wheel alone – but once familiarity dawns, it all works well enough. And the sports seats are brilliant, adjusting amply, like the steering wheel, for both reach and rake.

What To Look For

Given the performance on offer here, the GT-R has proved surprisingly well built and dependable – and reasonably easy to repair. Very few engine issues were recorded in our survey. The main reported fault is what’s known as a ‘bell housing rattle’ – something Nissan never really resolved. This was caused by a bearing at the end of the flywheel shaft moving around in its casting. That issue was usually fixed under warranty. If the car is out of warranty, then companies like Lichfield Imports will fix it (for around £800) with another upgraded item.

We’ve had reports of the gearboxes of early models having issues with the control solenoids, which will lead to worn or broken component items. And that will give you an expensive repair bill because it will mean the whole gearbox needing to be taken out of the car. So check on your test drive that ratio changes are clean and smooth. This Nissan is, predictably, very hard on its brakes and tyres. You’ll need to allow a little over £1,000 for new front discs and pads - and around £1,500 for a set of tyres. Insist on a full service history.

On The Road

This car really shouldn’t work. It’s too big, too heavy and far too complex, plus of course, there’s the vexing issue of paying supercar money for something with a Nissan badge. But it does. Oh, it does. First the figures – for the initial 478hp model: 60mph from rest is barbequed in just 3.9s, 100mph flashes by in 8.5s and if you have an airport runway on hand, you’ll hit 193mph before the electronics prevent you reaching the magic 200mph mark.

Under the bonnet sits a thundering hand-built twin-turbo V6 that initially developed 478hp (the top Nismo model had up to 600hp) and it drives all four wheels via a dual-clutch six-speed semi-automatic gearbox with leather-fringed steering wheel paddles for rifle-quick 0.2 second changes. The transmission can adapt itself depending on your mood via a dash-mounted toggle switch, with the best all-out driving options being ‘Manual’ or better still, ‘R’ or ‘Race’. If you leave it be, the transmission sends 97% of its power to the rear wheels but within just a tenth of a second, all that can change, up to 30% of torque heading frontwards if you’re cornering vigorously, so that there’s exactly the right amount remaining to light up the rear wheels and slingshot you forward to the next bend.


In short, this is an exhilarating redefinition of what supercar motoring should be, priced within reach of those who really, really want one. Drive one and you really, really will. Let the badge snobs sneer. Germany has its Porsche 911, the US has the Corvette but in the GT-R, Japan has its own performance legend.