The three letters GT-R have a very special place in the hearts of car enthusiasts the world over. They have held that special meaning for more than half a century now, the meaning growing with each new generation of Nissan GT-R. Over the decades, the GT-R has destroyed countless records, dominated several different national and international racing series, and changed the performance car world status quo with every new iteration. The current 2021 Nissan GT-R R35 continues all of these traditions through never-ceasing development and improvement. As always, the fastest and most technologically advanced GT-R is the one currently in showrooms.
A Legendary Powertrain
The VR38DETT twin-turbo V6 has rapidly become as legendary in the automotive community as the previous GT-R’s RB26DETT before it. This highly tuned and resoundingly stout powerplant now produces 565 horsepower in its base form and an even 600 horsepower in the 2021 Nissan GT-R NISMO. Somewhat under-stressed even when producing such high performance, the VR38DETT is an extremely high-performance engine straight from the factory and compares favorably to far more expensive engines found in the current crop of European exotics. With relatively lightweight, very high power, resounding toughness, and surprisingly high efficiency and low emissions, the VR38DETT could very well end up being one of the best all-around performance car engines ever built as the world moves toward electrification.
While the raw power produced by the GT-R’s engine is quite impressive, what has always set the GT-R apart from other similarly high-powered sports cars is the digitally advanced ATTESA E-TS all-wheel drive system. This rear-biased all-wheel drive system relies on a series of sensors to perfectly apportion power to the tires that can handle it, doing so practically instantaneously as the vehicle launches off the line and accelerates.
The system can send up to fifty percent of power to the front wheels but remains a predominantly rear-biased system to ensure the car can rotate through corners and put all that power to good use on corner exit. Every generation of ATTESA all-wheel drive system has left the competition in the rearview mirror, and after more than three decades of development, Nissan has only improved on what has long seemed like black magic. When the R35 generation of GT-R was first released, the automotive world was shocked at how quickly it accelerated, outdoing even more powerful and lighter-weight cars.
The R35 was the first vehicle to truly take advantage of high fidelity traction management, but this system’s primary purpose wasn’t actually to be used in a straight line. All ATTESA systems were designed with the express purpose of propelling a car around a corner faster than should be possible. The same traction management that makes the GT-R a giant killer off the line is even more useful in carefully guiding the vehicle through corners at eye-watering speeds. The system is so capable that even amateur drivers can instantly keep up on track with experienced hotshots in theoretically more powerful cars.
A Premium Sports Car Interior
One of the largest areas of improvement in the GT-R as of late is the interior. The 2021 Nissan GT-R has an interior finish befitting a car of its legendary stature, with comfortable seats and a full range of infotainment and audio systems at the ready. Ergonomics and ease of use are just as paramount in the interior design of the GT-R as they are in the engineering of the vehicle’s powertrain.
The driving position itself has been optimized, capitalizing on the rear-mounted transaxle to allow for more interior space through a narrow center console. The cabin floor is flat, which allows for a betting seating position and further increased space. The instrument panel is designed around the driver, with all gauges and the car’s signature multi-function display at a uniform height to keep required driver head movement to a minimum. This is especially important when driving at high speeds on the track.
The GT-R features heated front seats and Alcantara on the steering wheel, instrument panel, and headliner. Not only does this material look and feel as premium as the GT-R is, but it also mirrors far more expensive exotics. Navigation and audio controls are integrated into the instrument panel for maximum ease of use, while voice recognition can be used to control many settings while keeping your hands on the wheel.
The centerpiece of the GT-R’s interior is the multi-function display, a large eight-inch full-color screen with multi-touch control. This system was designed in collaboration with Polyphony Digital, makers of the Gran Turismo racing simulator series, and includes eleven pages of driving, sensor, mechanical, and environmental information and telemetry. Additionally, the vehicle boasts a specially designed eleven-speaker Bose high-performance audio system. Speed, comfort, and even luxury are all combined in one package for the 2021 GT-R.
Built to Perform
More than any other performance metric, the Nissan GT-R has always been known for its handling prowess and incredible ability to produce and maintain large amounts of lateral-Gs when cornering. The 2021 GT-R is no exception and includes a variety of systems to enhance the R35’s already spectacular cornering performance.
The Bilstein DampTonic suspension system uses sensors across the vehicle to adjust damping on the fly to ensure the perfect amount of suspension stiffness in every situation, whether that situation is hurtling around a flat racetrack, powering over a bumpy backroad, or cruising down the freeway. This system pairs especially well with the GT-R’s all-wheel drive system.
The brakes are as advanced as the suspension system, with the NISMO variant offering specially developed Brembo carbon-ceramic full-floating drilled and vented rotors matched to brake cooling guides. The large rotors are paired with equally impressive Brembo monoblock calipers, with six pistons up front and four pistons in the rear. Naturally, the GT-R’s ABS system is tied into the other chassis systems to further enhance performance and stability at high speed, including during high-speed braking.
Even the GT-R’s wheels are special. The legendary Japanese racing wheel manufacturer RAYS supplies the lightweight 6-spoke aluminum-alloy forged wheels the GT-R sits on. RAYS has an extensive reputation globally for producing extremely high quality, lightweight, high-strength wheels, including for several Nissan GT-R racecars. Because of the extreme acceleration and cornering capabilities of the GT-R, the wheels include special knurling to keep the tires secured to the wheels under high loads.
Speaking of tires, the GT-R utilizes Dunlop Sport Maxx GT 600 DSST CTT extreme performance run-flat tires. The front tires are a wide 255/40ZRF20, and the rear tires are an even wider 285/35ZRF20 to help get power to the road. The tire’s compound is specially designed for the GT-R.
Finally, the set-up switches on the instrument panel allow the driver to toggle through the GT-R’s Normal, Special, and R drive modes. These modes can be selected individually for the transmission, shock absorbers, and the Vehicle Dynamic Control settings, allowing you to tailor the car to your preferences.
The King of All-Wheel Drive
Half a century of racing domination has earned the GT-R legendary status, and the current 2021 model lives up to the hype. The GT-R is surprisingly capable as a long-distance cruiser and is naturally quite a weapon on track, even in the hands of amateur drivers. Although the R35 has been on the market for 14 years now, constant improvements over the years mean that it still shows no signs of slowing down.